Ask an Expert: Mallory Arents, Librarian


You may not be thinking of your local library as a business ecosystem and entrepreneurship hub, but that means you’re not thinking big enough. Much more than shh-ing librarians and napping seniors, today’s libraries are the unsung heroes of the startup world. You may be missing out on valuable resources, like access to data or even work space, if you haven’t checked out what your library has to offer. We talked with Mallory Arents, the Associate Director of Programs and Services for Darien Library, to get an idea of what’s out there.

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What sorts of services do you offer at your library for those who want to start a business?

First, libraries are the original co-working spaces! I say that because co-working spaces are popping up everywhere right now- theyโ€™re trendy! That’s because you can be with other entrepreneurs, you can take space for a conference call, you can have help doing business research. These are all things libraries have been doing since the dawn of time! So, a space for folks to work – that’s just the first thing.

Beyond that, we offer business and investment databases. Anyone can Google something, and that’s great, but our databases offer high quality, carefully curated information. We purchase them for the community to have access to. The specifics will look different at every library, but every library will offer some sort of research database.

One of our databases is called Ref USA, which offers community analytics. We just had someone who wanted to open a blowout bar, and she wanted to know about her competition. She knew she wanted to be in this area, but who else exists in the space? How much are people making, and what are people paying for those services? All of those things, we can help you figure out. Our patrons can set up an appointment with our librarians for personalized research help.

We also have other databases around investing. We have a Bloomberg Terminal, which is a high powered investing tool. Folks can sign up for an hour of time and move their money around, and it’s even a job search tool. You can do heavy-duty business research as well, so if you wanted to invest in Apple and find out more than what Google can tell you, you’ll find really rich information in there.

What about entrepreneurial programming?

Definitely! We have a partnership with SCORE. We do a monthly series with them that is meant for small business owners and entrepreneurs, and we work with them to offer mentoring and one-on-one coaching. And we have a range of events. This week, we have a class on social media for small business owners. We’ve also brought in keynote speakers to talk about hospitality and customer service.

We also have a business book group! It’s a book discussion of a non-fiction business title, and we pair that with networking over wine, beer and snacks.

Can you give some examples of questions that you’ve helped entrepreneurs answer?

For sure! Here’s a few:

A lawn care company wanted to do a mailing to prospective clients. Our reference librarians helped identify these clients to create a targeted mailing list.

A marketing consultant has used our Digital Media Lab to create short videos for his website. Using our green screen and Final Cut Pro, he shoots, edits, and uploads the video using library resources. He has started bringing in his clients, to show them how to create quality video content using our resources.

All of the planning for the Stamford Innovation Center, a group that provides work space, classes, and events for entrepreneurs, took place here at the library. In addition, the investor presentations for the first land-based, salt water fish farm in America were created and perfected here!

What are the most popular business books or materials at your library?

Here are the top 5:

  • POWER OF HABIT by Charles Duhigg
  • WHEN by Daniel Pink
  • THE CULTURE CODE by Daniel Coyle
  • PERMISSION TO SCREW UP by Kristin Hadeed
  • ZERO TO ONE by Peter Thiel

Are librarians connected to other city employees, if entrepreneurs have a specific person (say, in Zoning or Health) they’d like to get in contact with?

Our bread and butter is connecting people – with information, with people, with the right book – and that means we’re able to connect people with others in the field. We’re not just saying, “Here’s the phone number of the Health Department director,” we’re saying “He’s wonderful, here’s how you can get in contact with him, tell him I sent you.”

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