In a global market driven by technology and innovation, public libraries are in the perfect position to fuel economic development in their communities. Libraries can provide information, programs and services not only to help job-seekers find work, but also to support budding entrepreneurs looking to start their own businesses.

“Starting a business is much more complicated than simply hanging out a shingle, and libraries can help with a host of resources and programs,” writes Bradley Collins, a graduate of Dominican University’s MLIS program. “In addition to books and multimedia on creating and running a business, key items include sample business plans, model employee policies, and databases that can spin out community demographic info, industry trends, and sophisticated mailing lists” (Collins, p. 30).

Libraries can support would-be entrepreneurs in three main ways:

  1. Helping them tap into a mindset that can empower them to pursue their goals
  2. Connecting them to real-world entrepreneurs willing to share their insights
  3. Offering print and digital resources to support entrepreneurial research and business planning

To guide aspiring entrepreneurs through the Five Stages of the Entrepreneurial Journey, libraries might consider adding the following digital resources to their collections.

From Doubt to Awareness

For anyone wanting to build a small business or pursue a new career, it is important to be positive and persistent. ELI Entrepreneurial Mindset Training, newly available through EBSCO, is an eight-module course that enables prospective entrepreneurs to learn (at their own pace) the underlying beliefs and behaviors that empower ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things and achieve richer lives. The course includes video case studies from real-world entrepreneurs who have overcome challenges by embracing the core concepts of an entrepreneurial mindset.

LibraryAware provides a variety of materials to help libraries promote mindset training and any other resources or programs designed to support entrepreneurs. There’s also a white paper with step-by-step guidance on how to use email to promote resources like the ELI Entrepreneurial Mindset Training.

From Awareness to Enthusiasm

While exploring this new mindset, budding entrepreneurs can learn about what’s going on in today’s market by reading the latest issues of top business magazines. With Flipster®, libraries can provide on-the-go digital access to magazines such as Entrepreneur, Bloomberg Businessweek, Forbes, Fortune, Black Enterprise and Workforce.

Those looking to start their own businesses will also draw insights and inspiration from books on NoveList’s list of Recommended Readings for Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners, including Clifton Taulbert’s Who Owns the Ice House? Eight Life Lessons from an Unlikely Entrepreneur, Grace Bonney’s In the Company of Women, and Lisa Kivirist’s Homemade for Sale. These titles are among the 20,000 available in the EBSCO eBooks™ Business E-Book Subscription Collection, which covers a variety of topics important to entrepreneurs and small business owners: marketing, finance, supply chain management, risk analysis, business ethics and more. Core Collections is also an excellent resource to help librarians sort through all the many business books to find those that are highly recommended for every collection.

In a global market driven by technology and innovation, public libraries are in the perfect position to fuel economic development in their communities.

From Enthusiasm to Research

Your library’s full-text databases can support entrepreneurs in the research phase of their journey. Business Source® Complete includes articles from peer-reviewed business journals as well as case studies, industry profiles, SWOT analyses and market research reports. Entrepreneurial Studies Source™ offers the latest insights in entrepreneurship and small business ownership and includes 21,000 company profiles.

Entrepreneurs will also need to ensure their business idea is viable in the geographic region they’re targeting. ReferenceUSA® provides detailed business and residential data that can help entrepreneurs conduct competitive analysis, look for business partnerships, raise funds, create marketing plans and more.

In addition, libraries can invite local small business owners to speak to community members about their entrepreneurial experiences. Libraries might also permit aspiring entrepreneurs to reserve meeting rooms for informal conversations with patrons. It’s a great way for them to gauge interest in their product or service. Stacks, a responsive web-based content management system that provides everything a library needs to create and manage a world-class digital experience, can help streamline room bookings and events management.

By the end of the research phase, would-be entrepreneurs should be able to make informed decisions on whether to pursue their small business ideas or stick to their day jobs.

From Research to Determination

Those deciding to take the next step toward entrepreneurship can find a wealth of resources in Small Business Reference Center™, most notably a business start-up kit and templates for writing a business plan. Legal Information Reference Center™ includes a collection of reference books, state-specific legal forms, and legal guides for starting and running a small business.

Other patrons, after exploring their entrepreneurial potential, may decide not to move forward with their small business ideas. That’s okay! The process they’ve gone through will help them become better employees or inspire them to pursue new jobs or promotions.

Libraries can support all workers by offering resources for developing personal and professional skills. The Accel5™ microlearning platform includes articles, short videos and business book summaries on topics such as strategic thinking, leadership and collaboration. EBSCO LearningExpress® offers a suite of e-learning resources containing tutorials, practice tests, e-books and flashcards to help patrons sharpen their workforce skills, prepare for new careers and strengthen valuable personal skills.

Is your library ready to support entrepreneurs at all stages of their journey? Start with our new ELI Entrepreneurial Mindset Training Course.


Collins, B. (2012, July/August). How public libraries are a boon to small business. American Libraries, 43(7/8), 28-31.