America’s libraries play a crucial role in supporting economic development in their communities. According to the American Library Association (ALA), “Libraries excel at addressing many of the unseen barriers to economic advancement by: building digital skills; offering literacy, ESL, and GED classes; providing internet and technology access; supporting Green Card and citizenship application processes; connecting people with affordable health care; offering early education programs; giving youth of all economic backgrounds the opportunity to engage with STEAM learning, coding, and makerspaces; and more.”

In 2020, the ALA launched Libraries Build Business (LBB), a national initiative supported by that aims to build capacity in libraries that offer programming or services to local entrepreneurs and the small business community, prioritizing low-income and underrepresented entrepreneurs. Download the Libraries Build Business Playbook to learn more.

In the meantime, these seven tips can help libraries build or expand their programs and services to meet the needs of small businesses and entrepreneurs:

  1. Augment your library’s small business e-resources collection. A healthy mix of databases, e-books and digital magazines can provide access to community demographics, industry trends, marketing insights and other research.
  2. Provide access to e-learning platforms. E-learning is a flexible option for busy entrepreneurs because they can access the content anytime, from anywhere. Consider e-learning resources that help them write business plans, create spreadsheets and presentations, code apps and websites, and master social media.
  3. Offer meeting space. In addition to providing a quiet place to write a business plan, library meeting rooms give entrepreneurs spaces to hold focus groups to help refine a product or service idea.
  4. Publish a regular e-newsletter. Share articles about the latest business trends and promote your library’s small business services. Determine a cadence and invite patrons to subscribe.
  5. Deliver programming to your target audience. Example programs include training courses, round table events featuring local small business owners talking about their entrepreneurial journeys, and networking events that help your community’s entrepreneurs make connections and form partnerships.
  6. Start (or expand) a library makerspace. Makerspaces give innovators a collaborative environment to pursue their hobbies and creative ideas. Provide items to help entrepreneurs with production and marketing, such as sewing machines, laser engravers and cutters, design software, 3D printers for creating prototypes, and equipment for recording high-quality audio and video. Don’t forget to promote your makerspace and the concept of entrepreneurship in your stacks where your hobby, craft and cookbooks are.
  7. Map your community’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Strong ecosystems allow entrepreneurs to quickly find the knowledge and resources they need to succeed. In addition to the resources in your library, your documentation should include small business accelerators and incubators, entrepreneurship training programs and workshops, co-working spaces, makerspaces, colleges and universities, small business centers, pitch events and competitions, venture capital firms, civic organizations, community groups and any other resources that support entrepreneurs. Learn how EcoMap can help.

Ready to tell entrepreneurs and small businesses about how your library already supports them? Download and view the poster and infographic to share with your social media followers.

Learn more about how your library can start or expand its services to small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Check out our Libraries and Entrepreneurship Webinar Series.