Those starting – or thinking about starting – a new business are bound to have a lot of questions. Some examples: “How do I write a business plan?” or “How can I promote my business using social media?” New entrepreneurs can seek help from a variety of sources, including seasoned business owners, financial and marketing experts, and – no surprise – the public library.
Libraries offer dozens of resources from business books to magazines and research databases. But navigating the library to find answers to pressing questions may be overwhelming to a time-pressed entrepreneur. One solution? Business kits.
Catherine DeBerry, Adult Services Librarian for the Somerset County Library System, has assembled key business resources grouped by topic for small business owners and entrepreneurs. The SCLSNJ’s Office on the Go Business Kits are a unique and convenient resource to help the local business community.
Below is a lightly edited version of Cathy’s discussion of these kits.
What are Business Kits?
Business kits are a lot like story-time theme kits, but for the small business owner and entrepreneur. They focus on topics that are pertinent to the small business owner and entrepreneur. SCLSNJ currently has seven kits and are in the process of releasing the eighth.
Each kit has anywhere from eight to 10 books and audio-books; its own magazine subscription to a professional business periodical such as Advertising Age; and some information curated by the business librarians, including best business podcasts, apps and e-books, up-and-coming programs, and the library’s business calendar.
So far, these are the seven kits we’ve developed:
- Hiring & Firing
- How to Create a Business Plan
- Leadership & Employee Development
- Creating Your Own Marketing Plan
- Social Media Marketing
- Cybersecurity for Businesses
- Budgeting & Financial Management
How did you get the idea for the Business Kits?
It’s been my experience that a large number of the small business owners this library system serves are middle-aged individuals who have had the opportunity to leave the corporate world and start their own businesses. But very often these individuals don’t have the background or education to support all facets of business ownership.
Small business owners, particularly one-person shops, wear many hats, but also find themselves not having the financial resources or time to hire staff to support them. Libraries throughout the country loan out business book discussion kits, and I thought: Why not use something similar to educate business owners on all the components of running a business by filling a kit with many materials on a pertinent business topic?
These kits offer the business owners an education on topics that are very important to running a successful business. The business librarians at SCLSNJ felt that the business kits would be a way to promote both the Library’s suite of traditional materials (books, databases, one-on-one assistance, etc.) as well as the more innovative materials (technology, at-home access to resources, business apps, etc.).
How did you decide what goes into each one?
A team of business librarians curated the materials and did research on the best business books and materials on a particular subject matter. In most cases, we selected books that were written by experts in that particular field and selected titles that were as current as possible.
How do you promote the Business Kits to your community?
We promote them a variety of ways. The SCLSNJ Business Librarians go out at least once a quarter and visit various business organizations like chambers of commerce, rotaries, and business associations and talk about the business kits. SCLSNJ also has an amazing marketing department that regularly shares information about these kits via press releases and with many media outlets. They have also been promoted through the SCLSNJ’s business newsletter and will soon be featured on the library system’s new website due for release this summer.
What kind of use do they get? How popular are they?
They are circulating very well. Given that the loan period is six weeks, and the maximum amount of time that a kit can circulate in a year is eight times, should they be checked out for the entire loan period, the kits will far surpass that number. Our two most popular kits are Social Media Marketing and How to Create a Marketing Plan.
What feedback have you received about the kits?
The feedback is overwhelmingly positive. Business owners are most impressed with the convenience of the kits as materials have been pre-selected and vetted for them, and they save time by not having to do research themselves.
What are your plans for future Business Kits?
We will be releasing a kit entirely in Spanish this April to support our Latino small business communities in the county.
For more information, visit the Somerset County Library System website.