The Business of Libraries

Library leaders should learn business skills for several compelling reasons that ultimately benefit their institutions and communities. While libraries traditionally serve as repositories of knowledge and cultural assets, they are not immune to the changing landscape of the 21st century. Incorporating business skills into their skillset equips library managers to adapt to these changes and ensure the continued relevance and sustainability of their libraries. Learning business skills enables library leaders to effectively allocate resources. Libraries often operate with limited budgets, and knowing how to manage finances efficiently is crucial.

Business skills like budgeting, financial analysis, and resource allocation empower managers to make informed decisions about acquiring materials, hiring staff, and implementing new technologies. Library leaders can use business skills to enhance the user experience. By understanding customer service principles, marketing strategies, and user feedback analysis, they can create a more welcoming and accessible library environment. This, in turn, attracts more patrons and fosters a sense of community engagement.

Libraries are increasingly tasked with generating revenue to sustain their operations. Business skills allow library managers to explore revenue-generating opportunities, such as developing fee-based services, forming partnerships with local businesses, or organising fundraising events. These additional revenue streams can help libraries expand their offerings and remain financially viable. Moreover, business skills are essential for strategic planning. Libraries need to adapt to changing technologies and community needs. Business acumen helps managers develop strategic plans that align with the library’s mission and long-term goals. This includes identifying trends, setting priorities, and making data-driven decisions.

Business strategies can be developed in a variety of ways, using specific tools such as Porter’s 5 Forces, PESTLE, Differentiation strategy, Creating Shared Value and a SWOT analysis. This 90 minute workshop will provide strategy management skills to ensure the vitality and adaptability of their institutions. These skills empower leaders to make informed financial decisions, enhance the user experience, explore revenue-generating opportunities, and engage in strategic planning.

Kyleigh Langrick

Project Officer, State Library of Victoria

Author Bio

Kyleigh Langrick has worked in the library sector for over 20 years. In 2017, she won The Barrett Reid Scholarship from the State Library Victoria which enabled her to travel to the United States to research the use of Design Thinking in Public Libraries. Most recently, Kyleigh completed her MBA from RMIT.