Archive for the ‘Public Libraries Help Businesses’ Category

Public Libraries Help Communities Grow in New Ways through Community Engagement

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017


While the Skokie Public Library has always been active in the community, the library formally established its Community Engagement department in January 2014. “Besides programs held at the library, we have been continually involved in a variety of outreach activities. However, as we researched our 2013-2016 strategic plan, we looked for a community engagement model that would help guide the new department’s work,” explains Susan Carlton, the library’s Community Engagement Manager.

They found it in Turn Outward, The Public Innovators Lab for Libraries, a 2 ½ day training class presented by The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation and the American Library Association. The Lab helps library directors and staff to more effectively interact with their communities, develop and implement new programs and work with library supporters. Seven libraries in the Chicago area have participated in this training session over the last three years.

“Harwood’s model for engaging the community helped us identify the residents and groups that are in need, how we can improve library programs and initiatives to better address community needs, and how we can partner with others to help the community solve problems.

“The results are mutually rewarding for the community – from individuals with ideas and questions to community organizations with their goals and unique needs. We all collaborate to see what’s possible,” says Carlton. The Community Engagement department now has nine full time and four part time staff members including Bookmobile staff.

Skokie and Community Engagement

Skokie is a unique community with a population that includes more than 65,000 diverse residents speaking more than 76 languages. As a result of facilitating a series of community conversations with Skokie residents Community Engagement staff identified three major themes that resonated with participants: the importance of a sense of safety; the wish for a vibrant downtown area; and the desire for a sense of belonging in this very diverse community. In an effort to find ways to address these themes the Community Engagement Department brought together a group of seven community stakeholders including school districts, village departments, social service organizations and the Niles Township English Language Learners Parent Center.

The group, SkokieCares, has been meeting to discuss how they can work together to help address some of the community’s needs. “As libraries rethink their roles in their communities, they understand that they are key, trusted entities and they bring numerous resources in addition to well established relationships and partnerships to the table. We want to partner with other organizations to address some of the community’s aspirations and challenges.” Carlton notes.

For example, the library sits on the Village Health Department’s Strategic Planning Committee contributing research skills and information resources as well as information about immigrant communities in Skokie. The goals of the Health Department’s strategic plan cover senior citizens, adults and youth with disabilities, school children, and others facing health challenges.

The Skokie Public Library’s Business and Career Center and the library’s business librarian are examples of how the Community Engagement Department works to identify and address the needs of business owners. Using information gleaned from conversations with small business owners throughout the community the business librarian designs trainings and conducts individual consultations targeting their information and technology needs. The library’s Business and Career Center was developed based on input from business owners and the local Chamber of Commerce to provide space for meetings, training sessions and appointments with clients.

Turn Outward

“We have an awesome staff that has enthusiastically helped us shepherd the Community Engagement’s new department and programming. It’s amazing what libraries can offer their communities.  Libraries need to help communities see the role they play and what they can do. It’s really exciting and the opportunities are endless,” Susan Carlton enthuses.


Find targeted consumers and focus marketing for optimal results – at your library

Friday, March 4th, 2016

Your goals, as you focus your marketing activities, might include finding a perfect location for your business site – one where many people in your target market live and work nearby and would value your products or services. Or, you might want to identify consumers who are interested in the opportunities you offer even when location is not relevant for purchase. But, how do you find potential consumers?

While it’s necessary that businesses identify their target consumers and how best to approach them, accurate market segmentation information and mapping tools are not always easy to uncover.

Fortunately, your public library offers many business resources and services that lead to success.

“We helped a patron who wanted to open a Montessori school but didn’t know which location would be optimal. Through market segmentation and mapping information, we identified a neighborhood where many young children and other preschoolers lived within five miles and would be interested,” explains Bruce Brigell, Coordinator of Information Services for the Skokie Public Library in Illinois.

 “Another entrepreneur, who owns a travel business that includes cruises and other travel possibilities, asked for feedback. Where consumers lived wasn’t as important as their travel interests and information for a mailing list. We worked on that and were ultimately able to provide them with a targeted mailing list.”

Two of the library’s many business resources include ReferenceUSA and Social Explorer. “While you can go directly to the Library’s website — — to use these resources, librarians are also able to generate lists and reports for patrons not familiar with the products,” Bruce says.

