For the past few years, a group of librarians, archivists and museum professionals have gathered at SXSWi. Calling ourselves #sxswLAM, we come to the festival to create greater awareness of the 21st century library. The work of today’s librarians is connected to the tech world that flocks to SXSWi in ways both strong and underappreciated. During SXSWi we present demo sessions, coordinate discussions and conduct impromptu advocacy to showcase how libraries are innovative spaces that can be leveraged by businesses at every stage to build better products.

Often referred to as the original coworking spaces, libraries are places that support creativity and content creation. Zachary Barker, the founder of Opportunity Machine, told us that first place he went to forge his startup was his library, because he “needed a room and a white board.” But it goes deeper than that. Anythink, the public library system for Adams County, Colo., provides access to tools like a 3-D printer, a textiles studio, digital photography studios, a sound recording studio and software, like Adobe Creative Suite, to help community members pursue their creative and entrepreneurial passions.

Indeed, librarians across the country are using their libraries as key proponents of innovative thinking. Staff at the Omaha Public Library have spearheaded Open Nebraska, a citizen-led organization dedicated to pushing the open data movement within the state. Open Nebraska organizes weekend hackathons that tackle community problems through civic application development, open data advocacy and tech education.

Libraries role in creating and sustaining innovation extends into serving as a hub that drives the entrepreneurial and tech ecosystem. The Princeton Public Library is home to the Princeton Tech Meetup, a group of more than 2,000 members that draws 150 entrepreneurs, developers and investors to the library each month. The pitch style events have helped startups find both developer talent and investment dollars and have put the library at the center of the town’s startup scene.

Librarians take seriously their role in supporting the personal and entrepreneurial success of their community, and are eager to help businesses leverage their resources. During one SXSWi session, MIT Media Lab graduate Jeff Goldenson told a crowd how libraries are a perfect location for prototyping and testing new products because they have space, an existing user base and often serve as a point of first contact for patrons with cutting-edge products. In Colorado, the Arapahoe Library District obtains products like Google Glass, 3-D printers and the Oculus Rift virtual reality headsets so that businesses and patrons can get hands-on access to them.

These are just a taste of what librarians across the country are up to. At SXSWi we use the unique confluence of entrepreneurs, developers, founders and innovators to share what we do in the spirit of raising awareness of the library’s resources. Librarians are their community’s trusted resources, a position that extends to our support of the community’s businesses.