The Blaine County Journal News-Opinion - We've Got The County Covered

Blaine County Library


January 2, 2019

Information spells growth in Montana communities

Libraries have always been first-line resources for information. This point is true in the 21st century more than ever. Public trust in other information sources may be declining, but librarians remain the second-most trusted professionals, next to nurses.

Libraries connect people with what they need to know to improve their lives. To find tools and resources to pursue entrepreneurship, train and apply for a job, or identify and expand economic opportunities—ask a librarian.

Across Montana, 117 public libraries, and 191 librarians, support entrepreneurship by providing assistance with business plans, business services and research.

A Google search of how to write a business plan yields 918,000 results. What your local library can provide is more personal, more direct, and includes local resources that make a big difference to a small business.

Montana has more entrepreneurs per capita than any other state. Ten percent of Montanans own a business as their main job, compared to six percent of Americans. Approximately 3,400 Montanans start a business each month; more than half are still going five years later. The author of a 2018 report on entrepreneurship in Montana, University of Montana economist Bryce Ward, founder of ABMJ Consulting, says information is critical. To get from idea to launch, budding entrepreneurs need to evaluate their idea, learn what it takes to start a business, and develop their product or service. Information resources are vital to helping people through this process.

Public libraries in Montana are seeing a surge in services to help people fill out job applications or learn to write a resume. Exam proctoring by librarians has increased as enrollment in online courses has gone up. Significantly, libraries are adding programs and partnerships to offer workforce development.

Library information services are also a vital resource for local governments and nonprofits. Jason Rittal with the Montana Association of Counties is the former Eastern Plains Economic Development director and advisor for Fallon County. He emphasizes the need for information people can bank on.

Information is key to recruiting any kind of business, deciding how to develop infrastructure, recruiting employees, and more. Reliable, current, and authoritative information is critical to investment decisions. Services utilized by libraries and maintained by the state library are accessed by community and economic developers every day.

A direct connection can be seen between Montana libraries and support for new business and new workers. Libraries fill a critical role in helping communities thrive in the age of information and technology. Nonetheless, libraries are vulnerable. A new campaign asks for support to raise awareness among legislators and policy makers that libraries are not just books—they’re economic incubators. More information is available @InformationPowersMT—or the library.

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