ReferenceUSA offers a variety of business and residential data sets that will help your business marketing strategy.  Included are categories such as consumer interests, purchasing habits, demographic and social profiles and other relevant data that enables you to develop accurate mailing lists or visualize where targeted businesses or consumers are located through ReferenceUSA’s Heat Map utility.

Social Explorer is another rewarding research source for market segmentation, offering demographic information at geographic levels from state or county wide to school district or block group. “Social Explorer applies data that is presented every 10 years by the U.S. Census, as well as the American Community Survey, which is an annual statistical survey from the Bureau, “Social Explorer and ReferenceUSA can complement each other, or you can just refer to one, depending on your interests and goals.”

Social Explorer tracks ethnicity, income, education, and other variables by town or by groups. “We can print out maps or offer information in table form,” Bruce adds.

Recently, the Skokie Public Library obtained access to the Experian BusinessIQ service to provide business credit reports to Skokie residents and businesses. The reports provide risk and financial stability scores as well as payment histories for businesses in the United States. Experian reports are available by request to the Reference Department at the Library.

These and other library business services and resources can help you launch and grow your business, consider all options, find targeted and interested consumers, and focus your marketing for optimal results.

Public Libraries Help You Grow Your Business

Sunday, August 9th, 2015

Entrepreneurs, retailers, corporations, nonprofits, and home-based businesses appreciate their public library’s business centers and diverse resources.

“Large businesses use our Business & Career Center’s private rooms to interview potential employees.  Other organizations present special programs in our fully equipped meeting venues. And, entrepreneurs who have researched a new business concept can work with SCORE counselors to develop business plans,” says Terry Ratoff, Business Services Librarian, Skokie Public Library, Illinois. “If you’re starting a new career, we can  help you with your resume and identify potential employers and job sites.”

The Business & Career Center is also useful to home-based and other small businesses, providing additional space for meeting clients and hosting presentations. “One business owner told me she moved her business into a small office space near the library because she knew she could hold larger meetings here.”

The library’s Business & Career Center offers access to other library resources, available online and at the library via a free Business Library Card.

  •  Online Resources open new doors. You can research a variety of business, industry and investment sources, technology venues, sites to learn another language, and technology and software training from your home or office.
  • The Business and Career Center’s meeting rooms are equipped with wi-fi, SMART boards, voice conference and projection equipment. The largest room accommodates 49 individuals, another seats 16 around a large conference table, and the smallest room seats 5.
  • The Digital Media Lab provides equipment and staff support for creating digital videos, music, photography, websites and more.
  • Ongoing classes and programs presented by the library as well as other expert presenters include: SMART Phone Photography and editing, Managing Your Business Cash Flow, Creating a Business Plan for loan applications. The library  holds regular Business before Hours sessions which cover a variety of subjects to help small businesses use social media such as “Build Your Business with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.”
  • Business and technical books and magazines for small businesses are available in the library or online
  • SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) offers two opportunities at the library: one-on-one business consultations with SCORE counselors as well as SCORE programs on specific subjects.
  • Library experts will schedule one-on-one sessions with you to introduce new resources and technology and help you meet challenges in other areas, such as mobile devices or software questions.
  • Skokie Public Library’s ongoing programs and classes feature a variety of business and career oriented subjects.

Whether you want to escape your office clutter and distractions to work on a special project, or you want to take photos/videos of your pizza parlor for marketing purposes, or you want to meet with a client in a private room, or you want to explore new career opportunities, or you want to reserve a room for your association’s program, your public library is there for you. Check it out to grow your business!

Business Center Meeting Room at the Skokie Public Library:

Overview of the Skokie Public Library Business Services:

For more information, contact Terry Ratoff, Community Engagement Librarian Business Services, Skokie Public Library:, 847-324-3417.



3D Printing and First Person Public Relations

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

If you’re interested in exploring the potential of 3D printing for PR purposes or new creative opportunities, check out your public library and its hands-on resources.

For example, the Skokie Public Library’s BOOMBox venue offers tools and inspiration reflecting the overall STEAM theme: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math. BOOMBox changes its sub-theme (Fabrication) every few months, and the current one covers 3D Printing, Computer Aided Design, Robotics and Computer Programming.

