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Forum 2015 to explore the future of libraries

Mesa THINKspot

The THINKspot network makes ASU-sponsored educational programming accessible to local entrepreneurs and business owners through member libraries and other institutions.
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June 16, 2015

Welcome to Mesa THINKspot, the future of libraries.

Walk into the building at the intersection of Mesa’s Power Road and Decatur Street and you’ll see the usual library sights – rows of bookshelves, reading nooks, a book return and a reference desk. But beyond the regular features is a makerspace, where ideas can be cultivated and realized.

The spot is brightly lit with colorful walls, 3-D printers, a podcasting studio, rows of computers and a collaborative workspace.

“Traditionally, libraries have encouraged quiet absorption of knowledge and reflection with few assigned spaces for creative exchanges,” said Sarah Prosory, Mesa THINKspot coordinator and Librarian III at the Mesa Public Library – Red Mountain Branch. “Through THINKspot, we are trying to inspire conversation and exchange of innovative ideas from the get go.”

On THINKspot’s walls, words such as “change,” “communicate,” “people,” and “collaboration” set the tone for what the space hopes to inspire – collaboration, creativity and entrepreneurship – a goal it hopes to achieve with the help of Arizona State University’s Entrepreneurship Outreach Network.

The network, previously known as the Alexandria Co-working Network, is a membership-based, collaborative group of libraries that work to advance and support the growth of entrepreneurial mindset as well as skillset among community members, regardless of their background and education.

“Libraries are trusted and accessible spaces in our communities. Through the network, we work collaboratively with libraries to provide the public with access to entrepreneurship resources that can minimize the risks and costs associated with launching a startup,” said Audrey Iffert-Saleem, executive director of entrepreneurship and innovation initiatives at ASU’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “This work is especially important in communities that are historically underserved by entrepreneurship programs.”

The network, which received a $249,000 grant from Institute of Museum and Library Services, makes ASU-sponsored educational programming, such as ASU Startup School, accessible to local entrepreneurs and business owners through member libraries and other institutions.

ASU Startup School provides an open-source educational platform for development of startup ventures. Each site is connected with partners, including local economic development professionals and support staff from ASU’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation (E+I), who help design and execute programs offered by each location.

“Programs that work closely with the community in a concerted effort to bring entrepreneurship education beyond the walls of academia are rare,” said Iffert-Saleem.

Because of that, Iffert-Saleem said they will host Forum 2015, an event aimed at bringing together creative minds from the fields of academia, library science, and economic development to explore solutions that support a diverse group of entrepreneurs and connect with thought leaders from other innovative communities.

Forum 2015 will be held on June 18-19 at the ASU Chandler Innovation Center in Chandler, Arizona. It will feature a keynote by Michael Porter, branch operations administrator ­– innovation and strategies at Maricopa County Library Districts.

The form will include hands-on workshops; sessions on topics such as building a mentor network, marketing entrepreneurship programs, evaluating success and supporting makers; networking sessions; a panel discussion on supporting diverse entrepreneurs; and a group ideation session on supporting entrepreneurs in the community.

“Working alongside librarians to ask, ‘How can we join forces to further advance our libraries as powerhouses of entrepreneurship, innovation, and economic development?’ will inform initiatives that continue to build and leverage resources, empowering community gathering spaces across the country,” Iffert-Saleem said.

More information regarding the Entrepreneurship Outreach Network can be found here. Information on Forum 2015 is available here.