The Evanston Public Library made a pitch to the city’s Economic Development Committee Wednesday night to create a resource center for entrepreneurs at the library.
The committee voted to support spending $9,900 from the city’s Economic Development Fund for the project this year.
But Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, complained that having the library ask for city funding after it fought to gain its own taxing authority was creating “separation of church and state” issues.
“This is a library program, we’re paying for a library program, and we were told that kind of thing wasn’t happening any more,” Rainey said.
Library Director Karen Danczak Lyons said the library has converted a room on the third floor that previously housed typewriters and copiers into a seminar room that could house the program, which she and city staffers are calling “Chapter 1.”
Paul Zalmezak of the city’s economic development staff, said in a memo to the committee that Chapter 1 would “serve as a resource hub and co-working space” to support freelance, “solopreneur” and home-based businesses “at their earliest stage of development.”
He saild it would offer workshops, mentorships and networking events in cooperation with private-sector partners and enhance the business support programs already offered by library staff.
Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said the proposal was “an excellent first step.”
“There are lots of people as a result of the recession who are starting their own businesses at their kitchen table and gradually expanding,” Wynne said, “The library has fabulous database resources,” she added, but unless people know about them, they won’t benefit from them.
Lyons said the city funds would be used to hire a part-time reference librarian to staff the reference desk, so more experienced staffers could be freed up to provide individual research consulting with entrepreneurs.
The proposal still requires approval from the full City Council.
Top: The library’s third floor reference room.