Generating an Income – business models, membership bodies, joint ventures & MakerKits
Unless fully funded by grant, subsidy or through sponsorship, your Common Library will need to generate sufficient revenue to fully cover the costs implied, refresh and enhance your offer over time, and ensure that the space remains sustainable. The costs associated with your project will vary according to your ambition, aims and objectives, proposed approach, space, equipment, user numbers, material deployment and the level of volunteer involvement you succeed in securing. But, you will almost certainly need to consider income generation integral to your plans. Income generation within a public library context is permitted or constrained according to a number of different factors. For further information about Income Generation in Public Libraries, see: Locality’s Enabling Enterprise in Libraries research and Technical Guidance Note.
- What is your project’s financial position at start-up?
- Have you developed a business plan? Does it contain realistic budget projections based upon sound costings?
- Do you have any existing or confirmed sources of revenue that could enable start-up?
- How do you intend to secure the project’s short-term viability and long-term sustainability? Have you factored staff time and/or volunteer input into your planning?
- What sources of additional revenue have you identified?
- If you operate from a public building or integral to a public sector operated library service, is income generation permissible, welcome and readily accommodated in terms of existing legal and financial arrangements?
- Have you undertaken market research to assess your target audience(s) ability/willingness to engage with any paid elements of your service?
Establishing a Common Library can be underpinned by income generation for libraries through one or more of the following:
- Membership: you might sell membership access to any managed workspace you offer or, alternatively, establish a premium club for peak users of equipment in your space if you’re prevented from charging for certain types of activity as a public library. This model is deployed in one form or another by the vast majority of hack-makerspaces, and has proven particularly successful where the London Hackspace is concerned.
- Joint Ventures: you might broker a rental or profit-share agreement with local enterprises you opt to joint venture with to manage any co-located bar/café or discreet space / element of your service. For example, the Waiting Room has so far supported three new enterprises directly. In some instances, this has involved the provision of space and/or equipment use at no or low cost in exchange for a proportion of bar or product sale revenues. This approach can enable you to share financial risk with others, as well as grow your community indirectly through joint endeavour for mutual benefit. In addition, it can help you to secure interest and curiosity if you also opt to introduce an element of challenge or competition that directly involves existing/prospective partners; see: It Could Be You!
- Sales of Materials and/or Kits: you might seek to generate income from the sale of materials for use in the space and/or Maker Instructions and Kits produced by your creative community (see: Growing Your Common Library). Once again, it will be important to approach local businesses, if the intention is to foster a spirit of collaboration with others from the outset in this regard.