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Soon-to-open Colorado Springs library blends technology, convenience, community

By: Robin Intemann, Special to The Gazette
May 24, 2014 Updated: May 25, 2014 at 9:22 am
Caption +
PPLD's Travis Duncan demstrates how one of the library's InFocus MondoPads works in a business conference room Tuesday, May 20, 2014, at the Pikes Peak Library District's new Library 21c in Colorado Springs. The new facility opens June 21, 2014. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Conducting business outside the box - or the office - could soon be the norm for Colorado Springs-area entrepreneurs and companies that get a taste of the Business and Entrepreneurial Center, part of the Pikes Peak Library District's soon-to-open Library 21c.

On the upper floor of the library, the center will be equipped with almost every resource a business might need, from 3-D printers to white boards to audio and video production studios.

"It's a resource for entrepreneurs or someone wanting to be an entrepreneur," said Travis Duncan, PPLD media specialist. "The public will have the ability to do prototypes and more in the business center. It's a space for people to hold professional meetings and hoteling," Hoteling is the practice of providing office space on an as-needed basis.

The business center and its offerings are part of what is known as the 21st-century library concept, which blends technology, creativity and convenience with community interaction. It's a set-up not often associated with places once known exclusively for lending books.

"You won't find any traditional materials on this floor," said Dee Vazquez Sabol, PPLD community engagement and outreach officer, of the facility's upper level. "We have the creative computer commons, which exists for the creation of content and using other resources."

Once Library 21c opens June 21 at 1175 Chapel Hills Drive, patrons will have access to a 32-seat computer lab, 400-seat performance and presentation space (called Venue @ 21c), six meeting rooms with teleconferencing capabilities, laptops, Wi-Fi and an extensive business center with copying and fax services. White boards will be placed throughout the business area, as well as in meeting rooms. Mondopads - big screen tablet-like devices - are in three of the meeting rooms.

About 20 employees will work on the upper level, including several business librarians. Online tutorials, face-to-face classes, seminars and numerous programs will offer further support.

"We are really going all out on this," said Carolyn Coulter, PPLD information technology and virtual services officer. "If it's important and providing an opportunity to the general public, we want it to be here."

Coulter has been responsible for the technology infrastructure that allows Library 21c to be on the forefront. She said everything being done is "really cool stuff."

This includes 3-D printers, 3-D scanners, laser cutters, video game platforms, light tables and state-of-the-art sewing machines. These tools, and others, will help entrepreneurs develop, for example, a product, create a business plan, become familiar with patents and acquire skills to market the result.

Sabol said discussions are underway with the Pikes Peak Workforce Center, Bemis Art School, Pikes Peak Community College and other institutions to build collaborations.

"If you can imagine it," she said, "we can partner."

The 112,883-square-foot building once housed MCI but had been vacant for eight years before PPLD bought it in late 2011 for $3.75 million without incurring debt.

Support, education, incubation, career training and creative development are aspects promoted by Library 21c. The emphasis on creativity is something not often associated with business planning, but is an important characteristic of a 21st-century library, officials said. The video and audio production studios, game development areas and hands-on creativity centers, called MAKE and MAKE II, share the upper level with the business center.

"Everything on this floor is for jobs training, skill building and for industrial prototypes. It's for co-working opportunities and the interactive creativity spaces," Sabol said. "This is a launch pad."

The 3-D printer, a MakerBot Z18, will be the largest in the area for use by individuals, local businesses and manufacturers.

"We see this as an educative experience. We're not in competition with (businesses)," Coulter said, "We're making more tools available so businesses can meet their challenges. We envision a lot of well-established businesses using the space."

"I believe this is a work in progress," she added., an online teaching site that includes video courses, will be utilized in the three kiosks in the business center. In the business category, one of several in's collection, 556 courses are offered, along with 22,786 tutorials including, among others, communication, software, leadership and productivity.

Conference rooms may be booked 24 hours in advance, or used on a walk-in basis depending on availability. In the past, Sabol said, PPLD provided meeting space and resources to nonprofit groups free of charge, while nominal fees were charged to for-profit groups. Now all of the resources are free to everyone.

"We want to grow the entire community as a whole," she said. "We're hoping local business leaders will want to come in. Using the spaces we have here will give us the opportunity for a lot of great community partnerships."

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