Books and Business: Three Steps to Connect with Entrepreneurs

Last time I was on the blog, I talked about how entrepreneurial lessons can benefit librarians. There is a clear relationship between the business world and the business of librarianship. Many public libraries (such as the one to which I dedicate forty hours a week) have features perfect for businesses, such as meeting rooms and professional mixers. Other libraries provide computer labs, accesses to online databases, job fairs, and professional development workshops. The outreach tools are there, but how do we attract businesspeople to them? How do we explore those partnerships and get those busy professionals into the library?

In April 2022, I had the pleasure of presenting the following tips during EBSCO’s Libraries & Entrepreneurship webinar:

  • Be an Outreach Detective – Before you can get business professionals into the library, you need to know your community on an economic development level. That means it’s time to do some detective work! Since every good detective needs good questions, use these to guide your outreach search:

    • Who are the top three employers within a 15-mile radius of your library?
    • Which organization(s) are you currently partnering with on events?
    • Who are your event partners partnering with?
    • Who is the main contact at your city or town’s Chamber of Commerce?
    • Who is the main contact at your city or town’s workforce development center?

The answers to these questions should be enough to begin populating what’s known as a ‘community asset map’ – a compiled list of names and organizations that you will use as a directory of potential partners within the business world.

  • Make It a Brainstorm – Now that you’ve got your asset map in place, it’s time to use it! When you reach out to your contacts to invite them to visit, begin with a library tour. Be sure to design your walkthrough by highlighting features that would most interest them: technology offerings, meeting rooms, free administrative services such as copying and faxing. After the tour, sit with them without sharing your ideas of what they need. Don’t get me wrong: going in with a blank slate isn’t advised, but don’t be prescriptive. This is your time to listen to their needs and find commonalities where the library can be of service to them.

  • Focus on the Followup – At the close of your initial meeting, you should walk away with clear action steps to keep the business engaged. This may include another meeting with additional stakeholders or reserving space in the library for an upcoming event.  Useful followup are the stepping stones toward future partnership, outreach, and event planning. It’s an ongoing process that should be mutually beneficial for both their organization and your library.

These three steps are sure to lead to strong foundational relationships with the businesses and nonprofits right in your backyard.

Kellee Forkenbrock is an MLIS student at the University of Iowa (May 2023). She also works full time as the Public Services Librarian for the North Liberty Library (North Liberty, Iowa), assisting with the management of part-time staff as well as serving as the community engagement liaison for the library. Kellee has spoken about library outreach and engagement on behalf of organizations such as the Association for Rural & Small Libraries (ARSL), the Entrepreneurship and Libraries Conference (ELC), EBSCO, and the American Library Association (ALA) Conference. In addition to pursuing her MLIS, Kellee is also in pursuit of a certification in Digital Humanities. Her twenty-plus years of professional experience includes project management, public relations, and multimedia advertising. Kellee is active in her community, having lent her service to the Iowa City Public Library Board of Trustees, Girls on the Run of Eastern Iowa, and currently as an Ambassador for the Iowa City Area Business Partnership as well as a UNESCO City of Literature Board Member. Read more about Kellee on her LinkedIn profile.

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