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Find more The Evolution of Business Reference
As businesses adapt to a world of constantly changing technology and social media, the business librarian is adapting the library’s resources to reach business professionals and entrepreneurs in their communities. No longer confined to reference books, resources are frequently online and easily accessible within the library and remotely, with database access and video tutorials. Business reference is moving outside the library with community outreach and collaboration with local businesses and professional organizations.
Technology has created opportunities for business owners to reach their clients and customers more efficiently and responsively. Library resources such as databases and computers can help target customers, handle customer service, highlight product promotion, and reach new clients. Instead of the traditional reference interview, one-on-one appointments with business owners and entrepreneurs can identify the needs of a business, whether they are gathering data for a business or a job seeker, assisting with social media, or the navigation of local organizations, such as working with a chamber of commerce.
Databases and Websites Many libraries offer their patrons databases for business research. Reference USA is an excellent resource for geographic and local business information, including identifying the primary industry of the business using Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes, sales volume, number of employees, nearby businesses, and business competitors. For company research, databases including Hoover’s, Gale Business and Company Resource Center, and LexisNexis are comprehensive sources. For free, nonsubscription research, try the EDGAR database, from the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission, for SEC filings and individual company websites, which may include annual reports.
For businesses interested in training tutorials, Lynda.com offers hundreds of business-related videos on such topics as social media, project management, software, technology, accounting, website design, and networking, all at fairly inexpensive subscription rates. For entrepreneurs and business start-ups, there is a wealth of information online through such websites as the U.S Small Business Administration, Small Business Trends, the Business Owner’s Toolkit, and state and federal government websites. Resources within the library—including books on business forms, tax assistance, human resources, and management—should supplement online sources.
Job HuntersOftentimes, your business reference resources can also be used as job and career resources. The aforementioned Lynda.com is an excellent source for job seekers who need to update their computer skills, access LinkedIn, discover résumé tips, tap into social media, and learn new software programs. Many patrons use library databases for conducting company research and creating targeted business lists within an industry or geographical area—Reference USA and LexisNexis can be used by job and career seekers to locate companies, management directories, business financials, company size, websites, and industry news.
Ferguson’s Career Guidance Center database combines job and industry profiles and job-hunting and career resources. Users can search for job profiles and identify the salary range, skills and educational requirements, and job outlook as well as job listings, which can be filtered by location, company, salary, and job title. The “Career Center” portal of Tutor.com is an excellent resource for job seekers who need assistance with résumés, cover letters, job searches, and interviews.
Personal RelationshipsPerhaps the most important aspect of business librarianship is forming personal relationships with local business professionals. Librarians who work with the business community are vital communicators for the library’s resources and how they can benefit businesses. Partnerships with organizations such as local government, the chamber of commerce, nonprofits, and professional groups will expand the library’s reach and foster collaboration within the community.
Reaching the business community through community networking, library programming, and one-on-one assistance is another important aspect of building relationships with business owners, entrepreneurs, and professionals. Creating a business blog that highlights research tools, new business books, and databases is an excellent way to reach the community. Market this blog as much as possible with flyers or business cards that you can get directly into the hands of local businesspeople, or comment on local blogs, leading readers back to your site.
A good knowledge of the resources available within the library’s community is key for the business librarian and business owner. Your local branch of Service Corps for Retired Executives can be an excellent resource for business counseling, mentoring, resources, and workshops. You should also be familiar with area chambers of commerce for networking, marketing tools, community information, and workshops.
Services to OfferBusiness programming offered within the library can include topics on how to use social media for business and how to conduct business research using library databases. Consider establishing a monthly series on using technology and social media in business, and offering workshops and classes on business opportunities as part of the library’s programs. Librarians who are technologically savvy and can assist with websites and blogging, video production, Facebook pages and Twitter, QR codes, Google tools, and smart-phone apps will be in great demand with local businesses.
For each community, business librarianship will evolve based on the needs of the business owner, entrepreneur, job and career seeker, and professional. Reaching businesses allows librarians to highlight the resources within the library as well as the knowledge and skills of library staff. Whether in traditional or nontraditional ways, and whether within the library or online, partnering with organizations demonstrates a willingness to combine resources to reach the community. Libraries offer more than research tools, books to borrow and programs to attend. They are ever-adapting knowledge centers that highlight the tools and sources that change as technology changes—as well as when businesses and customers change.
Shannon Distel Scanlan is Business Services Librarian, Arlington Heights (IL) Memorial Library.
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