Positioning Your Library in the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem — Highlights from the Webcast

Librarianship | May 23, 2019

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Read highlights from our recent webinar with Library Journal, “Finding Your Niche: Positioning Your Library in the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem,” and access the complete recording.

Looking to better support entrepreneurs in your community? You are not alone. Nearly 400 people registered for the May 14 webinar, “Finding Your Niche: Positioning Your Library in the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem,” co-presented by EBSCO and Library Journal. We asked four questions of registrants, and moderator Duncan Smith, EBSCO’s Chief Public Library Strategist, shared a summary of the responses during the live broadcast. Here is what we learned:

Of those who registered, 73 percent identified themselves as coming from public libraries, 15 percent from academic libraries and 12 percent from a combination of schools, government agencies and library-related companies and consultants.

We asked libraries to tell us where serving entrepreneurs and supporting economic development falls on their list of priorities. Of those who responded, five percent identified it as their No. 1 priority, 39 percent identified it as among their top three priorities, 46 percent are actively exploring offering these services, and for eight percent, services for entrepreneurs are not on their radar. Similarly, we asked libraries where they would place their libraries in their community’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Of those who responded, 12 percent said their libraries are at the center, 28 percent said they are on the sidelines, 13 percent said they are not even in the game, and 47 percent said they are working to improve their position.

During the webinar broadcast, attendees learned the stages of the entrepreneurial journey. They heard from Fred Stutzman, founder and CEO of Freedom, an app that helps people increase productivity by blocking distracting apps and websites from Mac, Windows, Android and iOS devices. Stutzman, a graduate and former faculty member of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Information and Library Science, talked about his own journey as an entrepreneur. He attributed much of his success to the connections he made along the way.

“To really be successful, you have to go to your community and your network,” Stutzman said. “You certainly see it among the most seasoned entrepreneurs. They are all about their networks, whether they be personal networks or the networks of funders or the networks of people who support their growth.” He also encouraged libraries to connect with entrepreneurial support organizations in their communities.

One such organization who backed Stutzman’s venture was NC IDEA, a private foundation that supports entrepreneurship in North Carolina through grants and innovative programs for startups and small businesses.

The library provides that welcoming, inclusive, free and trusted space that is attractive to entrepreneurs.

NC IDEA Senior Director John Austin sees the entrepreneurial ecosystem as driven by “leaders” and “feeders.” The entrepreneurs are the “leaders,” and libraries are “feeders” along with accelerator programs, incubators, universities, investors, mentors, service providers and others. Libraries are the places that can connect budding entrepreneurs to information, support programs and services, as well as potential customers.

“You can help identify leaders and you can especially be effective helping at the top end of the funnel, activating entrepreneurs with the information that you’ve got,” Austin said. “I’ve observed the power of the community of entrepreneurs in helping each other, and I think there’s a big opportunity for libraries to help build that community.”

Alisha Powell Gillis, Director of Community Impact for the Urban Libraries Council (ULC), described how libraries are perfectly poised to support the entrepreneurial ecosystem and shared what some libraries — King County Library System, East Baton Rouge Parish Library and Kansas City Public Library — are already doing to engage entrepreneurs.

Ultimately, Gillis said, people and culture are what comprise a successful ecosystem. People and culture, she said are the “essence” of libraries.

“The library provides that welcoming, inclusive, free and trusted space that is attractive to entrepreneurs,” Gillis said. “Libraries hold the social fabric and the culture or history of the communities they reside in, as well as have deep community connections.”

Each of the presenters offered tips to help libraries attract entrepreneurs. Smith said libraries can start by simply looking at the people who walk through their doors every day and bring with them the questions that matter.

“These are self-directed, intrinsically motivated people who have a problem they want to solve,” Smith said. “Let’s make sure that we help them realize their full potential.”

If you would like to revisit the session, or if you were unable to join us for the live broadcast, please click the button below to view the complete recording.

Watch the Webinar Recording

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