“Not just books” building business hubs in libraries!

Future start-up stars now have a comfortable and supportive place to take the first step in their journey to success thanks to Not just books project co-funded by Latvia-Russia CBC programme. As libraries are multi-functional community hubs, which are regularly attended by various groups of society, they have a significant potential in engaging the business and start-up community by providing comfortable, easily accessible spaces in town centres for business meetings, networking, and training, explains Sanita Putniņa, project manager and founder of NGO “Creative Ideas”. The project focused on this opportunity to roll out small business support in North Latgale (Latvia) and Pskov region (Russia).

The cooperation between Balvi municipality and Dedovichi District Central Library started over a decade ago and now has resulted in successful completion of Not just books project led by NGO “Creative Ideas”Bauska Central Library and Central Library Systems of Dno and Porhov Districts joined the project as associates to convert libraries into local business centres. Librarians exchanged experience and discussed opinions on how to facilitate the development of entrepreneurial ideas and innovative thinking among youth, as well as both potential and existing entrepreneurs. After over two years of committed and persistent work the project partners 

  • created comfortable and accessible spaces with a core set of resources for business meetings, networking, and training in Balvi Central library, North Latgale Business and Tourism Centre and NGO Creative Ideas in Latvia and Dedovichi District Central library, Krasny gorki library and Poselkovy library in Russia;
  • provided individual support to 44 small businesses in Latvia and Russia;
  • made trade market equipment available to local businesses in Balvi and Dedovichi;
  • improved staff knowledge and skills to provide accessible and invaluable support to local entrepreneurs;
  • provided valuable and inspiring business literature to libraries in Latvia and Russia;
  • developed an online manual for businesses giving advice on the use of IT technologies: http://itadvisor.info/;
  • organised a series of topical seminars for existing & future entrepreneurs, etc.

Project partners implemented initiatives above and beyond: Balvi Central Library started a cycle of exhibitions “Meet & Greet an Entrepreneur” which showcases products of North Latgale businesses. Libraries in Balvi and Dedovichi established cooperation with local schools to promote business start-ups among youth.

Positive changes in local communities became true due to a thorough analysis of key challenges when involving libraries in improving business skills and spirit among locals. “Lack of modern equipment and skills among employees, as well as entrepreneurs misunderstanding business services provided by the libraries, were among the main challenges faced”, comments Larisa Egorova, project coordinator at Dedovichi District Central library. Today, small businesses have confidence and desire to visit libraries and use available services and facilities. More about project outcomes in Russia here.

The partnership stayed strong, and successfully managed project activities during the outburst of the pandemic. Savings were reasonably and sufficiently relocated, which resulted in ten per cent more small businesses receiving individual support. Besides, the improved facilities are fully equipped for online conferences and seminars. “Balvi Central library room is now equipped with a touch screen that can be used for remote conferences for both business and other target groups, says Arnita Gaiduka, project coordinator at Balvi municipality. “It has been very useful during the pandemic and has been used numerous times for the implementation of the project.

Not just books successfully brought Libraries & Business together, exchanged experience with peers from abroad, transferred good practices and different approaches ensuring cross-border cooperation on a friendly and professional basis. “We are very grateful for this opportunity to assist local businesses in creating innovation and generating growth!”, says Sanita Putniņa, project manager. The partnership even identified the needs of local businesses for the next programming period to develop new project ideas. We salute the wonderful work done by project partners and look forward to meeting you in the next Latvia-Russia CBC Programme!

Eager to find more about doing business in a library? Check the latest project newsletter and use the opportunities created by Not just books!

Video by Dedovichi District Central library.

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