Library staff helps you produce, via on-site mini 3D printers, the creative or PR expression you want. Tools include 3D Printers, 3D Doodlers, Arduinos, EggBots, Makey Makeys, Vinyl Cutter, WaterColorBot. Mikael Jacobsen, the library’s Learning Experiences Manager, also illustrated how an EggBot can draw your name on a little ball that could be used for professional purposes. You can decide what other small or bigger things you and the robots can create in colorful designs…including a 3D print of your face. Library classes for adults and kids help us learn more to discover and achieve our goals, inclinations and potential.

The current Fabrication also features several activities:
• 2D Design. Word Wall Art Decal with Inkscape and the Cameo Vinyl Cutter (design a personalized vinyl wall quote). Or, cut out business logos to put on cars, laptops or other things.
• 3D Design. 3D Headphone Wrap with Tinkercad.
• Code to Make. LED Paper Circuits. Use a basic circuit to light up drawings and paper designs.

For more information and resources, check out:

► Skokie Public Library’s STEAM Kit resources.

► Skokie Public Library’s BOOMBox:

►Association of 3D Printing:

►, News Organization:

►, 3D Printing and Printing News:

Isn’t it time to visit your public library and explore the possibilities to 3D your First Person Public Relations?

P.S. For more background information and resources on 3D Printing:
• Arduinos:
• 3D Printers:!mini/c14nt
• Eggbot:
• Watercolorbot:
• 3Doodler:

Build Your Platform At Your Public Library

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

Do you want a platform (in person or online) to showcase your creativity, talents or expertise? Are you interested in meeting others with similar interests or professional goals? Looking for new opportunities?

Then it’s time to explore your 1st Person PR at your public library – community centers that offer you dozens of possibilities.

“Libraries are experiential, as well as transactional, for all ages and interests,” notes Carolyn Anthony, Director of the Skokie Public Library and president of the Public Library Association. Besides checking “it” (books, movies, music, etc.) out, you can benefit from a variety of experiences and resources: entertainment, technology, business experts, job resources, diverse programming, and responsive and knowledgeable staff. And, in its “Go Local” approach, the library features community residents that the larger world will also appreciate.

Want to speak to groups about your new book – self or traditionally published, available in hard cover, paperback or eBook? Are you a musician – jazz, classical, rock, blues, or country – who loves performing? Do you have an expertise that will help others reach their goals? You’ll find an audience – kids, teen or adults – waiting for you at your public library.

The Skokie Public Library’s new High School Lounge offers teens a private, collaborative space that encourages creativity and information sharing. “One wall is a white board so they can engage each other and look at their world in new ways…through technology, discussions and presentations. Our Junior High Zone offers a separate, casual space designed for their study needs, unique interests and conversations, and their own media lab.”

Carolyn adds that “teens, big and little kids, and adults recently used the library’s Digital Media Lab to create and submit entries for our 1st Annual Media Competition, Skokie in Motion, A Movie & Media Festival. All ages discovered new possibilities when making films or music videos with our staff’s help.”

The Digital Media Lab helps you create and post videos, lay down a music track, check online venues for your photos, or learn about film production. Whether you’re out front or behind the scenes, community residents can benefit from their Own Digital Media Lab.

Ready for your own platform and other possibilities? Head to your community’s public library for inspiration.

Libraries Mean Business for You

Monday, June 17th, 2013

Do you want to start your own business and join other ambitious entrepreneurs? Are you looking for a job and want to know more about prospective employers in your field? Is it time to beef up your technology and software skills, or do you need targeted marketing resources?

It’s time to check out your public library.

Yes, your library features print and eBooks and presents authors and book discussions. It entertains you with movies, musical and dance performances, humor and magic, and other attractions that make it a great community magnet. But don’t forget that your public library also offers dozens of programs, digital resources, consultations, and databases that focus on professional and business challenges.

“We work with businesses and individuals from several perspectives,” explains Amita Lonial, Adult Services Program Coordinator, Skokie Public Library. “For example, you can schedule a private consultation with a librarian to discuss your goals and identify which resources will help you achieve them…very tailored to your interests.”

The library’s Digital Lab is another opportunity: make movies and videos – in the lab or at your business – and post them to your target sites; learn more about eReaders and tablets; improve your tech and software skills with Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop Elements, and more. Get ready for podcasting, Stop Motion Animation, and other possibilities that take you to new places.

