Although I’ve lived in the same town for four years now, I have yet to step foot in our public library. On the other hand, in the past couple of years I’ve been to quite a few libraries around the country where I’ve conducted business meetings or put some time in during a “working vacation.”
As a business development exec who is on the road as much as I’m in the office, I’m constantly trying to stay connected, wherever and whenever. I’ve discovered that the public library is an excellent place to “post up” and be efficiently productive.
Think about it. Libraries offer free wifi, comfortable and ample workspace, and a quiet public space (increasingly rare to find in our society). You might be surprised to learn that in a lot of cases you can actually talk on your cell phone without getting the stink eye from the reference librarian—as long as you’re polite and low key. Or maybe it’s because I’m elusive and don’t get caught. I tend to pace the rows of books while yammering away in a hushed tone. Sometimes I can even multitask. Last week I was able to thumb through a travel guide to Costa Rica to learn more about the rainy season (my wife and I are planning a trip for later this year) while attending a conference call that didn’t exactly require my full engagement.
But in my line of work libraries offer another advantage and opportunity. A visit to the library gives you a thin, but nevertheless authentic, slice of a community. Its staff and patrons, location and architecture, and its offerings (announcements, displays, archives, exhibits, etc.) can give you insight into the history and culture of a community, which can be quite handy if you’re headed into a meeting with local business and/or civic leaders. In fact, many companies often donate some or all of their archival materials to local libraries, so you never know what valuable tidbit of information you might be able to pick up through simple searches and talking with the staff. This type of information is especially effective if you’re meeting with a family owned or run business with long and deep ties in the community.
If you had 90 minutes to kill before a meeting with a prospective client, where would you be more likely to find some useful information (or just get some work done uninterrupted)? A coffee shop (with free wifi, if you’re lucky) or a community’s central repository for information and reference? That’s why, if given the choice, I’ll be at the public library when I’m on the road, instead of one of the 15 local Starbucks or the Red Carpet Club. Yes, the ever-present “no food or drinks” rule is a drag, but in my experience the pros far outweigh the cons.