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#ULCchat Recap: Supporting Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses

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On Wednesday, May 6, ULC hosted our first-ever live Twitter chat. Designed to raise awareness of the critical role of libraries in supporting local entrepreneurs and small businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak, this chat asked ULC’s Twitter followers to respond to a series of thought-provoking questions over the course of an hour.

ULC’s Twitter engagement rate spiked to more than double our monthly average during the chat, as participants engaged in a vibrant discussion on how public libraries are directly assisting local entrepreneurs and small businesses amid the coronavirus outbreak. ULC members led this conversation, including representatives from the peer learning cohort for ULC’s Strengthening Libraries as Entrepreneurial Hubs Initiative, and were joined by several allied organizations from across North America, including the National League of Counties.

Check out highlights from the chat’s questions and responses below. And, use the #ULCchat hashtag on Twitter to review the full conversation.

1. How is your library raising awareness of its available resources and services for entrepreneurs and small businesses while branches are temporarily closed?

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Toledo Lucas County Public Library (@ToledoLibrary) is open 24/7 online with thousands of titles, educational resources, blogs, research and more. Questions can be answered through the Get Help chat function on their website and they’re always eager to help with their Ask a Librarian service!

Kansas City Public Library (@KCLibrary) sends emails to patrons, posts blogs and shares available resources during programs and conference calls with partners!

King County Library System (@KCLS) revamped their website to highlight online offerings and pushes out a business and career e-newsletter using multiple social media channels and advertising on TV.

Rebecca Stavick, Do Space Executive Director (@RebeccaStavick): Partnerships all day long! Do Space has been working with the Nebraska Enterprise Fund, who have been offering incredible digital programs via Zoom.

2. How is your library helping entrepreneurs and small business owners navigate grants, loans and other sources for relief funding?

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Prince George’s County Memorial Library System (@PGCMLS) is connecting Prince Georgians with relief funding through organizations like PG Arts & Humanities, Employ Prince George’s and PGC Economic Development Corporation and adding new online resources through the Library.

Debbie Stanton, Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library Public Services Supervisor (@dstanton_tscpl): Meredith Snepp (@m_snepp) and her crackerjack team at the library are doing Zoom reference appointments and providing phone, email, and text support to help people work through whatever their needs are! Meredith Snepp (@m_snepp) added: Additionally, I am in pretty regular contact with community partners to make sure we are the most up-to-date on available information for our community.

St. Louis County Library (@SLCL) has made grant-finding resources like Foundation Direct Online available remotely so entrepreneurs can search for grants opportunities from home.

Richland Library (@accessfreely) launched a new service for small business owners and employees where you can choose from a variety of options, based on your unique circumstances, to find trusted information on loans, unemployment benefits and more.

3. How is your library helping small businesses and entrepreneurs shift their work and professional development online during the COVID-19 crisis?

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Roberta Phillips, Prince George’s County Memorial Library System CEO (@PGLCEO): The PGCMLS team is offering virtual programs for local small business leaders and entrepreneurs to connect with resources, plus the library has relaunched Lynda.com Library for professional development online.

DC Public Library (@dcpl) is making sure that as many DC residents as possible have a fully functional library card by unexpiring thousands of accounts, and extending online temporary cards to 90 days.

Baltimore County Public Library (@bcplinfo) is helping develop remote work skills via library databases like Lynda.com, arranging virtual programming with business experts and notifying them about webinars from others.

Morgan Perry, Mid-Continent Public Library Business Outreach Specialist (@MPerryBigHair): Mid-Continent Public Library is using all-in on commenting on Facebook Groups and spending time with people via phone to walk them through how to access social media until branch staff are able to help again.

4. How is your library assessing the businesses community’s needs during the COVID-19 crisis? How can patrons share their needs with the library?

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Zachary Huber, Toledo Lucas County Public Library Business and Workforce Specialist Librarian (@zacharyhuber): By participating in our local Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce Business Reboot initiative, the library is able to learn about emerging community needs through the collaborative.

Markham Public Library (@markhamlibrary) is reaching out to partners that work with small businesses and entrepreneurs to determine what the primary concerns of our community are and also constantly monitoring on-going news about grants/support and stories of the struggles and challenges that small businesses face.

