Column Description: Take a moment to think about how your library and its community are impacted by a robust economy, job growth, and entrepreneurial innovation. Supporting the business community is investing in the community as a whole. Each issue of The Library Business Connection will show how libraries of any size can work with their business patrons and create success for everyone.
Libraries should be considering their business community when planning programming, spaces, and budgets. Starting in 2020, Libraries Build Business (LBB) is a national initiative of the American Library Association (ALA), supported by Google, started to move more libraries towards this goal. LBB is “intended to build capacity in libraries offering programming or services to local entrepreneurs and the small business community, prioritizing low-income and underrepresented entrepreneurs.” A cohort of 13 public libraries was chosen to start business and entrepreneurial programs particular to the needs of their own communities.
Published by ALA Editions in May 2022, Libraries That Build Business: Advancing Small Business and Entrepreneurship in Public Libraries highlights some of the LBB cohort members. Beginning chapters cover specifics related to funding, EDI, rural library, and other specializations, but the greatest inspiration and value is in the 26 case studies from public libraries throughout the United States. Collectively, these case studies aim to guide libraries toward these services on any budget or scale. Practical examples from librarians in the field offer real and practical advice to libraries of all sizes who are looking to increase outreach and services to their local business community and represent an array of business concerns and needs.
Each profile includes sections called “Implementing the Nuts and Bolts” which covers the very specific ways each library was able to make the programs happen. These are fascinating glimpses into how other libraries are getting things done. When I first became a business librarian, I was fortunate to have two solid mentors who guided me. For those that do not have the in-person guidance of someone who has worked with the business community, the highlight of each study will be the “Tips, Tricks, and Advice” section. Appearing at the end of each profile, they offer valuable tidbits of knowledge.
Our library’s director, Sophia Serlis-McPhillips, and I contributed a chapter to the book. Program 17: Opening the Doors to Economic Success: The Miller Business Center covers a little bit about what we do and focuses on the work we do for women entrepreneurs. The best bit of advice we offer is “Your most valuable work may be done outside of the library.” Even if you are not looking to expand your services to the business community, the unique and important work being done at libraries nationwide will inspire and impress all librarians.
A special shout-out to the other New York libraries included in the book:
- Empowering New Businesses with a Business Plan Competition: PowerUP!
- Maud Andrew and Arcola Robinson, Brooklyn (NY) Public Library
- Rochester: Innovation Was Born Here
- Jennifer Byrnes, Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County (NY)
- Taking a Shot with SCORE: Entrepreneur Workshop Series
- Stacey Wicksall, Macedon (NY) Public Library
For more information about Libraries That Build Business: Advancing Small Business and Entrepreneurship in Public Libraries, visit ALA Editions storefront at www.alastore.ala.org/lbb. I would love to hear what your library is doing to help the businesses and entrepreneurs in your area! Let me know 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)