Community Partnerships Supervisor Appleton Public Library Appleton, Wisconsin
How do small businesses and entrepreneurs adapt, pivot, and innovate during a crisis like the global pandemic? What opportunities arise for local businesses and communities to demonstrate resilience? Like everyone, ALA’s Libraries Build Business, a national initiative supported by Google.org, was thrown a curve ball in 2020. Our library cohort navigated dynamic changes in the landscape of local communities, small businesses, and library programs and services. Cohort members will share their service innovations and how they assessed small business needs and opportunities in this interactive session. ALA’s Opportunities to Pivot: Small Business in COVID-19 paper will also inform the discussion.
The Libraries Build Business initiative was ready to launch in March 2020, right when the pandemic began. As libraries were forced to close their buildings, the cohort struggled to adapt their Libraries Build Business projects to respond to our new virtual reality. What do library services for small businesses look like in a pandemic? The cohort and the ALA team quickly pivoted, working together to think through program changes and adaptations that would be necessary in the uncertain times and in adherence to all guidelines for health and safety. The cohort leveraged the project, identifying new opportunities in the midst of the crisis, in order to help their small businesses be resilient and adapt to the changing way of doing business. In tandem, the libraries’ small business services demonstrated creativity and tenacity . As part of this shift, ALA worked with our measurement and evaluation partner, Cicero Group, to build in metrics that would accurately measure economic resilience and recovery of businesses and communities with the goal of improving library impact. These measures were incorporated into our project evaluation framework that will be available to all libraries to use. Attendees will be introduced to the framework during the session.
In spite of all the big shifts, Libraries Build Business remained focused on our priority to support low-income and/or underrepresented groups in small business and entrepreneurship programming. This priority became more critical, as studies demonstrated that people of color were more likely to lose their businesses in times of crisis, with fewer safety nets.
ALA and the cohort worked with researcher and writer John Whitman to develop a paper, Opportunities to Pivot: Small Business in COVID-19, about the challenges, opportunities, and subsequent innovations, that small businesses and entrepreneurs can leverage to be resilient and thrive despite the pandemic-challenged environment.The research findings serve as a catalyst for libraries to finetune their services and continue to play a critical role in supporting their local communities with resources, services, programs, and technology in the new reality.
The panel will discuss the economic resiliency and recovery metrics added to the Theory of Change and evaluation framework and the findings from the Opportunities to Pivot: Small Business in COVID-19 paper. The cohort libraries will describe how they adapted their programs and services while keeping the spirit and intention of Libraries Build Business - to support low-income and/or underrepresented entrepreneurs and business owners - intact.
Participants will be able to describe tangible examples of innovations and practical solutions to meet the needs of local small businesses and entrepreneurs.
Participants will be able to leverage available tools, such as the measurement and evaluation framework, to design effective small business programming in their library.
Participants will be able to recognize common challenges and opportunities of small business owners and entrepreneurs during the global pandemic and economic crisis and develop responsive programming.