You can Digitize All the Things, Touch Up Old Things, use the library’s studio, express yourself on the drawing pad, take advantage of the USB Record Converter, get started on Green Screen Basics, and create your own eBooks for the self-publisher in you. The Skokie Public Library Channel on YouTube will introduce you to the Digital Media Lab,

Amita Lonial adds that dozens of databases help you reach your professional, career and business goals. Some databases can be used in the library or accessed remotely from your home. A few of the many possibilities include Learning Express (classes at, MangoLanguages (learning languages at, and for software, business and creative learning, check

“Our Skokie Public Library Business Portal offers other business resources, such as helping users create mailing lists for target markets and grow their businesses in other ways.”

If you’re ready to do business, check out your public library. It’s free.

Small Business Success and Public Libraries

Monday, October 1st, 2012

If you want help starting and growing your small business, check out your public library.

Business plans and counseling services. Resources to identify and reach your target markets.   Programs to increase your business expertise.  Multi-media opportunities for prime time recognition.  Private rooms for business meetings or presentations. Much more and all for free!

“Our goal has always been to facilitate and partner in economic development,” says Carolyn Anthony, director of the Skokie Public Library inIllinois. “When the community thrives, we all thrive. We welcome the opportunity to respond to the goals and interests of business owners, the chamber of commerce and other development organizations.”

For example, the Skokie Public Library’s Business & Career Center has just added more meeting rooms for business purposes. If you need a projector or white board, want to make a Skype conference call or create a video during your meeting, Business Center staff will work with you. Committee meeting, networking group, presentation to clients or colleagues, the library’s meeting rooms and complementary services support your goals.

Like public libraries across the country, the Skokie Public Library’s Business Center and its online Business Portal offers dozens of resources to launch or grow your business.

Get Ready for Business  

  • Librarians will work with you – in person, online, by phone or email – to answer your entrepreneurial, business or career questions.
  • Schedule private, in-library sessions with SCORE/SBA counselors, and learn more by attending ongoing business programs and workshops.
  • Ask about market research and industry information on your industry or field, and check business directories and databases for market and competitive analysis.
  • What business plans (templates, books, video and other media), sample contracts, and legal forms do you need?

Build Your Business

  • Digital Media Lab staff will help you produce videos and screencasts to market your business. You can create them in the lab, or you can check out a flip cam, hard drive and tri-pod to use, on site, at your business.
  • Business Center staff can offer feedback on your website, podcasts or other digital media challenges, and you might Drop in at the Genius Bar discussions.
  • Attend business programs and networking groups. For example, several of the chamber of commerce groups hold their monthly meetings at the library: Small Office/Home Office (SOHO), Women in Business, Attorney Roundtable (and other industry-specific groups).
  • Work with a business librarian to develop your own databases and mailing lists.
  • Look for the books, magazines, newspapers, and diverse digital media on starting and growing a business. You will find resources on trademarks, branding, writing targeted business letters or news releases, and so much more.
  • Librarians can direct you to information on millions of companies, industry surveys, market analysis, and investment reports that offer new insights and possibilities.
  • While you’re at the library, connect via wi-fi, info-fax service, computers and laptops, and ask about the ongoing programs in technology and digital literacy.

 “We invite businesses to use the larger meeting room, which accommodates almost 50 people, for a training session or annual meeting,” Carolyn Anthony says. “Organizational committees may want to meet in the library’s Business Center’s Board Room. And, a smaller conference room is an ideal size for meeting with a client or collaborating with another business person.”

Because public libraries are so involved in their communities and are also on top of national resources and trends, they offer endless opportunities to develop your potential and achieve your business or career goals.

Whether online via the Business Portal — — or on site in the library’s Business & Career Center, it’s always time to pursue your possibilities.

Entrepreneurs Profit from Free Business Resources

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

You have an entrepreneurial spirit and small business potential. But, where can you find the professional advice and resources you need – for free?  Your public library!

The Skokie Public Library, like many libraries across the country, offers extensive business and marketing resources, one-one-one counseling services and business connections that will help you start and grow your business.

“Small businesses may not have the budget to hire business and marketing pros, but our business portal is pretty sophisticated,” says Carolyn Anthony, the library’s Director. “Remember, time is money, and our portal offers immediate access to help you focus your efforts.”  

