Supporting Local Businesses

Supporting Local Businesses

Posted on Tuesday January 04, 2011 at 10:27AM

Supporting Local Businesses

It used to be that supporting local businesses meant shopping in town from the small, family owned and operated stores rather than driving out to the city. In return, the library might get some sponsorships for programs or prizes. The second Library Service Response turns this idea on its head and makes the library a vital component to the economic success of the community and small businesses.

The service response under the microscope this week is “Build Successful Enterprises: Business and Nonprofit Support.” According to the Sandra Nelson book, Strategic Planning for Results, the benefits that your community experiences due to this service is:
Business owners and nonprofit organization directors and their managers will have the resources they need to develop and maintain strong, viable organizations.
Nowadays, small town businesses often struggle to survive due to limited resources and stiff competition from the major retailers in larger communities. Nonprofit agencies can be struggling to find space in which to hold meetings or run programs. What if the library could step in and provide the resources that businesses and non-profits in your community need, but can’t afford to get on their own? It may not require nearly as much from you as you might think, while contributing to the prosperity of the community.

If your library has a meeting room, you may have a valuable resource that members of your community are unaware of. What if the business community could meet together at the library for an event? You could bring in guest lecturers on a wide variety of topics, or even allow the business people of your community to discuss issues that affect them, either due to political or economic changes. Some businesses may simply want a place where they can interview prospective employees in a quiet environment, or meet with sales people to discuss new products. If your library has space for such a meeting room, you may wish to consider making it known. Whether you and your board decide to charge a user fee or not, having a strong policy in place concerning the use of the room is crucial. Have users sign an agreement form of the policy when they sign up to use the room.

The list of critical resources of staff knowledge, skills and abilities in the Sandra Nelson book is actually rather frightening and totally unrealistic for the smaller libraries found in the Northern Lights Library System. Places like Calgary and Edmonton may be able to afford a Business Librarian (with Masters degrees in both Library Sciences and Business Management) but that sort of person is not easily found around here. This is not to say that library staff should not put forth the effort to learn more about business, and especially business resources, if the library focuses on this service response. But library staff and board need to be realistic in what can be provided. For example, rather than knowing business structure, budgeting or legislation, know whom to contact if questions in this area arise. It’s unspeakably frustrating to ask a library staff person about how to apply for grants and be told: “I don’t know.” It’s so much better to be able to respond with, “I don’t have that information, but I can give you the phone number/email address/ website of so-and-so who deals with that sort of thing all the time.” Make sure the people you are referring to are willing to be used as this sort of resource and that they are not inundated with questions that are outside their area of expertise.

As with the excellent delivery of every service response, self-analysis is key to providing good service. Every so often question whether your library is providing the staff knowledge, collections, resources, facilities and activities that your target group needs. If you are not meeting your objectives, go to your business community to get a better understanding of their information needs, and why they aren’t coming to the library to meet those needs.

Nelson, Sandra (2008). Strategic Planning for Results. Chicago: American Library Association.

• February 18th is the deadline for Applications/Nominations for the Minister’s Award for innovative library programs. Go to the following link to apply for your library today!

• Northern Lights Library System headquarters will be closed for the holidays from December 24, 2010 to January 2, 2011. We will be open again on the 3rd of January.

• Have a happy and safe holiday season!

Author: Northern Lights Library System


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