Grantee Spotlight:  Hudson Library & Historical Society

Burton D. Morgan Foundation has a long history of supporting and partnering with Hudson Library & Historical Society, which has gained the reputation as a superior resource for not only Hudson but throughout Northeast Ohio.  In their own words, “…the Hudson Library & Historical Society is a vital cultural and educational institution which is considered by many to be a ‘community treasure.’” We wholeheartedly agree.  In 2008, the Foundation and Library partnered to create the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship Research. 

We recently had the pleasure of interviewing Leslie Polott, the Library’s Executive Director since 1996, to discuss the Library and its important role in our region’s entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Foundation:  Hudson Library supports entrepreneurs of all ages and stages.  Tell us about your program offerings.

Leslie:  The Hudson Library & Historical Society’s Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship Research was founded in 2008 with the mission of being the "premier public resource for the advancement of entrepreneurial learning.” The Center offers innovative business programming along with the most cutting-edge business resources including print, databases, and on-demand learning.

The year-round adult programming series includes an annual Pitch Night competition, the Etsy Craft Entrepreneurship workshop, technology training, a speaker series, and other focused-learning opportunities.  Youth programs include Tween/Teen Pitch Night competitions, STEM workshops, Challenge Island competitions, and a collaboration with Upcycle Parts Shop.

The Center’s cutting-edge business resources include an expansive print collection covering all facets of businesses, business law, nonprofits, human resource development, financing, marketing, and more. In the youth collection, we have increased our STEM nonfiction graphic novels. The collection databases, which include Hoover’s, Business Insights: Essentials, First Research, and Business Plans Handbooks, are crucial for entrepreneurs formulating business plans, researching industry and competitor information, and exploring SWOT analysis for new strategy.

Foundation:  Can you tell us why you think libraries are uniquely positioned to drive entrepreneurship? 

Leslie:  The Hudson Library, an established community hub and information center, is the natural location for business and entrepreneurship resources, services, and business programming. The path to successfully developing and implementing a business can be challenging, especially without access to information and resources. The library is committed to providing any entrepreneur, no matter where they are in their entrepreneurial journey, access to high-quality information and learning opportunities. The library ensures a barrier-free location for anyone to access resources easily and at no cost. The quality of the Center’s resources, its many services, and its staff expertise has made it an important entity in the Northeast Ohio entrepreneurial ecosystem. Additional amenities offered to entrepreneurs include the library’s lending technology, such as podcast-to-go kits, video production kits, Chromebooks and hotspots as well as free Wi-Fi, and meeting spaces.

As a community hub, the library taps into existing partnerships with other entrepreneurs/business stakeholders in the community. These collaborations have enabled the library to stay well-informed about community needs and leverage experts for more advanced training.

The library’s research professionals are specially trained and stay current on technology, business databases and print resources, ideal for assisting entrepreneurs. The Small Business Development Center (SBDC), for example, continues to refer its clients to the Hudson Library primarily due to our access and expertise in these databases. Several librarians are “certified FDO experts” allowing them to offer classes and in-depth assistance on Candid grantmaking and nonprofit workshops.

Foundation:  Hudson Library offers many resources to individuals seeking to grow a business or learn more about the fundamentals of business, but it also utilizes partnerships.  Can you describe some of the partnerships that complement the Library’s own offerings?

Leslie:  To advance the goals of the Center while continuing to be good stewards of public tax dollars, the Hudson Library & Historical Society enters into frequent partnerships and collaborations with organizations that share a similar mission - to support each other's goals, share costs, maximize tax dollars, expand visibility, and broaden our client base.

The Library's Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship Research has worked closely with many entities to better facilitate its mission. These partnerships/collaborations have included: Burton D. Morgan Foundation for inspiration, guidance and financial support; The Key Bank Foundation and The James M. Ewell Charitable Foundation for financial support; The University of Akron School of Business and Law, Case Western Reserve University Weatherhead School of Business & Law, and Kent State University's School of Business to facilitate programming support; JumpStart, YBI & Glide to facilitate the Pitch Night Events; the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Akron Beacon Journal, Gatehouse Media Ohio (Hudson Hub), Crain's, and Jumpstart to promote our services and programs; and Akron SCORE, PTAC and SBDC to provide business mentoring/counseling services. The Center has also partnered with The City of Hudson Economic Development Department, Destination Hudson, the Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce, and area schools for the annual Global Entrepreneurship Week events. The Hudson Library is also part of Candid’s Funding Information Network, a network of libraries, community foundations, and other nonprofit resource centers providing database access and support to local nonprofits. Through this partnership, the Hudson Library offers clients access to Candid’s resources, which include print resources, databases, and training. The library has trained and assisted hundreds of individuals and nonprofits on Candid resources.

