ALA awards $1.3 million to 13 libraries to develop library entrepreneurship centers

For Immediate Release
Wed, 07/22/2020


Shawnda Hines

Assistant Director, Communications

Public Policy and Advocacy Office

ALA Washington Office

WASHINGTON -- The American Library Association (ALA) announced the 13 public libraries selected to receive a total of $1.3 million to bolster their library entrepreneurship centers.  Established as part of a initiative to create opportunity for all, Libraries Build Business will enable libraries across the country to increase the number of business creators they serve from low-income and underrepresented backgrounds. 

Appleton (Wisc.) Public Library
Baltimore County (Md.) Public Library 
Broward County (Fla.) Public Library
Ferguson (Mo.) Municipal Public Library
Gwinnett County (Ga.) Public Library
Independence (Ks.) Public Library
Laramie County (Wy.) Library System
Los Angeles (Cal.) Public Librar
Providence (R.I.) Public Library
Richland (S.C.) Library
Spokane County (Wash.) Library District
Topsham (Me.) Public Library
Yakama Nation Library (Wash.) 

“Libraries Build Business showcases libraries’ role as catalysts for equitable opportunity, just when it’s needed most, said ALA President Julius Jefferson. “In this time of economic hardship for many, the challenges are most acute for communities of color and people with low incomes. Even in a better economy, fewer than 30% of U.S. businesses were minority-owned. By expanding services such as business classes and workshops, mentorship opportunities, database and research expertise, co-working and makerspaces and specialized equipment and technology, Libraries Build Business is paving a way to revitalize our business communities.”

The core objective of Libraries Build Business is to identify library-led entrepreneurship models that will best help low-income and/or underrepresented entrepreneurs to start and grow small businesses. The initiative aims to provide direct services to 15,000 people over the course of 18 months, during which the participating libraries will also develop:

  • A framework with common metrics to evaluate the progress and success of entrepreneurship programs;
  • A ‘playbook’ accessible to all libraries, based on initiative learnings and recommendations to better serve entrepreneurs from diverse communities; and 
  • A peer-learning network for librarians interested in developing or expanding entrepreneurship programs of their own.

Libraries constitute one of the largest platforms in the U.S. for empowering aspiring entrepreneurs. Nearly half of the nearly 17,000 public libraries in the U.S. provide free services for entrepreneurs, from offering access to critical but costly information to hosting business coaching classes and, in some cases, providing seed capital through business plan competitions. Libraries Build Business grantees will work to establish new partnerships with community-based organizations and further develop innovative models to bring their library’s resources out in the community. 

“Libraries Build Business captures the essence of librarianship: the promise and potential of an equitably informed public,” said Jefferson. “I salute the library workers who are part of this ambitious project.” 

“We're proud to work with the American Library Association to bring this program to life. With the COVID-19 crisis, there has never been a more critical time to support our small businesses and ensure they can survive and thrive well into the future,” said Jacquelline Fuller, president of “Libraries are the gathering places of many communities, and increasingly they are learning centers for entrepreneurs. Their role is vital in our collective effort to support small business leaders and entrepreneurs who need it most.” 

Funding for Libraries Build Business was announced in Fall 2019 as part of a $10 million pledge to help entrepreneurs from low-income and underrepresented groups start new businesses via access to training and capital. The $2 million grant builds on Google’s ongoing support of ALA and libraries, including the Libraries Lead with Digital Skills collaboration funded by Grow with Google and the Libraries Ready to Code initiative with Google for Education.