Business people like networking, and often meet and greet at Tampa Bay Area hotel conference rooms. But now they have a new venue: the public library.
“We’re making an effort to reach out to kind of a non-traditional library population,” explains Business Librarian Chris Sturgeon, who founded BizConnect@Platt, a program attracting business owners to the Jan Kaminis Platt Regional Library at 3910 S. Manhattan Ave., Tampa. “They don’t think it’s a place to work on their business. ... We try to dispel that myth.”
He’s one of five business librarians in Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library system. Hired last year, Sturgeon’s job is to reach out to businesses and let them know the library is a free resource to them.
“The whole idea as to open up the doors,” he says. “There’s a demand here [for networking]. Let’s try it. Let’s just make it open to everyone.”
The library offers free digital access with a public library card to business owners’ databases like that offered by Reference USA, or to the training website Lynda.com. Readers also can access free digital subscriptions to magazines like Forbes.
Out-of-county residents can enjoy services by paying $100 annually for a library card.
“A lot of information is available online, but it’s not all quality information,” he explains. “That’s where we try to come in.”
Changes were precipitated by the digital revolution. “Our circulation numbers are still very high for books. The digital content is almost equally as popular,” he says, adding the Tampa-Hillsborough libraries have a “pretty sizable” ebook collection for businesses.
Part of the draw is the option of using the library as a temporary working space. “They can come in on a walk-in basis and reserve one of the private study rooms,” he continues. “There are plenty of places for them to plug in. ... They can’t book it in advance.”
Every first Friday at 8 a.m., about 25 business owners meet at the Jan Platt Library to hear a speaker and network. “We get a different crowd almost every time,” he says. “Our speakers have all been very generous with their time.”
At the September 1 meeting, Gary LoDuca, Founder of Thoughtful Wealth Management and Tax Advisors, a certified financial planner, will be providing tips on businesses taxes. In August Mike Harting, owner/operator of St. Petersburg’s 3 Daughters Brewing, told his business story.
The events are free and open to the public. No registration is required. Check the calendar for upcoming events here.