ECON 919 - Libraries Mean Business

Mar 15, 2019

 


This week: small business assistance through...your local library. Let’s say you run a small business and it’s time to really spiff it up: logos, website, all the stuff a brand needs. But, that’s not your thing. And farming it out isn’t in the books. That’s where a new program through many of Alaska’s public libraries, including three on the Peninsula, come in.

 

 


They’ve teamed up on a program called Libraries Mean Business. The program received an interlibrary cooperation grant and is partnering with the Alaska Small Business Development Center. A big part of that grant will go to providing free access to the online learning service lynda.com.

 

Kenai library director Mary Jo Joiner says through these partnerships, you can learn everything from the basics of how to get a loan to, really, just about anything, with nothing more than a library card.

“We’re not trying to do everything at the library, we’re just trying to direct people to the right places. But as part of the grant, our biggest part is lynda.com”

Normally, a subscription to the site would cost between $25 and $37.50 a month. But it will be free through the library at least until September. Joiner says it can be a good alternative for businesses who would like to do some professional development or train employees in new skills, but don’t have a budget for formal classes and conferences.

“Lynda.com isn’t necessarily basic information. It can be pretty advanced. You can start with basic stuff and build on it, if you want to learn how to use PowerPoint and then you want to know how to put audio and video in there; if you wanted to do Excel and make more charts and graphs. (And) it’s not just business in there, although it is predominantly oriented towards business. What I see it as is a wonderful resource for if you want to get you people training and you can’t afford to send them to a class or you can’t afford to send somebody in, this is great way to get your workforce developed with new skills.”)

Joiner and Soldotna Library Director Rachel Nash made a presentation about the program this week for the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce. Joiner says they got a positive response there.

“Already we’re going to get people using it. Two groups approached us and wanted us to come to their offices and do a presentation, so that was some immediate feedback that was pretty positive. Even though the grant for lynda.com is only good through September, Soldotna is definitely trying to budget for it and if I see enough interest, then we’ll try to make it work for us too, so we can continue with it.”

And like any other library program, numbers matter. The more people who use it, the easier it is to make the case to spend the money to continue providing access for businesses and the community at large.

This week’s number: 39. That’s how many consecutive months the state of Alaska has lost workers as the recession begins to flatten out, but does continue. The job losses began in October 2015 when oil prices began falling, finally bottoming out at less than $30 a barrel. In all, nearly 13,000 jobs have been lost since then. On the Kenai Peninsula, about 850 jobs are gone. The North Slope Borough has been hit hardest, of course, with more than 4,200 jobs gone. That Mat-Su has been one of the lone bright spots, adding more than 700 jobs over the past three years. According to the February issue of Alaska Economic Trends, published by the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, there’s been no mass exodus associated with the recession, but rather, the negative net migration can be attributed to fewer people moving here.