Tel Aviv repurposes dying public library as economic revitalization catalyst

Tel Aviv, Israel has launched one of the most interesting reinventions of a public library anywhere in the world.

A decade ago, the library inside Shalom Tower, a 34-story late-modernist mess of a skyscraper, was facing the same existential question any library in the digital era must contend with: how to stay relevant. The number of visitors was down to a few a day. The families who once packed the surrounding area and filled the library had long since left for the suburbs. Only a legal loophole prevented city hall from shutting down the library for good.

But the neighborhood is changing. Now, the Shalom Tower sits in the center of a dynamic high-tech startup scene whose offspring are plastered all over the Nasdaq. Meanwhile, Tel Aviv is seeing a revival in urban living, with new residents clamoring for more community services — like libraries.

A US$100,000 investment from city hall removed stacks from a dwindling book collection and cleared out a wide space for long black work tables. Empty floor area is filled with colorful bean-bag chairs, which can be moved to make way for networking events and other gatherings that take place here for the tech crowd.

A monthly fee of $US76 per person fetches one of The Library’s 60 workspaces, plus free Wi-Fi, air conditioning, coffee and a small meeting room. That’s very affordable by Tel Aviv standards, which has generated a long waiting list for the space. The Library can accommodate a dozen start-ups at a time.

The Library’s success rate is impressive — 70 per cent of companies still exist a year after they finish their stint.

See full article & photo credit.

See The Library website.

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