Library Planning Research

The Library Incubator

For libraries, the digital revolution is upending standard methods of service. Increasingly, digital formats are replacing paper formats. Books are still in demand and growing in some sectors; textbooks, fiction and non-fiction, periodicals, etc. are being perused on Ipads, Kindles, Nooks and Iphones too. Because online learning is gaining hold, libraries need new strategies to create value. Once the realm of colleges, today, cultural institutions such as public libraries are beginning to see that direct support for the individual and/or creating a small business incubator is a potential area for success.

Kristin Mcdonough is developing strategies to fund, enhance and serve the NYPL community in the 21st century. The NYPL is awarding libraries with local funding to create new programs such as career support and guidance counselors. For example, the Brooklyn library offers a career coach. Robyn Saunders, a career coach at the Career and Education Information Service at the Bronx Library Center, understands the challenges people have on a job search. She is using the library as an incubator to move from a customary and traditional library service model into on that provides direct community support. Listen to the The Brian Lehrer Show to learn more about their programs to create the library as an incubator.


A library incubator is a space designed to provide the community with guidance, tutoring and mentoring whenever they need help. Using a library incubator, users can gain assistance from library staff, or local tutors, academic faculty, or, for that matter, other community members. The incubator, in its feature as a physical touch-point for support, provides areas within the library in which to collaborate and work together, ask questions, share notes and information, and perform research.

A library incubator can function as a linchpin for a series of cultural co-op programs. A blended job support model utilizing co-op and groups programs, can help individuals find a job or create a business. They can use the library to work their way through high school or college, reducing the cost to graduate.

We are conducting a workshop entitled “The Library as an Incubator for Online Learning” at Georgia Tech on October 26th. In light of this, we have created a research challenge to determine the space, functions, technology and activities in the library incubator program. Please feel free to provide feedback on our web site – FEEDBACK FORM