Viviana Vitari recently wrote a book about Coworking and Libraries. Find it in our database here and learn a bit more in the interview Viviana gave us about her project.
Johanna: Who are you and how did you first get to know about Coworking?
Viviana: I work as a librarian and I got influenced by a place my mom liked so much. And after many years of working in a company, I opted for the public sector that included many new approaches. The library was a kind of “amphibious landing” that I was looking for. So the idea of coworking in libraries was born from my corporate work style, not at all a physical space, but a concept that I had in mind.
Then I became a member of the “Guarantee Committee against Discrimination at Work” for my public administration. I discovered such fascinating solutions in other workplaces that I started to cultivate the idea that the libraries could be ideal places for coworking. Libraries can be interesting places. One thing led to another and I discovered coworking. It can be described as a process of awareness.
J: Your book has been published in Italian – Can you give us a quick overview of the contents?
V: The actual “coworking library” really exists! But the concept is also quite new. That is the main aspect I wanted to show. The different chapters explain how we need a new concept in every workplace. In the second part, there are several case studies, including CoworkingLibrary.com. To me Coworking is like cohabiting: There is no experience alike, even if you live under the roof of the same building.
“It is not just the physical space but the atmosphere that matters”
J: Would you say there are libraries experimenting with the concept of coworking? Can you share an example where it has worked well that might inspire other libraries to follow on the path to New Work?
V: In the book, I deliberately mentioned completely different examples from several parts of the world. It is not just the physical space but the atmosphere that matters and that can be very different: You can heal from workaholism in a big library area, you might cooperate better in a small space, you grow new skills in a crowded area, you feel more comfortable far from the busy kitchen area and so on. It is something that goes beyond the existing building and its architecture. It is an idea of relationships that come out of a deconstructed cliché of a library. People usually study in a library, why don’t they work in it with more or less the same rules, in the society of knowledge that we live in?
J: What was the most surprising aspect that you found out during your research for the book project?
V: First, the vitality of these places even when nothing seems to happen from the outside. Second, how such an experience can be also a form of education and information literacy for a librarian. It is un unexpected flipside. Third, coworking helps to develop “hybrid jobs” in an ever-changing world.
J: You are based near Milan, one of the areas in which COVID-19 hit the hardest at the beginning of the pandemic. How did that influence libraries and the local coworking sector?
V: I live in Bergamo, near Milan, the first town to be contaminated in Italy due to the airport and overpopulation. The pandemic has created a lot of anxiety. Is there some good news to go with the bad? If there are, I hope it is not going back to what we used to do, that goes for libraries, too.
J: Slowly but surely we are realizing that the pandemic will influence our lives for the next months, maybe even years to come. How do you think this will affect coworking and libraries?
V: We are social animals. As to all animals, we cannot change our specific needs, including sociability. Studying in a library is always possible – as is Coworking. Yet smart working wasn’t much appreciated before COVID. In the public administration, it seemed to be impossible. I hope you actually can teach an old dog new tricks and things will change.
“There are so few libraries that undertake the adventure of coworking”
J: In my own research I like to differentiate between spaces for coworking – coworking spaces – and the practice of doing coworking, which I believe can be done at various locations, e.g. libraries, some may even argue in the virtual space. What’s your take on this?
V: In libraries, I have found all of them, one at a time. If places are for free, you usually are not required to express your motives. The environment reflects this openness. There are places for rent, where the concept runs mainly around entrepreneurship. At the moment in Italy, there are so few libraries that undertake the adventure of coworking that it is too early to draw conclusions. Italian libraries may need outside help in deciding which routes to take. We are still anchored to sedimented views of public libraries. Here is the chance for libraries to grow if they are aware of the new ecosystems surrounding them.
J: Thank you for featuring the Coworking Library in your book – it‘s a great honor! We are always looking for ways to make our database even more useful for researchers, coworking lovers, and anybody who is interested in the future of work. Any advice from your side on how we can achieve that?
V: I have extracted important information from your database. It is difficult to contact authors to discuss the matter with, even if it is not due to the platform.
J: Yes, I understand. Sometimes one has to be very determined to get in touch with people on various channels until you receive a response. Nevertheless, thank you for taking the time to talk a bit more about your book! How can people get in touch with you for further information?
V: It’s best to contact me through my Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to connect to librarians and users that wish to tackle these new frontiers and eliminating mental barriers we are still facing. Real changes happen once the critical mass is reached, don’t they? Thank you, Johanna, you have identified so many trigger points in the process.