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.
Over the last decade or so, libraries have become more intentional about programs and services for new adults. New adults are usually considered to be patrons between the ages of 18 and 35 years of age. And while this range varies greatly depending on the source, we can all agree that it is an important group to target.
This is true even within the business community. In 2018 20-to-34-year-olds made up 25% of all entrepreneurs in the United States and 49% of all entrepreneurs are under the age of 44. But, aside from your usual business programs and services, how do you entice these entrepreneurs? Consider creating a group for young professionals at your library or with a local community group. Groups focused on young professionals are often different from traditional business networking groups. While the ultimate goal of all of them may be business growth, they achieve it in different ways. Young professional groups typically encompass more than just networking, often including community engagement/volunteering and a social aspect. Traditional white-collar business professionals do business on the golf course; young professionals create relationships while breaking out an escape room.
Alex Blend, from the Miller Business Center at the Middle Country Public Library, recently started the Middle Country Young Professionals with his local chamber of commerce. According to their website, they are “a group of young business professionals under 40 that seek to provide a network and resource to discuss business challenges, provide solutions, share ideas, create inspiration, encourage growth and provide mentorship in a welcoming and comfortable environment.” But if you ask Alex about the group, he’ll tell you that “The conversations we have, even if it turns out to just be amongst a small group, can get so personal and inspirational that I feel energized and ready to tackle any challenge I am currently facing or the next one to come.” The small, but growing, the group meets once a month at a restaurant or bar and while they are all business professionals most meetings are all about connecting on a social level.
Another Long Island business organization launched HYPE, HIA-LI’s Young Professionals and Entrepreneurs, in 2019. This group “helps young entrepreneurs by building a business environment that provides them with the support network they need.” This group meets monthly either in the morning for an educational meeting or the evening for a fun, networking meeting. No matter when the meeting happens the committee chairs are sure to incorporate games, discussions, icebreakers, and more in order to create an active program.
Think a young professionals group is right for your library? There are several things to consider:
- Is there a local organization you can partner with to start the group?
- For the purposes of your group, who is a young professional? Will you be allowing people outside of that group to join or attend?
- Define your group’s purpose and draft a mission statement.
- How will your group fulfill its purpose? Will it focus on networking? Education? Social events? All of the above?
Once you’ve answered these questions you are ready to start inviting your community’s young professionals to join.
Do you participate in any young professional groups? I’d love to hear about them. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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)