Washington, D.C. —People of all ages and backgrounds come to libraries to transform new business ideas into reality. "The People’s Incubator: Libraries Propel Entrepreneurship" (pdf), a new report from the American Library Association (ALA), highlights how public and academic libraries leverage their diverse resources to work with entrepreneurs during all stages of the business start-up process—from writing a business plan and raising capital to performing market analysis and prototyping.
"Libraries have always played a powerful role in connecting people with the resources and learning they need to be successful in all aspects of their lives,” said ALA President Sari Feldman. “In the digital age, libraries are transforming to maximize our collections, community connections and expertise alongside new technologies to promote entrepreneurship and business development. Because libraries are open to all, they bring economic opportunity for all."
The report, authored by Charlie Wapner, senior information policy analyst at ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP), outlines and provides examples of the ways in which libraries advance entrepreneurial activity, including:
- classes, mentoring and networking opportunities developed and hosted by libraries;
- dedicated spaces and tools (including 3D printers and digital media suites) for entrepreneurs;
- collaborations with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), SCORE and more;
- access to and assistance using specialized business databases;
- business plan competitions;
- guidance navigating copyright, patent and trademark resources; and
- programs that engage youth in coding and STEM activities.
The City of Dallas Office of Economic Development, for instance, has teamed with the Dallas Public Library on the Dallas Business Resource and Information Network (B.R.A.I.N.) to support local business development. Start-up MapStory used the DreamLab co-working facility at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Central Library in Washington, D.C. to grow and conduct its day-to-day business. By one estimate, business owners and employees use resources at public libraries 2.8 million times each month to support small businesses. (source: http://www.oclc.org/content/dam/oclc/reports/pdfs/214109usf_how_libraries_stack_up.pdf)
With more than 20,000 public and academic libraries throughout the United States, libraries represent a critical national infrastructure. “Economic opportunity is clearly a major concern for voters this year,” said Alan S. Inouye, director of the ALA OITP. “We urge the presidential campaigns and the national policy community to incorporate libraries into their strategies and plans for jumpstarting business development and job creation.”
ALA recently held a program on entrepreneurship and economic opportunity at its first-ever National Policy Convening in Washington, D.C. this April, which featured Darryl DePriest, the SBA chief counsel for advocacy, as well as ALA President Sari Feldman. A video featuring John Fuduric, owner of The Cleveland Brewery, also was shown demonstrating how libraries assist local entrepreneurs in unusual ways.
About the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy
The Office for Information Technology Policy advances ALA’s public policy activities by helping secure information technology policies that support and encourage efforts of libraries to ensure access to electronic information resources as a means of upholding the public’s right to a free and open information society. It works to ensure a library voice in information policy debates and to promote full and equitable intellectual participation by the public.
About the American Library Association
The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with more than 58,000 members in academic, public, school, government, and special libraries. The mission of the American Library Association is to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.
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American Library Association