By Leander Croker and Faith Burns
Patrons gather in Durham County Library's MakerLab, one of the many innovative spaces that the library is using to establish itself as a place for business education.
This post provides information on how Durham County Library has built bridges between the business and library communities in Durham, N.C.
When librarians ask community members what they like most about their local library, the response frequently begins with, “when I was a child …" or “when my children were little ...” While the library’s role in early education and child development is paramount – and while we as library professionals love that the library calls to mind warm and fuzzy memories of when our customers were children — these stories do not speak to the work and value the library provides to adults and to our community today.
When the Durham County Library’s main branch closed for a two-year renovation and transformation, the adult services team was distributed to various other branches. One of these locations included a satellite programming space in the storefront of an older shopping mall. To engage the community in this new and non-traditional library location, the adult services librarian who had been assigned to the space needed to develop new programming. This need for innovative programming led to the development of two new education series, one on Education and Empowerment and another on Entrepreneur Education. These series began a process of reintroducing the library and what it has to offer to adults in the community.
Cultivating relationships with established businesses and institutions within the community was key to conveying the library’s credibility within the ecosystem.
Establishing the library as a place for financial and entrepreneurial education was initially challenging. Customers questioned how and if the library was truly capable of meeting the complex needs of the business and finance communities. To make our community feel confident in the programs and embed Durham County Library in the local entrepreneurial ecosystem, we countered initial apprehension by establishing partnerships with respected and established groups and individuals in our entrepreneurial sphere.
Cultivating relationships with established businesses and institutions within the community was key to conveying the library’s credibility within the ecosystem. Partnerships were established with the business departments of the local technical community college, as well as several local branches of national banking firms. Experts from these arenas supported librarians in developing, marketing and presenting the first business programs, which helped to position the library as an important access point to business and financial information. These partnerships solidified the library as a key networking point for business professionals and people interested in business in the community.
We must work to expand our network of potential partners within the community, and we must be consistently visible and “at the table” when it comes to business education programming.
In order to expand the library’s presence in the rapidly growing entrepreneurial ecosystem here in Durham, we need to make sure that we are consistently evolving our practice and engaging our customers in innovative ways. We must work to expand our network of potential partners within the community, and we must be consistently visible and “at the table” when it comes to business education programming.
Our Library Director Tammy Baggett finds great value in providing resources for the entrepreneurial community. She emphasizes that that this work aligns with the library’s vision to inspire lives and transform Durham. “We are committed to making a difference and working within this space meets a growing need in our community,” said Baggett.
Leander Croker is the adult services librarian at Durham County Library’s Main Library and Faith Burns is the interim manager at the Durham County Library’s Main Library. For more information, contact Leander at firstname.lastname@example.org.