Business Reference Service in Public Libraries

Public libraries today play a role in local economic development in addition to the traditional roles they have always served. They are reaching out to nontraditional audiences as a way to remain relevant and garner additional support from people that are not typical library users. One nontraditional audience more libraries have been reaching out to serve is the business community, especially small business owners. However, due to the specialized nature of the information they need to provide to this audience, staff often times feel that they are ill-prepared because they lack the necessary reference skills and are unfamiliar with the resources. Rhonda Kleiman Group can help your library overcome these challenges by providing the following services

  1. Training – Many librarians visibly cringe when asked to answer business reference questions. I’ve mentored many librarians over the years and once they realize that reference is reference, and that the same reference interview skills can be used when doing business reference, it is just a matter of getting familiar with specialized resources and terminology. Sometimes they find that this work can actually be quite rewarding! It is simply a matter of learning the types of questions you will be asked and the resources you need to use. One of the main goals of my training sessions is to remove the fear factor for librarians that are new to business reference. I cover the different types of typical business questions and which resources in print and electronic format best answer each type of question through demonstration and hands on practice.

  3. Collection Development – Business reference resources are very costly and these days most public libraries are operating with reduced budgets. I can work with you to put together a collection of basic print and electronic resources that will give you the most bang for your buck, and show you how to incorporate free resources into the mix. For those libraries that already have a basic business reference collection, I can help you to identify resources to add to your existing collection.

  5. Partnerships and Collaborations – You can’t provide business reference service and expect businesses to automatically know to come to you. Many businesspeople don’t expect to find this service in a public library unless they live in a major city where business reference service is more typical. Good partnerships and collaborations with local business organizations are critical to the success of your program because they will serve as referral mechanisms. The converse is that librarians don’t know much about the the technical side of running a business, so partnering with organizations such as a local SCORE or SBDC that can provide your patrons with this service is a win-win situation. I can help you to identify organizations in your community that provide these services and work with you on how to reach out to them to develop partnerships that are mutually beneficial.

  7. Programming – Would you like to hold programs that would appeal to businesses in your community? Are you looking for a speaker that is knowledgeable in the area of business reference? I’ve done hundreds of presentations at the local, state and national level. I can help you come up with topics that you can use to develop programs and am also available as a speaker and program presenter.

For further information on how the Rhonda Kleiman Group can serve your library, please contact Rhonda Kleiman at or

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