A decade ago, when Amazon first launched the Kindle, it looked like libraries were once and for all about to be toast. Research and studying had already become less dependent on brick-and-mortar book boxes, and now a small library’s worth of texts could fit in a device smaller than a paperback.
But, as Janet Wurtzel, the resident business consultant at the Wilmington Library’s Inspiration Space, says, attaching all of a library’s value to hard copies of books misses the essence of what libraries are actually about.
“We connect people to information,” she said, giving a mini-tour of the second-floor Inspiration Space, a room that’s part makerspace, part career center and part classroom. Rows of computers face a large screen, on which, after a while, an instructor appears — live from the Georgetown Library — preparing for that day’s workshop. The weekly workshops are simulcast to several Delaware Library branches at once.
The workshops are for aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners, one of the many business resources available through the Delaware public library system, all for free. Small businesses can incorporate online via the library and even connect with resources for financial assistance.
As a “mini makerspace,” the Inspiration Space encourages creativity and offers access to free 3D printing (within reasonable size limits), which is especially helpful for entrepreneurial inventors who need prototypes.
“There’s no charge for 3D printing,” Wurtzel said. “But you don’t get to pick the color.”
The 21st-century resources are increasingly taken advantage of, yet there still seems to be a lot of open seats for the sessions. When you consider what’s offered at no charge, it’s a wonder there aren’t waiting lists.
Still, the Inspiration Center at the Wilmington, Dover and Georgetown Libraries, as well as the recently-opened Innovation Center at the Route 9 Library in New Castle have kept the libraries relevant. There are still books and movies to borrow, but the modern spaces seem to be their most valuable assets in the tech age. Libraries can’t be old-fashioned relics of a different time, or that’s exactly what they’ll become.
Small Business Assistance Workshops are held simultaneously every Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Wilmington, Dover, Georgetown, Bear and Milton Public Libraries. Click here for a list of topics for the January and February sessions. Entrepreneurs can receive walk-in assistance on Wednesday afternoons. See the Delaware Libraries calendar and the workshops page for more.