Making a business case for libraries

The Cloverdale Library: a family favourite and a resource for businesses, too. - Cloverdale Reporter
The Cloverdale Library: a family favourite and a resource for businesses, too.
— image credit: Cloverdale Reporter

What does the library have to offer the business community in Cloverdale?

Plenty, according to Linda Stromberg, chair of the board governing Surrey Libraries.

Stromberg, a strong advocate for literacy and education, was recently the guest speaker at the Cloverdale District Chamber of Commerce networking luncheon, where she made an effective case that libraries can benefit their businesses, for free.

Books are only the tip of the information iceberg, she said, in a wide-ranging chat about the library, and its many programs and services.

“Libraries are places people go to for information,” she said. “In the last few years, we’ve moved from an information-scarce economy to one driven by an information glut.”

Finding specific information, she said, is like looking for a particular plant growing in a jungle – impossible without some way to narrow the search.

Libraries can provide help in locating that specific nugget of information that can help give your business an edge.

“As business people, you know that information has value and the right information has enormous value,” she said. “Surrey Libraries can save you time finding the right information and we can save you money, as our services and resources are free.”

She advised Cloverdale Chamber members to visit their local branch any time, or schedule an appointment with a librarian to get help accessing Surrey Libraries’ online business resources.

[Linda Stromberg, left. Jennifer Lang photo]

The Entrepreneur Exchange at City Centre Library provides established and aspiring business owners with an opportunity to learn how to improve a current business – or start a new one.

The exchange is a partnership between the library and the Self Employment Entrepreneur Development Society, or SEEDS.

SEEDS conducts classes at the Computer Learning Centre at City Centre, along with organizing activities, including group consulting and workshops with industry experts.

Additionally, a librarian provides free classes on using the library’s online business resources through SEEDS workshops.

Those aren’t the only free classes at the library of potential interest to business owners or employees.

There is a New To Computer series, offering basic classes in using programs like Word, how to set up a Gmail account, and how to use Skype.

The library also offers free, one-on-one tech support for using electronic devices, from computers and tablets to e-readers.

Library members can look up archived newspaper articles for free, via, through the Research and downloads tab, where you click on Magazines and News Online.

“You can not only read today’s paper but go back to archive copies, and it’s all available to you for free with your Surrey Library card.”

Anyone selling clothing, shoes or accessories and who is hoping to wade through a suppliers’ sales pitch about what’s “hot” can consult the pages of popular women’s magazines without leaving their store – again, at no cost.

Hundreds of current and back issues of magazines are available in electronic form.

Patrons can read thousands of daily newspapers and magazines online for free – using their library card number. Back issues for some titles go back as far as 1985.

It’s a way around expensive magazine subscriptions, she pointed out.

Budding entrepreneurs, meanwhile, can consult resources like the Business Plans Handbook, or Reference Canada, a market research database of 1.5 million businesses and 12 million households across the country.

Stromberg also highlighted the Business Source Premier, another database that might be of benefit to Cloverdale Chamber of Commerce members.

“If you find yourself or your small business in need of more information or market research, Business Source Premier is a great place to start your search.”

Entrepreneurs never even need to leave the office to download business e-books, she said.

As examples, she listed Heart, Smart, Guts, and Luck – What it Takes to be an Entrepreneur,  Build a Great Business, and At Your Service, a book on attracting new customers and increasing sales by using customer service techniques.

Stromberg also briefly highlighted the two adult reading clubs, and the array of programs aimed at youth, including the SOS Learning Club, which provides after school help for older children, and is run in partnership with SOS Children’s Village British Columbia.

She also outlined an exciting literacy program that launched in early 2014 called the Read to Baby Program.

It consists of a book bag with a baby board book, baby music CD, and information on how parents can build pre-literacy skills with their babies, and more.

The Read To Baby program will reach 1,000 of Surrey’s most vulnerable families this year, thanks to support from corporate and individual donors, Stromberg said.

The plan is to ultimately reach every new baby born in Surrey, she said.

“To give you a sense of how large that challenge is, the most recent statistics I could find were from 2010, when 5,850 babies were born in Surrey,” she said.

“We couldn’t do any of this without the financial support of businesses and individuals in our community.”

She also encouraged them to talk to family and friends about the genealogy collection and family programs at the Cloverdale Library – home to the largest collection of its kind in Western Canada.

“So I encourage you to pull out your library card and take advantage of the business services and information available to you free of charge, and use them to go back and build a better future for your business.”

No need to whisper

When she applied to serve on the library board, Linda Stromberg thought she knew a lot about the library.

“I liked books and reading, I knew how to use the inter-library loans, I had used the library regularly with my children to help with their education, for entertainment and to access information.” Turns out she had more to learn.

“Libraries and librarians have changed a lot and are continuing to evolve,” she said. For one thing, with the exception of quiet areas designated for study, it’s OK to talk.

Photos are welcome, too: a couple of wedding parties chose to have photos taken at the new City Centre Library.

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