Downtown resource offers library, social hub for area's computer-savvy


Creative types, start-up founders and those involved with the growing technology scene in Las Vegas have a place to unite, thanks to a Zappos.com-led space downtown.

Upstairs in Emergency Arts, 520 Fremont St ., nestled among the art galleries and small businesses, is /usr/lib, a hub for technology gurus in Las Vegas.

The space, which opened in November, exists as a library and a place for those in the tech scene to work, hold meetings or hang out.

A $25 yearly fee gives someone a key card for access into /usr/lib, which is open from 7 a.m. to 12 a.m. Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to midnight Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

More than 400 key cards have been issued since November, according to Pawel Szymczykowski, a Zappos.com employee who heads the /usr/lib project. Szymczykowski said what draws people to the space is the established community among the technology fiends.

"This really gives people a smaller and comfortable place for their events," Szymczykowski said. "There's nothing else really out there that's as affordable and approachable."

The idea for /usr/lib, which is a computer programming code meaning "user libraries," came last year after Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh announced his intention to move the company's headquarters from Henderson to downtown Las Vegas, Szymczykowski said. Szymczykowski said that as part of a plan to revitalize downtown, he volunteered to be involved with creating opportunities for the technology community. With the help of people behind VegasTech.com, Zappos.com employees and those part of a small -- but rapidly growing -- technology scene, /usr/lib was born.

Sara Mooney, a Zappos.com employee and /usr/lib head librarian, said the idea behind the project came based on several start-up companies beginning to flourish in the valley.

"This one (idea) kind of came about so start-ups could have resources and funding," Mooney said. "People needed a place to exchange ideas and find books, and they didn't have a place in Vegas to do that."

Now that start-up founders and technology gurus have a place of their own, Mooney said, the library is slowly growing.

The couple of shelves inside /usr/lib house several books on computer programming, electronics, marketing and other topics, either donated by Zappos.com or recommended by library members. Mooney said having books available to users is one of the most vital aspects of /usr/lib.

"We really want for (the library) to be more of a learning community," Mooney said. "We're looking at ways to make books more attractive and fit people's needs. As we talk to more people, we add more books to the list of (what we need)."

One aspect of the library that has grown quickly, Mooney said, is its transition from seeing mostly Zappos.com employees utilize the space to residents taking over.

"Eighty percent of the people here are not Zappos people," Mooney said. "It's really become a community thing. The worst thing we have is not enough room. It's become a meeting place all of a sudden, and we keep building up what we have."

As the library grows, so do its plans for the future. Szymczykowski said he hopes to see people organize more classes on technology topics and bring in people outside of the city to host events. From robotics to processing and everything in between, Szymczykowski hopes to introduce people to concepts they might view as relatively new.

Beyond classes, however, Szymczykowski views networking and interaction with people as the most vital part of /usr/lib.

"This technology community was here all along," Szymczykowski said. "Now (people) have a place where they can come and meet people doing similar things. It provides a chance for those truly serendipitous interactions."

Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter Lisa Carter at lcarter@viewnews.com or 383-4686.

 

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