On Thursday, January 18th, ALA’s Public Policy and Advocacy Deputy Director Megan Janicki presented at the United States Conference of Mayors’ Winter Meeting on the roles libraries play in providing support to current and prospective entrepreneurs.
ALA was invited to join the panel “Helping your Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses,” with U.S. Small Business Administration Regional Administrator Aikta Marcoulier and American Management Services COO Lou Mosca, moderated by Burnsville, Minnesota, Mayor Elizabeth Kautz, who is also chair of the USCM’s Small Business and Entrepreneurship Task Force. Panelists discussed aspects of support for small businesses and the various strategies mayors can take in supporting entrepreneurship in their locales.
Leveraging information and talking points available from the Libraries Build Business Communications Toolkit, Janicki was quick to point out the economic value of libraries, and how they are well-positioned to be leaders in economic development efforts. “With 123,000 libraries nationwide, libraries are centers of deep trust, community relationships, and information and knowledge management. Libraries are also the front door to the entrepreneurial ecosystem, with half of all U.S. libraries providing classes, databases, online resources, and physical spaces—we think nearly all public libraries provide support simply by having public computers, internet access, and meeting rooms… It’s no wonder every one dollar invested in libraries returns up to nine dollars in value to the community.”
Mosca reminded the group that despite the value presence of 33 million small businesses across the U.S., 53% of prospective business owners had no access to credit. Mosca encouraged city officials to encourage banks in their communities to increase investment in local businesses as they start out, refer to pandemic-era practices to bolster small businesses, and to help prospective entrepreneurs with strategic planning and mentorship.
Marcoulier suggested that mayors leverage city resources and partner with SBDCs to promote technical assistance, and that cities should take an active role in preparing businesses financially to apply for grants. Citing ten years of experience aiding small businesses, providing disaster management assistance at an SBDC, and time spent with Partner America, Marcoulier also reminded the audience of the readiness of the library to partner and participate in entrepreneur assistance.
Mayor Kautz cited the importance of partnerships when supporting small business, and above all sought to ensure attending mayors were “armed with information” to be able to take back to their cities.
Near the end of the panel’s remarks, Janicki encouraged the group to reach out to their libraries and ask what they have to offer entrepreneurs. “Consider us part of your business support community. Libraries can save your small businesses time and money and can make the difference for a successful start.”
The 92nd Winter Meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors saw city officials from across the country gathered in Washington, DC for four days of networking, discussion, and professional development sessions.
Small business support was a central focus of the Conference’s Winter Meeting. Sessions such as “Strategies for Building and Supporting Women Entrepreneurs & Business Owners” and “Empowering Diverse Small Business Ownership: A Look at Capitalization and Resources” preceded Thursday’s event.
For assistance advocating for and presenting on small business support at your library, view the Libraries Build Business Communications Toolkit here.
Jim Takeshita is a Public Policy Associate with the American Library Association and helps maintain the Libraries Build Business Community, a peer-to-peer network intended for libraries as they develop small business support services. Jim can be reached at email@example.com.