The resurgence of Covid-19 across the country means business leaders have a continuing need for timely, accurate, and reliable information to help their companies and organizations survive in the months ahead.
Fortunately, thousands of public libraries coast-to-coast offer access to sources of information and insights that can help businesses survive — and compete — in this challenging environment.
Spikes In Demand
According to the American Library Association, almost half of the nearly 17,000 public libraries in the United States provide a variety of free services for businesses and entrepreneurs. “As we all navigate how to deal with the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, I would encourage business executives and their staff to remember the incredible resource they have in their local library. Libraries will play a crucial part in their community’s recovery and are poised to provide assistance for businesses and individuals alike,” said Misty Jones, director of the San Diego Public Library.
Many libraries have seen marked increases in the number of people who have accessed their online resources since the pandemic began. The San Francsico Public Library reports a 100 percent increase in the number of sessions that are logged into three of its resources which are typically used to answer business-related questions. At the Miami-Dade Public Library System, logins for Lynda.com, one of their most popular training resources for employees and others, increased by nearly 18 percent; time spent watching training sessions shot up by more than 38 percent.MORE FOR YOUHow To Thrive As An Entrepreneur While Earning A Doctoral DegreeFrom Self-Employed To Business Owner: A Crucial Step In Making More MoneyUnder 30 Detroit Hackathon: Accelerating Change
Resources Put To Good Use
Recent examples of how businesses are taking advantage of the resources their local public libraries have to offer include:
- Sowa Marketing Agency, which taped the resources of the East Greenwich Library in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, to research trends in the real estate industry and identify prospects for the company’s services. “As a result, we got one of our most successful digital marketing clients,” said company founder Aidan Sowa.
- Stealth Agents, which provides virtual assistant services to entrepreneurs and small businesses, uses public libraries to find information on how companies responded to previous recessions. “This allows us to see into the past and find trends that other businesses have done to help recover from similar situations. We can also go into historic newspapers to research trends in market capitalization and recovery using our local library resources,” said CEO Teo Vanyo.
- Dan Bailey, president of WikiLawn Lawn Care, said “I’m a big fan of utilizing the many resources available at libraries.” He used a library recently to consult medical journals about slowing or lowering the transmission of infectious diseases for his employees and how companies responded to the 2008 economic crash.
How These Libraries Serve Business Communities
The business-related services and resources that local libraries offer vary from location to location — as do their hours of availability and access to their brick-and-mortar facilities. Although their doors may be closed, they are still open for business online. Here’s a look at some of the virtual services public libraries are providing to business communities around the country.
The Los Angeles Public Library maintains a business and economic department that has resources for business plans, raising funds for new ventures, home-based businesses, forming corporations and partnerships, and starting and operating different kinds of businesses. An online portal under “Jobs, Money and Small Business” is available on their website that features information about business databases, online learning courses, and the library’s collection of information for small businesses.
Peter Persic, the library’s director of public relations and marketing, said the Central Library’s Business & Economics Department works with local non-profit agencies and government agencies to host small business workshops that cover basic elements of small business and provides free counseling to entrepreneurs.
The Denver Public Library has a program called BizBoost that is geared toward business owners and aspiring business owners. “Throughout the pandemic our reference librarians have been working virtually with business owners to provide resources to help entrepreneurs either start or grow their business through our subscriptions and other resources,” according to communications manager Olivia Gallegos.
“Our BizBoost librarians assist with research in the areas of learning about an industry at large, local competitors or partners and narrowing down a target market,” she said. Since the start of the pandemic, hundreds of people have attended more than a dozen workshops for small business groups, conducted dozens of business outreach networking, and assisted with patent and trademark research requests, Gallegos noted.
The Boston Public Library has taken their one-on-one business consultation service online. Company owners and entrepreneurs can scheduled telephone or video calls with a librarian at the Kirstein Business Library and Innovation Center.
The librarians can help with information about business development, and competitor assessment, patent and trademark questions.and other business reference requests. Business executives can submit research requests online and access databases. Entrepreneurs can request business mentoring sessions and schedule consultations on legal-related maters.
Although the main San Francisco Public Library is currently closed to in-person access, their Small Business Center’s online resources are available for small business owners to conduct sales prospecting and other industry research.
Three of its popular resources for a answering business-related questions are InfoUSA/RefUSA, Mergent, and Ebsco Business Source Complete. The library’s Telephone Information Program (TIP) continues to provide reference service to any entrepreneurs who need assistance. A new portal was created for small businesses and start-ups and one for information about Covid-19 for small business owners.
The Miami-Dade Public Library System offers a variety of free business and training resources available year-round that are of particular interest and help to business executives, business owners and entrepreneurs, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Leila Khalil, chief of communications and community engagement. To help alleviate some of the financial strain companies and organizations are dealing with, all of their resources are available for free.
The San Diego Public Library maintains a Small Business Center that has information on financing and managing small businesses. They also provide access to investment databases such as Standard and Poor’s Net Advantage. For businesses that want to offer assistance to their laid-off employees, the library has Brainfuse JobNow, which provides online assistance for help finding jobs and preparing resumes.
Minitex is a state-funded library organization located at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. Minitex provides access to business and research databases through eLibrarymn.org. It is available through hundreds of libraries across Minnesota and in several neighboring states including South Dakota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin.
One More Reason
The proliferation of disinformation and misinformation means there is another reason for business executives and their staff to consult with their local libraries.
Writing in American Libraries magazine, Marcus Banks, a former academic library administrator at UC Davis, observed that “Librarians can help you sort the real news from the fake. While a plethora of useful, accurate, and engaging content is available online, the web is filled with inaccurate and misleading information. Librarianship has always been about providing objective, accurate, and engaging information that meets the needs of a particular person. This has not changed, and it is why librarians are experts in information literacy.”