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CPL Powers ALARM Magazine

By Betsy Mikel in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 14, 2010 7:30PM

Issue 37 of ALARM Magazine.
If you Google “starting a business,” the results are all over the place. You might be prompted to take a free online course, or to subscribe to newsletter on business success, or to follow the advice of Walt Disney who suggests that “the way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” If you start your search at the library, things could go in a completely different direction. “The breadcrumb trail is very different in print than online,” said Chris Force, founder and editor-in-chief of ALARM Magazine, a Chicago-based art and music publication. Force went to the Chicago Public Library looking for a book about starting a new business. The librarians helped him streamline his search by suggesting books about magazines, where he learned that branding was an important step of the process. So he got some books about that, too.

Chris Force is being featured as part of a Chicago Public Library program titled “CPL Powers Business.” The program aims to highlight the business resources that are available to entrepreneurs at CPL. When ALARM Magazine was just getting off its feet in 2002, Force essentially used Harold Washington Library as his office and data warehouse. He didn’t have to pay for office space, Internet, a computer, subscription-only databases, books, or other reference material. And the librarians, who Force thinks are the most useful resources available there, were there to guide him all through it. Since he was spending so much time at Harold Washington, Force bounced ideas off CPL librarians and realized that each had a different range of interests and education. As a one-man operation, he appreciated the perspective.

Magazines are a niche market, but art and music magazines are an even smaller niche. ALARM tries to represent art and music that aren’t getting play in other publications, and not necessarily for good reason. Producing the right content to produce a magazine every two months is one thing, but doing so successfully and keeping the magazine alive is another. Force has since accumulated a small staff, which still relies on CPL resources to keep the magazine going. And now that he knows the ropes, he’s launching another magazine. Keep your eyes peeled for Design Bureau, which launches next week.

Chicago Public Library powers ALARM Magazine from Not What You Think on Vimeo.