Schmooze or Lose: Building Business Relationships


Discussion Forum presented by the
Business Reference in Public Libraries Committee
June 25, 2005
Chicago, Illinois

Discussion Forum Notes


Jennifer Bernardelli, Thomson Gale
Rhonda Kleiman, Library System of Lancaster County, Lancaster, PA
Jennifer Mahnken, Johnson County Library, Overland Park, KS

Information Presented by Jennifer Bernardelli

Remember the 4 P's of marketing - Product, Price, Place and Promotion.

For libraries, it is especially important to think about the product and price. Price however is really the value libraries offer the patron.


Product can be an actual product, service, idea or person. What are library products?

  • Videos and DVDs that libraries offer for free
  • Access to the Internet (service) and subscription database information (product)
  • Computer and database training
  • Answers to reference questions, either through the actual reference desk, by phone, or via a virtual service

The "price" for a library is not necessarily a monetary price that is extended to patrons, but rather the 'value' your customers get from the services you offer. You can put a price tag on this! Examples of value include:

  • Saving a person money (check out the book for free, rather than or before going to or Border's). Especially important for all of the management or investment books on the market.
  • Saving a person time (reserving books, remote access to databases).

Here is the URL to the free templates on marketing your library that Gale offers

Ideas presented by Jennifer Mahnken and Rhonda Kleiman

Attend Chamber meetings

  • Visit with business people
  • Network
  • Offer to make presentations
  • Take a stack of brochures and business cards with you
  • Have a booth at annual business expo
  • If they have a newsletter, offer to write an article

Attend Rotary or other community organization meetings, offer to do presentations

Establish partnerships with entrepreneur organizations and local economic development organizations. Offer to do tours for them, invite them to do presentations for you.

  • Small Business Development Centers
  • Women’s Business Centers
  • Women’s networking and employment organizations
  • Minority business centers and chambers
  • Networking groups
  • Career centers and search firms


  • Offer business programs (marketing, sales, web design, generating referrals, networking, IT issues, investing)
  • Bring in small business owners and entrepreneur reps to do the programs
  • Talk about library resources as part of some other program
  • Using small business owners allows them to advertise themselves in an indirect way, lends credibility to your program
  • Work with a bank to talk about business planning and what they look for
  • Investment firms do good programs if they focus on education

Work with universities to find out what they offer, cross referrals, if you can use them for any programming or partnerships

Contact local newspapers to see if you can write a column for them

Submit programs to the local papers and business journals to list in their business calendars

Create a business reference section on your library’s website

Publish a newsletter

Use business cards you have collected through networking events to build a database/mailing list

Market your services to banks and accounting firms, as they work with small businesses in need of information

Hold business database classes on a routine basis – ReferenceUSA is popular

Give half-hour lunchtime tours to businesspeople

Hold business plan competitions

bullet Schmooze or Lose: Building Business Relationships
Business Reference in Public Libraries Committee, ALA Annual Conference, June 25, 2005

Disclaimer: This publication has been placed on the web for the convenience of BRASS members. Information and links will not be updated. Posted 25 October 2005.