St. Louis County Library is partnering with 11 other public library systems from across the U.S. and Canada to explore ways libraries can reach and engage entrepreneurs in their communities — particularly people of color, women, immigrants and veterans. This effort is being led by the Urban Libraries Council, a membership organization of North America's leading public library systems, as an extension of ULC’s collaboration with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to strengthen libraries’ capacity to support entrepreneurship.
“The library plays an important role in building businesses and our economy,” said ULC President and CEO Susan Benton. “This experience will shape current thinking about how libraries can support entrepreneurship and create new opportunities for all community members.”
Participating in this initiative, SLCL will will explore new ways to grow its monthly educational series that engages local entrepreneurs with outreach events, instructional sessions and a small business and nonprofit expo.
St. Louis County Library Reference Manager, Jennifer Gibson is spearheading the small business initiative at the library “St. Louis County Library is thrilled to serve our vibrant entrepreneurial community,” Gibson said. “ We are able to connect aspiring business owners with useful, reliable, and free information that they'll need throughout the process of starting their company, such as access to market research, industry reports, and mailing lists, among other things. We also provide one-on-one or group instruction on how to leverage resources to start, grow, and expand businesses.”
Entrepreneurs play an increasingly important role in growing local economies as technology continues to transform the labor market. However, barriers to resources and information prevent many individuals from pursuing or achieving entrepreneurial success. Public libraries are uniquely equipped to reach populations who are underrepresented in today’s entrepreneurial economy and most in need of guidance.
Coordinating efforts with SLCL, 11 additional public library systems will pursue the following projects to explore new approaches to reaching and engaging entrepreneurs in their communities:
- Austin Public Library (Texas) will develop partnerships with local businesses and associations to offer workshops for starting and growing a successful small business, and will create a space for resources needed by entrepreneurial startups.
- District of Columbia Public Library will develop a strategy to target library resources and partner-led programs toward citizens returning from jail seeking to become entrepreneurs.
- Durham County Library (N.C.) will provide access to free co-working spaces that will feature innovative technology, resources and relevant programming.
- East Baton Rouge Parish Library (La.) will develop a program to connect their business librarian to established and new entrepreneurs, to provide them with customized library resources to meet their specific needs.
- Enoch Pratt Free Library (Md.) and Baltimore County Public Library will develop a program supporting economic independence through entrepreneurship for small, minority- and women-owned businesses by providing access to a collaborative network of library resources, services and partnerships that offer education, training and support services.
- Kansas City Public Library (Mo.) will work to bring multilingual small business and entrepreneurship programs to immigrants and refugees in Kansas City.
- King County Library System (Wash.) will develop and implement a holistic and equitable approach to addressing the needs of immigrant and refugee entrepreneurs through research
- Mid-Continent Public Library (Mo.) will develop its Food Ed program that concentrates on the first steps of starting a food business.
- Toledo Lucas County Public Library (Ohio) will develop a more comprehensive understanding of the challenges facing aspiring women and immigrant entrepreneurs as well as how those obstacles differ for aspiring male entrepreneurs,and will analyze strategies to attract and effectively serve both groups.
- Toronto Public Library will develop an entrepreneur-in-residence program and perform community outreach to newcomers in the community, focusing on women and refugees.