A few days ago I went to the library. You know — one of my local public libraries. I went there to borrow some books that I had placed a hold on. For research. As in — business research. That’s right. I went to the local library to borrow books to support research I was doing for a client project.
As an entrepreneur, I’ve come to realize that the public library system is actually a great resource for my small business. Over the years, I’ve used library services across the Metro Vancouver area for a multitude of business reasons. Here’s 4 ways I have found that local public libraries support small business:
- They often provide great access to affordable meeting spaces for small (or large) group gatherings.
- There’s usually quiet (in some cases — virtually silent) and comfortable areas to read, work or conduct research.
- Most libraries provide free access to good quality, wireless high-speed internet. This can be especially handy when I’m traveling and don’t want to spend a ton of time working in noisy coffee shops.
- And, most importantly, there are all the books and resources that libraries have to offer. Over the last while, I’ve found myself ordering more and more physical books to read and review for various client projects, for business research and for general planning purposes. Of course, many libraries also offer e-book borrowing as well. All in all — libraries are a super affordable way to access a huge range of resources, reading materials and reference items.
So, as you can see there are lots of ways that the local library system plays a role in supporting the work I do through my small business here in Canada.
As an entrepreneur, I’m just one of the many different types of people that public libraries serve. In reality, today’s libraries are busy offering programs and services to an absolute multitude of people! For example, on any given day 50,000 people come through the doors of the Toronto (Canada) Public Library’s 100 branches, while 85,000 make an online visit. And — just in case you thought Starbucks had cornered the market on access to free high-speed internet in the United States, think again. According to American Library Association there are more public libraries than Starbucks in the U.S.—a total of 17,566 including branches. Nearly 100% of public libraries provide Wi-Fi and have no-fee access to computers. Plus, many libraries have local coffee shops located very close to them. Some libraries even sell coffee right inside the library.
Isn’t that amazing? Wow.
With respect to business and careers, I came across this other bit of interesting information from the American Library Association. Did you know that libraries actually strengthen local economies? For example in the U.S. –
- 73% of public libraries assist patrons with job applications and interviewing skills;
- 68% help patrons use databases to find career openings;
- 48% provide access to and assist entrepreneurs with online business information resources;
- More than 36% offer work space for mobile workers.
And while we almost all turn to Google Search for the answers to a great many things, the reality is that many people also still relay on reference librarians in the public and academic libraries across the U.S. Did you know that collectively reference librarians answer nearly 6.6 million questions weekly in the nations libraries!
That’s another wow!
Here’s a few super helpful library websites that have been developed to support small business owners.
The Berkley Public Library offers a comprehensive listing of resources, events and research links to support small business as well as jobs and career planning.
The New York Public Library provides a great Small Business Resource Center that is packed with local, state and national links and information.
The Vancouver Public Library offers a super listing of recommended books for entrepreneurs to read as well as links to many different websites to help small business owners with planning, operations and much more.
So — the next time you are in need of some support for your small business, you need to do some research for the development of a new product or are trying to find the answer to that impossible business question — head to your local library. You might just be amazed by how much your local library has to offer! If you need help finding the public library service in your community check out this great listing of libraries around the world.
Jane Boyd is a Partner in GeniusShared. She is also the CEO of 45 Conversations Media & Education Ltd, a Canadian education and training company based just outside of Vancouver Canada. She works with educators, business, community and government in the areas of early learning, work-life, community development and employee engagement.