The Brilliant Role Libraries Play in Supporting Entrepreneurs
Dear budding entrepreneur:
Your local library is one of the most powerful tools you have to launch a successful business. As EveryLibrary writes, “Librarians can serve as an extension of your staff and will help you harness the power of these resources to grow your business.”
Sometimes misidentified as repositories for dusty books, today’s libraries are actually cutting edge information hubs designed to help people get the resources, materials and connections they need, whether for work, school, pleasure or all of the above.
Library staffers and resource librarians are some of the smartest folks around — and they’re on a mission to help you get information.
If you’re an entrepreneur, an established business owner, or just thinking about starting a business, head down to your local library. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the role the library staff and resources can play in helping you start and grow a business. Here are just a few ways libraries support entrepreneurs:
Access to Expensive Resources
Libraries offer access to otherwise cost prohibitive research and reference tools for entrepreneurs, such as ReferenceUSA, Business Source Premier and Regional Business News, which cost thousands of dollars. These essential business reference tools are available to everyone, for free, in libraries.
Intellectual Property Resources
Before you commit to creating the best product ever, make sure someone hasn’t already created it. Libraries provide the resources and know-how to check for patent and trademark information so you don’t waste valuable time and resources — or get yourself into a sticky legal situation.
Know Your Competition
A crowded market can be a good sign that there’s demand for your product or services. But, you still need to know who your competition is and what they’re doing. Libraries offer resources and information to help you gather competitive data and intelligence on your competitors.
Develop Your Pitch
Do you plan to raise money to get your business off the ground? You’ll need to sell investors on your vision. Libraries are full of resources and people who can help you learn everything from creating a pitch deck and logo to naming your product, speaking in public, and approaching potential investors.
Research Materials and Supplies
So you have a working prototype or business plan — what now? Researching materials and suppliers, establishing an efficient supply chain and getting the underlying financial and legal requirements in place are essential to launching a successful business. Libraries have resources and know-how to help to determine the necessary steps.
Make It in a Library
If you need a prototype of your product, you may be able to create it in a library. A growing number of libraries have makerspaces, tool libraries and other workspaces and communities to help you realize your vision.
Define and Your Market
Libraries today are home to meetups, community groups, professional alliances, coworking areas and more. These communities of people can be invaluable when developing an idea or product. You can even convene a focus group on a library or beta test a product to generate useful feedback and real-world observation.
Test Your Product
Libraries offer a variety of ways for entrepreneurs to test their products and services. Library staffers interact with the public all day every day and they can help you bridge the gap between your product and your market. As Chrastka writes:
“Librarians are early-adopters and train late-cycle adopters (the public) every day on emerging technologies, platforms, apps, and innovations. Harness the power of these resources to grow your business.”
Create a Pop-up Showroom
Coordinate with your local library to showcase your product, either in a meeting room, the lobby, or other appropriate space. Studies show, that people are more likely to buy a product after first trying it at the library.
By getting your product or idea in front of people, you let them experience it, engage with it and ask questions about it — all of which can provide valuable feedback to entrepreneurs, whether you’re building widgets, a small business, an app or a platform to change the world.
When in Doubt, Ask a Librarian
Whatever you need to know about your entrepreneurial journey, the librarians at your local library can help. They either know the answer to your question, or they know how to find the answer. Librarians are the superpower of libraries. Go to them for entrepreneurial help — you won’t be disappointed. Librarians don’t say, “I don’t know”. “Sorry”, they say, “I don’t know. Let’s find out.”