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Skokie Business Portal

Skokie Public Library
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Innovation Leader: Mike Buhmann, Business Librarian, mbuhmann@skokielibrary.info

Problem Statement

The extensive small business resources available at Skokie Public Library were getting little use by local business people. These resources included books, periodicals, computing equipment, online tutorials and, most importantly, several powerful and expensive subscription databases. Attempts at outreach to the local Chamber of Commerce and other small business groups were carried out and business people often showed an interest in these resources but ultimately they were often frustrated and confused at the difficulty in finding and using the material.

Innovation

After meetings of library staff and discussions with area business people it was determined that an online business portal should be developed. This portal would provide easy access to the business resources at the library, and offer specific context as to how these resources would help business orders achieve their goals. Video tutorials were created from the user’s perspective and would cover a topic such as “Send Targeted Mailings to New Homeowners.” Users would be shown how to carry out this task using a specific library database. Along with these tutorials the business portal contains a calendar of local business events, a local business directory, a highlighted collection of newer business books and a blog covering topics pertinent to the local business community.

It was decided to use the open source content management software Drupal to construct the portal because of its power and flexibility and because staff were already familiar with the software This software has the power to securely implement a wide variety of formatted material such as videos, blogs, RSS feeds, HTML links and calendars along with providing various levels of permissions to allow individuals the ability to easily update various sections of the site.

The future for the Skokie Business Portal will be to offer it as a model for other libraries to use in order to highlight their own business resources. The software has the ability to allow other libraries to contribute to the portal so that the workload of adding to the site can be shared along with the use of the material itself. This platform can also be extended to other subjects to highlight specific applications for library resources.

Progress

The Skokie Business Portal gets a small but steady number of outside hits each month measured by Google Analytics. There have been testimonies from Skokie Chamber of Commerce staff that they recommend the portal to its members as a valuable research tool. It has also proved useful for librarians to offer to business-minded patrons at the reference desk and also for librarians themselves to keep track of the resources available at the library.