The Skokie Public Library’s Business Portal introduces you to: Research on your industry, location and potential consumers. Business and marketing plans. Legal and business forms. Advertising opportunities. Media connections. Trade shows. Databases to help you target and reach consumers. Online video tutorials. And many more possibilities at

One resource is BusinessDecision, a reporting and mapping service that combines extensive consumer household, market segmentation, and demographic data with GIS mapping technology. You can locate potential customers, identify new store locations, evaluate competitors, and more effectively market your product or service. “BusinessDecision lets you set up your own account and database,” Anthony says.

“A business person was looking for detailed information on income and household spending patterns for specific regions around the country,” adds Michael Buhmann, business librarian at the library. “He worked in a real estate partnership that periodically bought properties in unfamiliar areas, and the company needed much more information before committing to a deal. He found the information and maps very helpful in getting a handle on the make-up of a region.”

As you will see from your public library’s business portal, you can also visit the library in person and benefit from counseling appointments with business professionals from SCORE and the SBA. Feedback and support from like-minded entrepreneurs and experienced pros will help you in the “Growing Your Business” groups and other special programs. There are, of course, the library’s current books, articles and online resources for starting and marketing your small business to consumers.  

If, in your business research, you decide that your entrepreneurial spirit should be used in someone else’s organization, the library’s impressive career and job-hunting resources will also prove rewarding…and free.

Discover more about your 1st Person PR and career opportunities at your public library.

Digital Age for Every Age at Your Public Library

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Whatever your interests or age, your public library can help you communicate in the digital age through a medium that works for you.

Digital Media Lab experts at the Skokie Public Library in Illinois offer state-of-the-art technology and equipment so individuals can express themselves and achieve their goals in rewarding ways they may not have considered.

“Students appreciate the lab’s resources for assignments that encourage them to acquire 21st Century Skills,” says Director Carolyn Anthony. “For example, one student used a library flip cam to record a presentation video on sign language.”

Lab experts have helped patrons scan slides and convert them for digital use. When a young woman wanted to pay homage to a deceased relative, she created and edited a video at the lab. Young kids, doing a rap, used the lab’s full range of equipment and resources for musical composition, blending tracks, editing, and taking advantage of software offering lots of background “green screen” possibilities…including haunted houses.

Every age group learns more in the library’s ongoing small group, digital media classes, such as the upcoming Garage Band for Beginners, iMovie for Beginners, Touching up Old Photos and Photoshop Elements.

“If you’re in business,” Carolyn points out, “we’ll help you develop a video promo. You can do it in our digital lab, or you can check out a flip cam, hard drive and tri-pod.”

Want feedback on your website, podcasts or other digital media challenges? You might Drop in at the Genius Bar discussions. And, the Skokie Public Library’s Business Portal offers small business resources to new and experienced entrepreneurs developing business plans or marketing their ventures.

 Looking for a job? Library staff can help you find employment resources, write and update your resume, apply online, and even show you how to connect via video conference. The library’s on The Radar newsletter and business blogger zeroes in on new and exciting technologies.

Yes, your public library’s cutting edge technology helps you acquire 21st Century Skills. But your library also offers endless opportunities to develop your potential and achieve your goals in other ways, as you will see in upcoming posts.

In the meantime, check out a book …or an eReader?!

Librarians Are 1st Person PR

Friday, May 21st, 2010

I love public libraries for many reasons…including the librarians.

Libraries are home to an incredible variety of resources and services and are very much online. Besides books or DVDs, libraries offer entertainment, guest speakers and artists, computer use and techie programs, help with finding a job, programs for kids, teens, and other unique groups, and dozens of possibilities that open new doors.

As librarians answer your questions and introduce you to previously unknown resources, they are the face of your community’s public library. Or, as explained in This Book is Overdue!, Marilyn Johnson’s book about librarians:

“Those who predicted the death of libraries forgot to consider that in the automated maze of contemporary life, none of us – neither the experts nor the hopelessly baffled – can get along without human help. And not just any help – we need librarians, who won’t charge us by the question or roll their eyes, no matter what we ask.”

Our public libraries are more popular than ever, given our economic challenges and their targeted marketing savvy. Patrons are discovering a library experience that engages and resonates with them.

Sometimes, when I want to get away from my office to focus on a project, I head to my local public library. While I’m working, I occasionally tune into the librarians helping visitors with a broad range of questions, interests and concerns. The one-on-one conversation usually leads to new resources, perspectives and a rewarding experience.

Big or small, public libraries are community centers that attract diverse constituencies. Their librarians connect with you by offering responsive customer service and first person PR. Check them out.