The East Baton Rouge Library System has joined a cohort of 12 public libraries across the U.S. and Canada selected to explore ways to engage and support small businesses in their communities, with a focus on those most in need.
The Urban Libraries Council, which selected the cohort members, projects that by 2020 half of all workers will be independent freelancers, and entrepreneurs will play an increasingly vital role to local economies as technology transforms the labor force.
Barriers to resources, however, often keep people from pursuing successful entrepreneurial ventures. Libraries are uniquely equipped to provide those resources, especially to those underrepresented in business communities, such as women and minorities, according to a ULC press release.
In an effort to strengthen entrepreneurial outreach, ULC is bringing together 12 library systems, each of which has submitted a proposed project, to explore and establish best practices to support local entrepreneurs. The East Baton Rouge library project involves developing a program to connect the business librarians to entrepreneurs in the community and provide them with customized library resources.
“We will go where people are rather than have them come to us at the library,” says Andrew Tadman, coordinator of reference services. “There will be a targeted outreach in north Baton Rouge.”
East Baton Rouge libraries already have highly touted programs, such as the Gale Small Business Builder and ReferenceUSA, to help entrepreneurs get started. The Gale program provides an interactive tool to create business plans, Tadman says, while ReferenceUSA helps entrepreneurs identify potential markets for their business.
Through the ULC project, the parish library plans to not only better connect people with business services, but also receive feedback and provide check-ins as entrepreneurs navigate the process.
“As part of the program, we are intent on establishing relationships with people using our services,” Tadman says.
And these library services aren’t just for startups. Established businesses can also benefit from the library’s business tools and programs, says Assistant Library Director Mary Stein.
“The resources we have available are just as great for a 20-year-old company as a one-year-old company,” Stein says. “If you’re not using resources freely available to you at the library, you’re leaving money on the table.”