Within a few weeks of the public health lockdowns in March, the Georgia Public Library Service (GPLS) decided to offer public librarians an opportunity to develop their entrepreneurial thinking to serve library patrons at home during the pandemic. Through a statewide license, public libraries have had access to the Ice House Entrepreneurship Program – Small Business Edition course online since October 2019, but very few librarians knew much about it until this summer.
Two cohorts of 15 librarians each registered for a ten-week Ice House series that met by Zoom for an hour per week between early May and late July 2020. The facilitators were Leslie Scott from Entrepreneurial Places LLC and Duncan Smith from EBSCO, both of whom trained in North Carolina through a sponsorship from the NC IDEA Foundation.
In the ten-week course in Georgia, the facilitators covered each of Uncle Cleve’s eight entrepreneur mindsets one at a time, using a few teaser quotes and videos from the Ice House platform, and they assigned the Who Owns the Ice House? book chapter on that mindset and the online platform as homework. During group sessions, librarians discussed their favorite quotes, the Ice House entrepreneur who inspired them most in the last week, and their evolving plans for reaching library patrons.
“During these difficult times people need to get back to the basics. We all need to leap out on faith, do what we love, meet people, learn from mistakes, care about people and work hard.”
Their specific interests included helping sub-populations such as the elderly, the job-seeker, the mother with young children. When focusing on the Action lesson, their assignment was to listen to customers talking about their challenges and what they want from the public library, and then to develop possible solutions. Several librarians presented their opportunity canvas to the group during the last session. One librarian is becoming an entrepreneur himself, manufacturing a product for creating safe distances between patrons when they come back to the library.
The librarians see themselves as a trusted front door for many different inquiries and a connector to various expertise. The facilitators connected them to small business counselors, instructors and lenders in Georgia. In the last several group sessions, small business-friendly public librarians from MO and NC and entrepreneurs from GA and NC were included in the class as guests.
“The Ice House course would be a good thing for me to share with any patrons who need help developing their own confidence to turn a challenge into an opportunity. The Ice House entrepreneurs certainly did.“
Several librarians are now promoting the Ice House Small Business Edition course online with entrepreneurs in their communities across GA.