A library is a room dedicated to books. But it is also a place where people meet, discuss ideas, where teams are built and often new friendships are forged. For co-working firm, WeWork, the library in its Galaxy premises in Bengaluru, is all of that and more, as members and employees meet and discuss ideas over books.
“As a global network of collaborative spaces, we strive to create a space where companies and people grow together, not just professionally but personally as well. Our member portfolio consists of people belonging to various career fields. Some of them are avid book lovers and find true inspiration from books. With the addition of a library and a book club in our workspace, we wanted to provide further opportunities for collaboration and conversation among our members," says Karan Virwani, chief WeWork officer, WeWork India.
WeWork’s library was set up in May, on the recommendation of its members. A few of them, bibliophiles no doubt, wanted to donate books as well. The management got to work and converted one of the conference rooms into a library, which now also works as a place for a quick huddle and idea sharing for members. The library houses around 150-200 books from a variety of genres—fiction and non-fiction, business management, biographies, social media marketing, etc.
“Before the community team set up the library, they also had a crowd-sourcing initiative for books. Nishi from the community team knew that I have also written books for children, and encouraged me to get these," says Anushka Kalro, 28, a trans-disciplinary designer freelancing out of WeWork Galaxy.
It turned out to be a great idea. A lot of the members bring their children to the co-working space for the day. And while the parents can work on their projects, the children spend time in the library going through books, sketching, etc.
The library also works as an informal meeting spot. “The conversations here are pretty intelligent, what with entrepreneurs and creative people filling up the space. Books are, therefore, discussed more than you would imagine—even if they are not from one particular genre," adds Kalro.
While the library is open to all members of WeWork Galaxy, there is no strict rule about how long they can keep the books. The usual practice of keeping a register and fining for overdue books is not followed here. But informally, a register is kept to keep track of what books are being borrowed by whom.
The regulars at the library have also started a book club. The eight members of the WeWork Galaxy book club discuss the books they are reading, the ones they want to read and generally about literature. While this might not be a very corporate thing to do, in a place filled with nomad workers—those who probably would not have met each other if not for the same area they are working out of—the book club provides a platform for like-minded people to come together and bond.
The book club is also active in WeWork’s various other global locations. The WeWork Member Network lets members connect, irrespective of geographies. Anyone can discuss and collaborate on ideas, make groups and plan projects together. “On the network, members and WeWork employees have the option to create groups or micro communities. One such group is the London Book Club, which I am a part of. It gives me an insight into what they’re reading and an access to their discussions about the books they’ve selected," says Nishi Palnitkar, 31, community manager, WeWork Galaxy.
The book club members get regular updates on the network, and can further converse via emails about the books they are enjoying and can give recommendations too.
Palnitkar adds that the WeWork Galaxy book club lets her discuss why she likes certain genres and what authors she admires. A single book is also chosen as book of the month, and while it’s not mandatory to read it, the book is discussed in subsequent meetings.
A lot of people Kalro, a self-described “floater" (someone who does not sit in a designated seat everyday), has met people, who have turned into friends because of the books she has discussed with them. “It has brought a lot of introverts out of their shell, which is important if you want to benefit from the whole co-working space atmosphere," Kalro adds.
With member counts growing every week, and WeWork expanding to newer cities, they plan to open libraries in other centres as well. After all, can there be anything better than books to bond over?
Book Tales is a series which looks at in house reading and researching facilities that are helping employees to upskill and work smarter.