I’ve written before about the array of resources for small businesses that public libraries often provide. I’ve even shared how some libraries are providing online business and professional training courses through special licensing arrangements with Lynda.com. I’m lucky to live in a city, Nashville, that has a library system that’s so innovative it is currently recognized as the U.S. Public Library of the Year. Our library system was quick to realize that new technology and approaches were not threats to the role of a library. Like most major public libraries, our system evolved and expanded into a platform of help and opportunities for members of their communities to gain and share knowledge–from how to play a ukelele to how to start and grow a thriving business.
In small towns and big cities, you can discover professional librarians who are quick to help a small business owner (or a person who wants to be one) who is in need of knowledge, research or training.
17,000 | Public libraries and branches in operation in U.S.
5,400 | Libraries where patrons can take free technology courses.
300,000 | The number of job seekers who daily use the libraries to get help finding work
2.8 million | Number of business owners who monthly use library resources to support their small businesses.
Here are just a few of the ways that libraries and librarians can help you grow your business
Research and training
If you have a library card, many libraries can provide you access (often by logging into their websites remotely) to databases and instructional tools that would otherwise cost you hundreds of dollars annually.
- Conduct market and demographic research with databases like ReferenceUSA
- Dig deep into professional databases like EBSCO’s Business Source Premier and LexisNexis.
- Look through thousands of business plans available online through the Gale Virtual Reference Library
- Use study tools like Mango Languages, Learning Express Library, and Lynda.com
- Access technical manuals and computer programming books through Safari Books Online
Facilities and access to technology
Your library is no longer just for checking out books. More and more, libraries serve as a community’s knowledge hub and resource center.
- Space to have Event or meetings
- Free wireless internet
- Maker Spaces
Another area of small business assistance, and maybe one of the most important, is connecting potential business owners with the types of organizations and individuals who can help them turn an idea into a reality. Organizations like SCORE often use library space to connect with individuals who are starting a small business.
Where to learn more
Many of the thousands of public libraries and branches in the U.S. have a page on their website called something like “resource center” that contains information and tools for small businesses. Some sites will simply have links to local resources. On other sites, you can find a detailed a listing of business databases and additional tools and resources you can access.
Oh, and one more thing…
I forgot to mention another great thing available to you at your public library. They have lots of books about starting, running and growing a business. You can download and use a audible book at some libraries. And you can even check them out and take them home if you still prefer the paper way.
Also on SmallBusiness.com