Libraries and the Business Community: A Success Story

| Originally published by EveryLibrary |

Libraries exist to help people succeed, and the business world is no exception. Many aspiring business owners got their start in a public library, whether through researching how to write a business plan, attending a class on Quickbooks, or developing a marketing list using the library’s electronic resources.

The following is an amazing example of how libraries can help you develop your business ideas, taken from an interview with Morgan Miller, Director, and Laura Metzler, Business Librarian, at the Cecil County Public Library, Maryland. Cecil County’s library system has developed a great relationship with its business community and has done wonders for encouraging entrepreneurship in their region.

Why would businesses turn to libraries?

Morgan: We help people in the dream stage — where do you go when all you have is an idea? The bank won’t help. If you have no business plan or marketing plan you need someone to hold your hand and give you the information you need to get there. Libraries are well equipped to do that — we have resources, research expertise, and are well networked in the community. A report from the American Library Association describes how libraries advance small business as the “People’s Incubator,” giving a great history of how they have been doing this for a long time, ever since the Philadelphia Free Library, created by Benjamin Franklin, brought together artisans and tradesmen to develop growth for business. The concept of public libraries targeting their unique resources to advance businesses may sound like a new idea, but it is as old as our country itself.

Who have been your partners in developing these programs?

Laura: First, I would say that it is definitely not intuitive for people thinking of starting a business to start at the library. I think it is paramount that you develop key partnerships. This was not necessarily easy for us to do at first. I met multiple times with the Office of Economic Development and literally had to take my computer and show them how to access Reference USA, DemographicsNow, Lynda.com, Gale Courses, and Small Business Resource Center. I gave their employees a tutorial of how to use them and even had testimonials/success stories of patrons that used our resources to start their business. I did this for the chambers of commerce in our county, too. Once they saw that we were a key player, we were taken seriously and a lot of doors started to open.

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