The American Library Association (ALA) has received a $2 million grant from Google.org to develop library entrepreneurship centers and enable libraries across the country to double down on their support for people looking to start a new business.
“Today’s libraries are engines of entrepreneurship,” said ALA President Wanda Brown. “There is no better place than the library to deliver economic opportunity, especially to low-income people and those from underrepresented groups. In cities, towns and rural areas alike, a library card is the key to access market research, expert advice, new technology and business plans.
Google.org President Jacquelline Fuller said, “Libraries play a vital role in supporting aspiring entrepreneurs to thrive in their communities and we’re proud to support their efforts. Today marks a continuation of Google’s strong relationship with the ALA and with libraries across the country.”
Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced the funding for ALA as part of a $10 million pledge to help entrepreneurs from low-income and underrepresented groups start new businesses via access to training and capital. The $2 million grant builds on Google’s ongoing support of ALA and libraries, including the Libraries Lead with Digital Skillscollaboration funded by Grow with Google, which gave ALA $1 million to help libraries provide digital skills training to their patrons.That initiative, announced earlier this year, has already supported 130 libraries across 18 states and will continue to all 50 states in 2020.
The new Google.org grant will enable ALA to fund a cohort of 10 libraries with proven models to increase the number of low-income, business creators they serve from low-income and underrepresented backgrounds. Participating libraries will work to establish new partnerships with community-based organizations and further develop innovative models to bring their library’s resources out in the community. As a result of this initiative, libraries will directly support 15,000 people looking to start or grow their business. With almost fifty percent of libraries in the U.S. providing free space, resources or support to start a small business, they are one of the largest platforms for supporting aspiring entrepreneurs.
The grant will also support ALA in developing a “playbook” accessible to all libraries on what makes a successful library entrepreneurship program. The playbook will contain a set of recommendations to better serve entrepreneurs from diverse communities and common metrics to evaluate success. ALA also plans to build a peer-learning network for librarians interested in developing entrepreneurship programs of their own.
“The Google.org funding will enable ALA to expand library entrepreneurship programs in a handful of places where they already thrive,” Brown continued. “But the greater goal of the project surpasses well beyond the scope of the grant. We are creating a path to success for aspiring entrepreneurs everywhere – in particular, those with the fewest resources to chart new territory on their own.”