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Entrepreneur assistance & economic development in Florida libraries

Janet Elaine Franks (Saint Leo University, Saint Leo, Florida, USA)
Carol Johns (Florida SBDC at Hillsborough County, Florida, USA)

Reference Services Review

ISSN: 0090-7324

Article publication date: 10 August 2015




The purpose of this paper was to identify essential resources that entrepreneurs need; to determine which resources and services are available at public libraries in two Florida counties; and to suggest additional ways for public libraries to increase their value and visibility among the business community.


Information was gathered using structured and open-ended questions, using the Qualtrics survey technology provider, to obtain both quantitative and qualitative responses. Library administrators were contacted to identify relevant library staff to participate in the survey. Pasco County Library System administrators agreed to distribute the survey to their staff. Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative administrators provided email addresses of staff selected to participate. Web sites of the libraries, their counties, and their partners were also examined for additional information.


The results suggest that the libraries are able to satisfy most of the requests of entrepreneurs. One exception was consulting, which was not consistently available, according to respondents, but could be offered at the library by business service organizations. Suggestions for promoting library business resources were proposed, based on survey responses and the websites of the libraries, their counties, and their business service organization partners.

Research limitations/implications

This research studied key public librarians and staff employed at Pasco and Hillsborough counties in Florida. Some of the resources identified as useful for entrepreneurs in these counties may not be generalizable to communities outside the state of Florida, or outside the USA. Additionally, the survey did not explore what is not being done or what could be done if the libraries had more resources.

Practical implications

This study provides information on the resources and services that public libraries provide entrepreneurs. It also offers suggestions for libraries to become more valuable and visible to their local business community.

Social implications

As entrepreneurs and small businesses contribute substantially to economic development, public libraries that provide assistance to them help their communities prosper.


This study is a collaboration between an academic reference librarian with a recent MBA degree, and an Entrepreneur Services Manager and Florida SBDC Center Director, who together provide a unique perspective and interpretive value toward promoting economic development.



This research project was conducted in response to a call for papers by the editors of Reference Services Review on the topic of Entrepreneurship. The authors wish to thank the administrators of the Pasco County Library System and Hillsborough Public County Library Cooperative for permission to conduct the survey, as well as the library staff who participated.


Franks, J.E. and Johns, C. (2015), "Entrepreneur assistance & economic development in Florida libraries", Reference Services Review, Vol. 43 No. 3, pp. 400-418.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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