Growing Your Business Services to Improve Your Local Economy
Authored by Katie Sullivan, Program Manager, Urban Libraries Council
Library leaders from 22 library systems gathered in Baltimore, Md. on September 21-23, 2022, for panels, roundtable discussions and activities focused on entrepreneurship and economic opportunity. Hosted by Enoch Pratt Free Library and Baltimore County Public Library, the Lessons from the Field event emphasized how libraries can leverage partnerships and resources to support entrepreneurs and foster improved economic outcomes in their communities.
Pictured: ULC President and CEO Brooks Rainwater (top left), Enoch Pratt Free Library CEO and President Heidi Daniel (top right), Gale Cengage Learning Vice President Brian Risse (bottom left) and Baltimore County Public Library Director Sonia Alcántara-Antoine (bottom right).
The conference programming began with The Role of the Library in Reshaping Your Community’s Economy, a panel hosted by ULC President and CEO Brooks Rainwater and featuring Sonia Alcántara-Antoine, director of Baltimore County Public Library; Heidi Daniel, CEO and president of Enoch Pratt Free Library; and Brian Risse, vice president of Gale Cengage Learning.
Panelists highlighted the role of the pandemic in revealing existing disparities and how libraries are uniquely positioned to support under-resourced residents.
“Baltimore basically invented redlining,” said Daniel. “We have to be thoughtful about what communities have resources and what communities don’t, and how to deploy those resources.”
In the second panel of the day, Inside Out: Expanding and Leveraging Library Assets, library leaders outlined the specific resources that entrepreneurs seek in their libraries, including databases, makerspaces and technology. Xenia Hernández, Workforce and Innovation Center manager for Saint Paul Public Library; Gillian Robbins, acting head of the Business Resource and Innovation Center for the Free Library of Philadelphia; and Wesley Wilson, former chief of the Maryland State Library Resource Center shared their expertise.
“Libraries and librarians are the original co-working space… we’re really good at curating resources,” said Robbins.
During Setting Up for Success: Library Service Models, Morgan Perry, community resource coordinator for Mid-Continent Public Library, and Mark Pond, business librarian for Spokane Public Library, detailed the structure and history of their business services programs. Both emphasized the importance of community engagement and active partnership-building.
“What problems can we solve while at the same time going to our communities and listening, listening, listening?” Perry encouraged participants to ask.
“[The] Library world today is not [the] library world of 1995… That model of waiting for people to come to us [is] completely dead in the water,” added Pond.
Ecosystem Building 101: Defining Entrepreneurship Ecosystems encouraged participants to assess their role among the diverse players in their local landscape of support for entrepreneurs, such as Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), chambers of commerce and nonprofit organizations.
Karly Feinberg, small business consultant for Baltimore County Public Library, David Quick, adult librarian for DC Public Library and Perry were featured on the panel. Feinberg provided participants with a detailed framework of supporting and inhibiting factors for local entrepreneurs libraries might use to examine entrepreneur culture, formal institutions and physical infrastructure.
Local Baltimore efforts shined in Entrepreneur Academy - From Start to Finish. This session examined the local partnership between Enoch Pratt Free Library and Baltimore County Public Library which resulted in the Entrepreneur Academy, a training program focused on marketing, financing options, business planning and more.
Adult & Community Engagement Manager for Baltimore County Public Library Julie Brophy moderated the discussion which emphasized the regional library partnerships and the roles community partners can play in library programming for entrepreneurs and small business owners. The panel featured Francesca Jean-Baptiste, director of Tax Partnerships for CASH Campaign of Maryland; Amy Wallace Yingling, regional director of the Northern Region, Maryland SBDC; Shelly Eldridge, owner of The Confidence Coach and graduate of the Entrepreneur Academy.
“I think Entrepreneur Academy took me to a whole other level because I didn’t even know that the library had so many resources available to me… I appreciate that [they] bring the resources to the table with the expectation to help the individual.”
To wrap the day on Thursday, Lessons from the Field attendees participated in an interactive entrepreneurship ecosystem mapping activity led by Betsey Suchanic and attended a cocktail reception featuring the work of graduates from Baltimore County Public Library's Entrepreneur Academy.
Pictured (left to right): ULC Director of Communications Paul Negron, Prince George's County Memorial Library System Acting Co-CEO and Chief Operating Officer for Communication and Outreach Nicholas Brown, Enoch Pratt Free Library Chief of Marketing, Communications & Strategy Meghan McCorkell and Baltimore County Public Library Marketing and Development Manager Linda Frederick.
During Crafting New Narratives: Telling Your Library's Business Story on Friday, ULC's Director of Communications Paul Negron moderated a panel of expert library communicators from Maryland libraries. Prince George's County Memorial Library System Acting Co-CEO and Chief Operating Officer for Communication and Outreach Nicholas Brown, Baltimore County Public Library Marketing and Development Manager Linda Frederick and Enoch Pratt Free Library Chief of Marketing, Communications & Strategy Meghan McCorkell shared tips and techniques on how libraries can use data to tell their business story to local leaders and key decision makers. A robust conversation with attendees ensued around how libraries can better market and communicate their business services and resources to their patrons and local entrepreneurs.
We thank our gracious hosts — Baltimore County Public Library and Enoch Pratt Free Library — for welcoming us to their beautiful spaces. And we especially thank Gale Cengage for their generous support of this Lessons from the Field event.
Check Out Highlights from the Event!
Katie comes to ULC with experience in project management, event planning and content development from several Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organizations. Most recently, Katie served as a program manager for the National Association of Counties, providing local government leaders with programming related to economic mobility, arts and culture and equitable economic recovery. Katie holds a bachelor’s degree in history and Hispanic studies from the College of William & Mary.
Connecting the Dots: Mapping Entrepreneurship Ecosystems with Public Libraries
Learn more about the 2018 ULC Strengthening Libraries as Entrepreneurial Hubs initiative, supported by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. This initiative sought to understand the role public libraries play in nurturing and promoting entrepreneurship in their communities.
Library Partnerships in a Post-COVID World
At Cleveland's Lessons from the Field event, library leaders from 19 ULC member libraries shared and discussed how public libraries can continuously enhance their role as valuable partners and leaders within the community.