PPL Awarded Libraries Build Business Grant from American Library Association and Google.org to Help Libraries Support Small Businesses

July 23, 2020

Selected Libraries To Publish a “Guidebook” For All Libraries to Help Small Businesses Based on their Learnings

Providence Public Library (PPL) announced today receipt of grant funding of $145,000 from the American Library Association (ALA) to build capacity and expand their programming to small businesses and entrepreneurs from low-income and underrepresented groups. PPL is one of 13 public libraries around the country to receive this funding from Libraries Build Business, an initiative of the American Library Association funded by Google.org. Google.org has invested $2 million in the initiative. This grant -- made as part of the tech company’s Grow with Google initiative to create opportunity for all -- will also create learning resources for any library to support entrepreneurs in its community.

“PPL has long supported our local small business community by providing entrepreneurs and those in the aspirational stages of business ownership the holistic education and resources necessary to achieve success. This grant will allow us to enhance our current programs and services and further expand our Small Business Hub offerings” said Jack Martin, PPL Executive Director.

With the Libraries Building Business grant, PPL will be able to:
• Expand our free counseling and Small Business Support Workshops done in partnership with RI SCORE, pulling in additional resources and starting virtual workshop components;
• Create a Small Business Center on the PPL Website to serve as a resource hub and main point of access for our community;
• Support our contextualized ESOL for entrepreneurs classes, which build participants’ fundamental English skills concurrently with crucial business skills and knowledge;
• Expand programming in our 3,000 square foot makerspace and education workshop, including supporting participants through the process of prototyping product ideas, facilitated by a dedicated Business Navigator staff person;
• Establish a student Business Corps of ESL learners who will partner with a local university researcher to design and survey local immigrant-owned businesses to evaluate needs, connect businesses to resources, strategies, and to further inform PPL’s Program Design.

“We’re proud to work with the American Library Association to bring this program to life. With the COVID-19 crisis, there has never been a more critical time to support our small businesses and ensure they can survive and thrive well into the future,” said Jacquelline Fuller, president of Google.org. “Libraries are the gathering places of many communities, and increasingly they are learning centers for entrepreneurs. Their role is vital in our collective effort to support small business leaders and entrepreneurs who need it most.”

“ALA is thrilled to support and work collaboratively with Providence Public Library and the entire LBB cohort,” said ALA Associate Executive Director, Kathi Kromer. “We are impressed by the innovation and institutional commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion PPL has demonstrated in developing their small business offerings.”

The LBB initiative is driven by the following question: What library-led entrepreneurship models will best help low-income and/or underrepresented entrepreneurs start and grow small businesses? With the goal of identifying promising practices and models for library-led entrepreneurship initiatives, the LBB cohort, in collaboration with the ALA project team, will develop and evaluate practical resources for the field to ultimately scale successful entrepreneurship programs in all 17,000 public libraries.

PPL’s On-Ramp to Innovation project funded through this grant will create a deeper, more inclusive entrepreneurship community that builds on the many resources available in our state. The program is four-fold:
(i) expanding our SCORE programming to include additional services.
(ii) enhancing our contextualized ESL and digital literacy business-oriented classes and supports.
(iii) designating a PPL Business Navigator.
(iv) establishing a student Business Corps of ESL students who will partner with a University of Rhode Island (URI) researcher, post-doc, or professor (as vetted by our contacts in URI’s Entrepreneurship & Innovation program) for a Customer Discovery process to visit local immigrant-owned businesses to survey their needs to further inform PPL’s program design.

Most existing small business support programs in Rhode Island target entrepreneurs on the higher end of the pathway; our project targets entrepreneurs in the aspirational stage and helps provide the education and supports necessary to start them on an “on ramp” and create the forward momentum needed to achieve success.

About Providence Public Library
PPL is an independent, non-profit organization founded in 1875, governed by a Board of Trustees, and supported primarily through private funding sources, including its own PPL Foundation. The Library also serves as the Statewide Reference Resource Center holding unique collections and resources.
PPL’s Mission
PPL inspires Rhode Islanders to be lifelong learners by engaging their curiosity and offering access to extraordinary experiences, resources and ideas.