The Hudson Library has also developed partnerships on the national level with brand-recognized companies. The Library offers (now LinkedIn Learning), a leading online learning platform that helps anyone learn business, software, technology, and creative skills to achieve personal and professional goals. The Library partners with Etsy to offer the Etsy Craft Entrepreneurship Program. Etsy provides the curriculum, which includes PowerPoint presentations for the instructor and workbooks for students. The library’s collaboration with Google, as a Grow with Google partner, provides essential training on Google’s utilities and services that are necessary for any small business.

The Hudson Library’s Youth Services Department collaborates regularly with area schools and homeschoolers, including Hudson City School District, Seton Catholic School, Hudson Montessori, Western Reserve Academy, and Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy. The Library provides material support for teachers and works with educators to encourage continued learning through the summer break, as well as collaborates with the Hudson High School National Honor Society to provide free tutoring to younger students at the library. School partnerships leverage more collaboration on youth entrepreneurship programs, and the Library provides a location for young entrepreneurs participating in Lemonade Day Northeast Ohio to set up shop.

Foundation:  Hudson Library was one of the first libraries in the area to offer services intended to help individuals build entrepreneurial skills.  Now many local libraries and organizations offer services that cultivate entrepreneurial skillsets and help individuals grow businesses.  How has the Library evolved its offerings to ensure they are unique and relevant to the community?

Leslie:  Since its inception in 2008, certain core offerings and services have remained essential to our community and continue to be provided. The Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship Research also continually adapts its services based on community needs as well as trends and economic factors driving business change and innovation. In addition, the programs and offerings of other libraries, incubators, and centers also inform the Center’s efforts.

In response, the Center regularly reinvents itself by offering new topics and partnerships. A new innovative and popular addition provided in the past few years has been the Etsy Craft Entrepreneurship Program. The Etsy program trains creative entrepreneurs using an Etsy-developed curriculum on how to market, brand, photograph, and price items on the Etsy platform. The program develops entrepreneurial expertise through skill-building, formal training, and mentorship, along with peer-to-peer learning as students work and engage as a team. The Center has offered the Etsy Craft Entrepreneurship program series for four years and last year piloted the first intermediate Etsy course, a custom curriculum designed to support craft entrepreneurs in more advanced stages of their business development. The Center is the only Craft Entrepreneurship partner to offer this advanced training.

The Center’s youth entrepreneurship program provides young people with the tools and opportunities to explore real-world concepts not typically found in a traditional classroom setting. In recent years, the Center has developed a wide variety of innovative activities such as a monthly video game coding club, facilitated by library staff using the subscription platform Vidcode, app development, and coding classes. The Center continues to connect with new partners to leverage opportunities for youth entrepreneurs offering programs like Invention Project, a collaboration with the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and more recently, a partnership with Upcycle Parts Shop, which introduces youth to entrepreneurial thinking and the concept of social enterprise. 

Foundation:  What do you see as Hudson Library’s future role in the entrepreneurial ecosystem?

Leslie:  While the pandemic has presented many challenges, it has also presented the library with many new opportunities, which will inform the Center’s vision going forward. We anticipate an ongoing demand for virtual learning. Customers appreciate the ability to access programs and opportunities from anywhere, at any time, especially busy entrepreneurs and small business owners. 

The Hudson Library has a national reputation for its preeminent lecture series featuring award-winning and bestselling authors, historians, journalists, scientists, media personalities, poets, politicians, businesspeople, and thought leaders. The Library applies this same model to the entrepreneurship lecture series and invites prominent speakers and authors who can speak on business and entrepreneurship topics. For example, the library recently hosted fashion designer, entrepreneur and philanthropist Diane von Furstenberg, and this fall will welcome Candace Nelson, founder of Sprinkles Cupcakes.

The Hudson Library will continue to support youth entrepreneurs as well, continually seeking out new technological opportunities to complement academic curricula. This year, the library plans to offer an entrepreneurship series for middle and high school students using Challenge Island, a worldwide organization that provides STEM and 21st Century Learning programs for all ages. Students will learn about idea development, creating a business plan, and marketing.

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