The Library is Your Startup and Small Business Supercenter
As a writer, I’ve spent a lot of time working from home over the past six years. My writing career and my library career have also overlapped in many ways; I’ve been a digital librarian, a full-time librarian and part-time writer, and a full-time writer and library advocate. Over the course of my professional life, I’ve helped professionals to use the library for their businesses, and I’ve also used my “insider” library knowledge to enhance my work as a writer and marketer.
Together, let’s take a look at some of the ways in which the library acts as a boost for small businesses and dream-seekers like you.
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The Library as a Workspace
Working from home (or alone in a small office) can be a huge obstacle for many business owners and self-employed adults; there are so many distractions to overcome! As an adult with ADHD, I’m especially prone to allowing household chores to interrupt my workflow and disrupt my work-life balance. Like many other individuals, I find that I am able to stay more focused in an environment in which other people are working and studying. Being around others engrossed in their own tasks helps me to “set the tone” for the day. It also means that my tendency to become absorbed in distractions around my home is diminished.
While rented office space provides a solution for many individuals, other self-starters find them financially prohibitive. For this reason, and because I like to use my library’s free resources, I often head to the library to accomplish my work. The library provides a range of services and digital materials to help people meet their business needs.
Use your library to find books related to business growth, financial planning, and marketing. The library also provides access to computers, printing (sometimes including digital printing), copying, faxing, and scanning. If you need help using resources, just ask a librarian for help.
Some questions can be easily and quickly answered by your librarian. For example, if you need help emailing a file, it will probably only take your librarian a few minutes to assist you.
For more involved help, I recommend setting up an appointment with your librarian before your visit. Call the library (or chat with a librarian online) before visiting the librarian if you anticipate needing more involved help. This will allow your librarian to plan for your visit, set aside time for you, and locate resources you may find useful before your visit. For example, if you would like to learn how to create a webpage, definitely call in advance to make the most out of your library visit!
For me, the most rewarding aspect of being a public librarian was to help other individuals grow and reach their full potential. I looked forward to regular appointments with community members who needed help creating resumes and advertisements for their businesses. Try calling and booking a library appointment just to become familiar with your library’s services and business-boosting materials.
If you do prefer to work from home — or if visiting the library is inconvenient — explore your library’s site to find digital books, chat rooms, apps, and other resources to build your visit. Most libraries also offer opportunities to connect with librarians via webchats, online instructional videos, and access to business and specialized databases.
As a North Carolinian, I use my library to connect to the NC Live Jobs Portal, The NC Live Job Search Toolkit, and Business Link of North Carolina. Your library site very likely provides access to other statewide, as well as national, resources to help your business grow.
Check out Business Resources from the LA County Library or Business & Career Resources from the Brooklyn Public Library. Many libraries also direct business owners and start-up employees to Goodwill Community Foundation, where they can build job and technical skills.
Networking and Business Education
The library is also an excellent online and traditional learning center for community members who are interested in business education classes, seminars on a variety of topics, and networking. Attend a class, join a group, or attend an event to meet and partner with community members in a range of business industries. Learn from other business owners in related fields and partner with community members seeking business partnerships.
Sometimes, the library can also partner with startups and local businesses with mutually beneficial arrangements. Ask about helping to sponsor a library event or hosting a meetup related to your industry.
As a librarian, I often took advantage of the opportunity to help small businesses grow. I partnered with an ice cream parlor who offered children in the community free ice cream for meeting their reading goals. The ice cream shop gained new customers, the library was able to add a reading incentive for children, and the kids earned free ice cream while staying ahead of the “summer reading slump.”
I also allowed self-starters to host free events which provided advertisement for their services and information for the community while boosting library usage. For example, a local organization expert gave the community free classes on clutter-clearing. This arrangement allowed for the library to advertise her expertise as well as to empower community members to unburden themselves from clutter and to donate unwanted items to charity.
If you’re like me, you’re great at what you do and very passionate, but find certain business functions and responsibilities to be very challenging and costly. Libraries around the country offer free or low-cost tax preparation programs, computer classes, and workshops on establishing businesses. Visit your library’s website for a schedule of upcoming events or call and request a program.
Librarians welcome programming requests and new ideas; after all, our business is meeting your needs! Open communication helps us to make that happen so you can focus on growing your business and doing work that you’re passionate about!