Providing Services for Businesses

by Brock Peoples

Who are our patrons, and what are they doing in our libraries? It’s a common question to ask when initiating an environment scan, SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats), or other analysis. Answering it fully can go a long way towards informing planning processes and may produce a few surprises.

You may even be tempted to stop there and dive into planning around serving these (sometimes newly discovered) demographics. Stop for a moment. Examine your community as a whole. Who are they, and what are they doing?

Now, compare the two. If you’re the visual sort, make a Venn Diagram. It might look like this:

venn

Intersection of Community and Users

Where the two groups overlap are your existing patrons who are in your community. Patrons that are not part of your community live in other service areas and happen to visit your library because … Why? (That’s another question you should look into, but not my current point.) People who are in your community and are not patrons are potential patrons, represent your predictable growth areas, and preset you with target demographics to market to.

Often, members of your local business community fall into this unserved category. They don’t come to story time, they don’t check out the newest Tom Clancy, and they probably don’t need your Internet connection to run their business (though some do). So, how do you serve them? What library services could the Antique Shop possibly want? The Drycleaner? The Bar?

Surprise! Business communities are often very open to continuing educational opportunities that will help make them more money. How do we, as libraries, fit in? Believe it or not, many small business owners are not as tech and marketing savvy as most librarians. Especially librarians who take the time to read a blog on marketing.

Programs that explain how to claim your business on Google, using social media for businesses, website creation and management, and data management are all good places to start. If you’re unsure, see what kinds of programs your local Chamber of Commerce hosts for its members; maybe even go to a few meetings and ask what people would like to see in the future.

There are many other directions you may wish to take your business services. Maybe you would like your library to serve as a Co-working location, maybe you want to become a start-up incubator, or maybe you want to loan out technology tools specifically for businesses. Find out what your community wants, where they are, and meet them there!

Attached is a presentation I gave to the Chillicothe Chamber of Commerce at their February General Meeting, hosted by the Chillicothe Public Library. It is an introductory presentation on using social media for business promotion. Opinions are my own unless sources are given.

Facebook for businesses (PDF)

Brock Peoples is Director of Chillicothe Public Library District.

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About Brian Smith

Brian is Applications & Web Developer at Reaching Across Illinois Library System (RAILS).
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