Debbie Stanton, Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library Public Services Supervisor (@dstanton_tscpl): The relationships Business and Career Librarian Meredith Snepp and other staff at the library formed before COVID-19 have made staying connected with businesses and organizations possible, allowing the library to attend whatever virtual community meetings they can to keep a pulse on what's happening.

Richland Library (@accessfreely) hosts a weekly online meeting with local business leaders to identify growing needs and discuss accessible resources and the library is responding to questions from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. ET, Mondays – Fridays via text, phone calls and online.

5. How is your library helping to connect the business community during this time of social isolation?

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Spokane Public Library (@spokanelibrary): The library’s business librarian is offering 1-on-1 virtual business consultations bookable directly through their website.

Roberta Phillips, Prince George’s County Memorial Library System CEO (@PGLCEO): PGCMLS is hosting weekly community conversations in English and Spanish where leaders share resources, including dedicated business/entrepreneurship resources and relief programs. Tune in for yesterday's Café a las cuatro for more:

Richland Library (@accessfreely) created a dedicated Facebook group for entrepreneurs and small businesses to bounce ideas off each other, ask questions and find useful tools.

DC Public Library (@dcpl) is embracing their role as convener just as when they are in our physical spaces, now offering programs virtually. One current project is to convene a learning cohort using Lynda.com classes focused on online marketing.

6. Who are critical community partners for your library’s programming and services for entrepreneurs and small businesses?

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David Top, Toledo Lucas County Public Library Business and Workforce Department manager (@davidjtop): The library is part of a local collaborative of small business assistance organizations in the Toledo area convened by JumpStart. These organizations work together to find and fill gaps in the service continuum and connect clients to the resources they need.

Kansas City Public Library (@KCLibrary) partners with KCSourceLink for updated information to share with patrons and program partners for intentional programming including Business Credit Works and Hughes Walker Group.

St. Louis County Library (@SLCL): Missouri Small Business Development Centers, Grace Hill Women’s Business Development Center and SCORE St. Louis are key organizations that bring excellent programming to the community’s entrepreneurs.

Baltimore County Public Library (@bcplinfo): Partnerships are powerful! The library works with small business organizations like non-profits, government agencies and business associations and chambers throughout the Baltimore Metro area. Special shout-outs go to the MD Small Business Development Center and CASH Campaign of MD.

7. How is your library providing support for non-English speakers and other underrepresented entrepreneurs and small business professionals?

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Prince George’s County Memorial Library System (@PGCMLS): Tenemos programas y recursos en español sobre negocios pequeños en el Condado de Prince George. La semana pasada charlamos con Sagrario Ortíz, El Poder de Ser Mujer.

Toledo Lucas County Public Library (@ToledoLibrary): The Immigrant inclusion initiative Welcome TLC transitioned to the library small business department in 2019. Welcome TLC shares multilingual and other resources through its newsletter and network of partners

Richland Library (@accessfreely) created a Facebook group for the Latino community which addresses social work, business, employment, education and more and hosted a bilingual tele-town hall to share information on education and healthcare.

Morgan Perry, Mid-Continent Public Library Business Outreach Specialist (@MPerryBigHair): The library worked with the U.S. Small Business Administration Kansas City District Office to produce video content with their bilingual lender relations specialist and began a five-week food business help series in Spanish on ourFood Ed Facebook page.

8. How is your library providing support for entrepreneurs and small business professionals who lack access to the internet or digital/mobile devices?

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DC Public Library (@dcpl): This is definitely a challenge right now, but relationships seem to be key. The library may not be able to keep in touch with every individual but we can keep in touch with the organizations supporting them. A librarian at the Woodridge branch is forwarding the library’s virtual programs to his partner at the Rhode Island Avenue Main Street in hopes that these individual contacts will help to reach entrepreneurs who are harder to reach through the Internet.

Debbie Stanton, Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library Public Services Supervisor (@dstanton_tscpl): The library has old fashioned phone reference going strong and can follow up on voicemails and rely on a strong group of staff working from home, including Business and Career Librarian Meredith Senpp (@m_snepp) to respond.

St. Louis County Library (@SLCL) has extended the library’s Wi-Fi coverage to include the parking lots at our branch locations.

Markham Public Library (@markhamlibrary) is currently working on launching its Business Hub, which will contain many useful amenities to businesses and entrepreneurs, such as fast Wi-Fi, a professional looking space, and videoconferencing equipment, to name a few.