How many entrepreneurs and small business owners are in your library community? Maybe more than you think. A November Entrepreneur article explains that there are 17.9 million “solopreneuers” in the United States and growing (http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/239522). In Barrington, where I am the Business Liaison Librarian for the Barrington Area Library, nearly 80% of businesses in this community are comprised of only 1-4 employees. While they may have a lot of energy, vigor, and innovation, this group typically is limited on time and money. This makes it even more imperative for local libraries to reach out to entrepreneurs and small business owners.
As an embedded librarian, I work closely with the business community through consistent involvement in committees, networking opportunities, and speaking and training engagements with business owners and professionals. However, these entrepreneurs and business owners can also be valuable resources to the community. By creating a platform where entrepreneurs and business owners can share their story and lessons, fellow professionals can gain insights and perspectives from their very own community.
The Barrington Area Library has a Business: It’s Better in Barrington series in which over twenty businesses to date have had an opportunity to share their business story with the community. Provided at no cost, these 3 minute videos allow owners to talk about their business and how it relates to the community. My colleague and I do an initial consultation, bring the equipment (camcorder, tripod, mic, and camera) for the video shoot date, and edit the video on iMovie. Our goal is to provide a video for one business per month. From high school students who won a $15,000 grant to start a business to family bakeries and delis that have been in the community for generations, every owner has a valuable story to share. Once completed, we upload the videos onto our website and social media. To date, our business videos have more than 4,000 views. (http://balibrary.org/business/videos.html).
More recently, I started a podcast series with local entrepreneurs. In a radio-style format, I interview people who have decided to become their own boss about the joys and challenges that they have faced as entrepreneurs. This includes discussions of purchasing an existing business or franchise, joining a family business, or starting from scratch. The podcasts are each about 10-15 minutes and are shared on the library’s website and social media. Additionally, the interviewees each get a link to the podcast so that they can promote it on their social media and share it with friends, family, and clients. This only requires podcasting software (I use Garageband, but a free version is Audacity) and a SoundCloud account which allows you to upload roughly 3 hours of audio for free. (https://soundcloud.com/balibrary)
With an increasing population of entrepreneurs, it is so important for libraries to develop connections with these business professionals. Sharing library resources, workshops, and opportunities is important, but it is also necessary to create an avenue to share experiences and perspective digitally. While databases and books provide the technical information, community connections form the relationships and insights that are invaluable any entrepreneur.
Barbara Alvarez is the Business Liaison Librarian at the Barrington Area Library.