2000 years ago, the world’s first and most famous library in Alexandria, Egypt, was frequently home to the self-starters and self-employed of that era. It was a place for philosophers, mathematicians and others to gather together to discuss and solve the problems of their times. Today, the concept can help to transform libraries into hubs for economic growth and community engagement, a place for networking, and testing new ideas in a supportive environment. This has been the goal of the weEntrepreneurs project.
The Technology & Entrepreneurship Talent Network (TETN) at NJIT and LibraryLinkNJ began a partnership in FY2014 on a new project to support the growth of the New Jersey economy. The project start was made possible through a $1,500 grant provided by TETN and a $1,500 matching contribution by LibraryLinkNJ. The program focused on helping NJ residents with an idea for a new business to begin to seriously transform that idea into a new venture.
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The program helped demonstrate the very vital role libraries and librarians can play today in the state’s economic growth. Three libraries agreed to participate in the program: Cherry Hill Public Library (Laverne Mann, Library Director), Somerset County Library System (Brian Auger, Library Director) and Parsippany-Troy Hills Public Library (Jayne Beline, Library Director). The vision was to enhance the role of libraries as critical community hubs attracting a new set of stakeholders.
Some of the strategic benefits for public library participation in this project included:
- Demonstrating the vital role libraries and librarians play in economic development in NJ
- Modeling the benefits of embedding skilled librarians in an economic growth project
- Providing pilot results which other libraries could replicate
- Collaborating with a new set of stakeholders
Executive Director, Cheryl O’Connor worked with Michel Bitritto, Ph.D. Talent Network Director, Technology & Entrepreneurship and Gale Tenen Spak, Ph.D., Associate Vice President Continuing and Distance Education at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
LibraryLinkNJ was very enthusiastic about continuing the partnership with TETN for weEntrepreneurs in FY15. The Cooperative’s intent was made clear by inclusion of the following initiative in its FY15 Strategic Plan:
Foster and promote the weEntrepreneurs pilot project with the New Jersey Technology and Entrepreneur Talent Network (TETN) and targeted public libraries.
This statement was approved by the LibraryLinkNJ membership at their 2014 Spring Membership Meeting and was also approved by the New Jersey State Library.
In FY2015, the LibraryLinkNJ Board continued to support the project with an additional $1,500. This matched $1,500 of of second year grant funding from TETN. Funding was split three ways among the participating libraries. The focus was to continue to work with the TETN Executive Director Michel Bitritto to expand ways to reach the grant’s targeted library audiences. LibraryLinkNJ acted as liaison between TETN and the three library partners, as well as fiscal agent to distribute funds to the three library participants. We also hosted planning meetings and conference calls among the group participants, LibraryLinkNJ and TETN.
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All three libraries have submitted their final reports and are sharing with the library community the results of the projects. They have much to share about creating partnerships with the local businesses and organizations and future plans. Ideas that other public libraries in New Jersey can use and adapt as their own. We hope you will feel inspired!
- Cherry Hill Public Library: a community Entrepreneur’s Fair with local business organizations
- Parsippany Public Library: a presentation of ReferenceUSA to the Professional Support Group of Morris County (PSGMC)
- Somerset County Library: the “Your Office on the Go” series of programs for local business owners and professionals
Our thanks to the The Technology & Entrepreneurship Talent Network (TETN) at NJIT, the Cherry Hill Public Library (Laverne Mann, Library Director), the Somerset County Library System (Brian Auger, Library Director) and the Parsippany Public Library (Jayne Beline, Library Director) for their partnership and participation.
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