Column Description: Take a moment to think about how your library and its community are impacted by a robust economy, by job growth, and by entrepreneurial innovation. Supporting the business community is investing in the community as a whole. Each issue The Library Business Connection will show how libraries of any size can work with their business patrons and create success for everyone.
Looking for a way to engage business professionals& owners, entrepreneurs, and would-be entrepreneurs? Are you hesitant to start because you are not a “business librarian” and you think you don’t know anything about business?
I suggest you look at a program you may already be doing - book discussion groups. Traditionally book discussion groups have been a place for readers to come together to talk about books. While a business book discussion is also a place to talk about books, it is bound to veer into new territory. If done well, these groups can encourage networking and may even create partnerships between attendees.
As with any library program, consider your audience. Business types are often tight on time so it is recommended that you schedule the business book discussion group for one hour. If the conversation flows and people have the time to stay, they can, but won’t feel obligated to. Finding the right time for your business book discussion will be more difficult, especially if you haven’t offered business programming yet. Timing depends on what your community wants. The Miller Business Center has the most success with early morning programming but other libraries see the most success with evening or even weekend business programs.
Once you have set your time, choose your first book carefully, considering the professional development needs of your business community. One way to do this is to think about the topics you’ve heard at local business organization meetings. If they are talking about a topic, they are more likely to want to learn more about it. The book you choose should not be too dense and should be available in print, ebook, and audio. And finally, make sure there’s enough there to have a robust conversation about. A good first discussion will create a buzz in the business community and hopefully drive up interest in future discussions.
BE PREPARED - read the book, have a point of view about it, and bring questions to start the discussion. Many business book authors have robust websites that include discussion questions, further reading worksheets, and more which can be helpful when preparing your talking points.
While participants should make a significant effort to read the book, they should also be made to feel welcome even if they haven’t. Business owners and entrepreneurs are b u s y. Maybe they have been listening to the book in their car while they make sales calls but just haven’t been able to finish. Encourage them to attend the session anyway as they may still be able to add to the discussion.
As the organizer, you can give them ways to succeed and participate despite not having finished. When announcing the title include supporting materials such as the author’s website, YouTube channel, or social media accounts. Chances are the author speaks about the key points of the book in all of these places.
If you make them feel comfortable and welcome you can create a space for business professionals& owners, entrepreneurs, and would-be entrepreneurs to come together to connect with each other and your library.
Not sure where to find good business books? Check out the Wall Street Journal’s Business Bestseller list or the Entrepreneur’s Book section for ideas.
A few I suggest (whether you are starting a business book club or not) are:
- Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts by Brene Brown
- The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
- Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
What’s your favorite business book? Let me know at email@example.com.
Elizabeth Malafi is the coordinator of the Miller Business Resource Center at the Middle Country Public Library in Centereach, NY. She is the co-author of "Small Business and the Public Library," published by ALA Editions and "Supporting Local Businesses and Entrepreneurs in the Digital Age: The Public Librarian’s Toolkit," published by Libraries Unlimited. Both of these books serve as guides for librarians looking to connect with their business communities. Elizabeth was awarded the BRASS Mergent Excellence in Business Librarianship Award (2017) and the BRASS D&B Public Librarian Support Award (2008)