July 8, 2019

ELI Attends American Library Association Annual Conference

ELI President Rob Herndon attended the American Library Association (ALA) Conference in Washington D.C. on June 22nd and 23rd at the invitation of Duncan Smith. Duncan, who is one of the founders of NovelList, is also an Ice House Facilitator and Chief of Strategy for Public Libraries for EBSCO. ALA is the oldest and largest library association in the world. With a mission of enhancing learning and ensuring access to information to all, they are at the forefront of helping librarians transform libraries to keep pace with the needs of their constituents.

Libraries have always been critical to providing resources for learners in diverse locations, urban, suburban or rural, across America and the world. The original home of the self-directed learner, libraries of today are coming up with creative ways to transform and serve their populations. Many of these practices were on display at the conference including libraries that offer spaces for gaming and Virtual Reality, along with some who are turning their spaces into hubs for entrepreneurship.

While at ALA Rob attended a breakfast held by the Urban Libraries Council (ULC) where he heard about their work with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to help turn libraries into entrepreneurial hubs in their communities. The initiative aims to “advance equity and community economic health by increasing support for all entrepreneurs and particularly women, people of color, immigrants, and veterans.” Public libraries by their very nature of providing free resources for their populations are in a unique position to ensure that the entrepreneurial spirit can be shared with everyone in the community. And, with over 112 Million constituents in their library populations across North America, the ULC is well-positioned to support the expansion of entrepreneurial activity.

Rob was also exposed to some forward-thinking practices happening at libraries around the country like the Makerspace and Woodshop at Richland Library in Columbia, South Carolina. Most of us wouldn’t expect to see people carrying lumber inside their library in order to build furniture, but this happens every day at this innovative location. With access to these types of resources, budding entrepreneurs are striving towards their vision by having the space to create combined with the space to learn through both traditional and experiential means.

Attending this conference and spending time with Duncan was an eye-opening experience that allowed Rob to be exposed to the reality of the modern-day library. He saw the potential that they have for helping to expand the entrepreneurial mindset broadly across all communities. If you haven’t checked out your local public library recently you may be surprised by what services are available to you.

And maybe before long, they will be the entrepreneurial hubs driving economic development in communities large and small across the world that Duncan describes in his guest blog post below.

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