Skokie library opens up for businesses
Lightning Atkinson, a business coach in Evanston, gives a presentation Feb. 28 to the Skokie Chamber of Commerce's Young Professionals group in the new Skokie Public Library business center. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
Skokie Public Library
For more information or to reserve space, call Business Librarian Terry Ratoff at (847) 673-7774.
Updated: March 12, 2013 11:40AM
It’s anything but business as usual at the Skokie Public Library.
Especially when it comes to business.
The library’s new business center — a suite of three converted rooms in the southwest corner of the building’s second floor — reflects just how serious this library is in keeping up with community needs.
Library Executive Director Carolyn Anthony said the changing economic times means that more people are going into business for themselves. And more small businesses are in need of space whether it’s to meet or to make presentations or to hold special events.
“People are starting to discover that we have this new business center available, and they’re making use of it,” Marketing and Programs Manager Christie Robinson said. “The center is still evolving.”
The Skokie Chamber of Commerce has made the greatest use of the center so far, and that comes as no surprise. The chamber has little meeting space in its own downtown facility and was already using the library’s downstairs meeting rooms for some events.
One of the ancillary benefits of the business center, Robinson said, is that it frees up other space now that the chamber and others have more dedicated space for use.
“It’s already been invaluable to us,” said Amanda Waldhauser, office manager and executive assistant at the chamber. “We’re thrilled to have this available.”
Waldhauser last week was checking in members of the chamber’s Infuse Skokie Young Professionals Networking Group, which not long ago was rejuvenated after falling dormant for awhile. A lunchtime event catered by Maggianos brought out nearly two dozen young professionals to hear a motivational speaker talk about inspiration at the workplace during post-holiday winter months.
Without the business center available, Waldhauser said, the group would have to meet on a rotating basis at different businesses, which would not be nearly as easy to do.
Timothy Reid of New York Life Insurance, one of the Young Professionals who helped breathe new life into the group, called the library’s business center “a no-brainer” as the venue for gatherings.
“It’s just a great place to hold events,” he said.”It can accommodate people in a comfortable setting and it has all the resources that would be needed.”
Occupying about 754 square feet, the center is comprised of a large main room for groups of nearly 50 people or fewer and two smaller rooms – one set up for conferences and the smallest more suited for one-on-one or small group meetings.
The center is equipped with essential technology that allows for various uses in the 21st century business world – Internet access through WiFi, a white board in the conference room, video and voice conferencing capabilities, a overhead projector and more, although library staff emphasize this is not a full-purpose business center.
“It’s a valuable resource, though, for a lot of small business needs,” Robinson said.
The library has a policy that other meeting rooms cannot be rented out by groups that charge a fee. And the rooms are only available to nonprofit organizations.
The new business center relaxes those rules. A “nominal fee,” sanctioned by the chamber, can be charged for some events, and the center is open to all small businesses.
Robinson remembers when GameStop, a video game retailer in Skokie, called the library to see if there was space available for a staff meeting. The center was not yet built, and the library had to turn the request down based on its policy.
“Now we would be able to accommodate that kind of request,” Robinson said.
The main requirement for using the center is that the applicant have a business library card with the Skokie Library. The main room can be rented a few months in advance or a minimum of seven days out. When the main room is in play, the smaller rooms are not available. But the smaller rooms can be rented out independently of each other.
Work on the center began last summer as part of a second floor project that also included creating more general meeting space. The library estimates the cost of the center at $150,000, which includes new walls, equipment, heating and cooling and furniture.
Library leaders believe the investment will pay off. Although the chamber has been the main user of the center so far, it has also attracted other groups such as the Independent Merchants of Downtown Skokie. The library has held its own business-themed events there as well.
Business Librarian Terry Ratoff said the library has always tried to accommodate the business needs of the community with its robust collection of business resources – databases, business books, periodicals and more.
“We saw that there was a need here,” she said. “A lot of people today need a place to meet. Space is more difficult to come by so we hopefully have given them a good solution.”