Dig deeper into the data: One way local libraries could give your business a boost

by Jodie M. Grasgreen

Whether an idea for a business is still a glimmer in your mind or if you are preparing for a sales call, free, quality business information is abundant if you have a library card. You need to be introduced to the magic world of research databases, your source for amazing business information.

Two area libraries, Hudson Library & Historical Society and the Akron Summit County Public Library, have expanded collections of business databases that will enhance the budding business or veteran entrepreneur with the information they need to get the job done. HL&HS requires a Clevnet library card that provides access to resources in nearly 40 libraries including Cleveland Public Library. You may also want an ASCPL card. You may hold multiple public library cards.

There are stages to running a business beginning with the creation of a business plan. For that, you need lists of competitors, industrial analysis, target audience identification, competitive analysis, SWOT reports (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) for companies and industries.

Once you have established your enterprise, the need for quality, information is still vital. You will continue to need to:

  • Explore industries and companies
  • Create contact and networking lists
  • Keep current with information within an industry
  • Have icebreaker questions for interviewing or sales calls
  • Find content for social media, personal and/or company
  • Gain access to appropriate trade publications

Between the two libraries, you will find many answers in these databases: AtoZ Database, Business Insights: Essential, Business Source Premiere, First Research, Hoover’s, LexisNexis, and Reference USA.

They provide access to many full-text articles from trade and academic journals, magazines, SWOT, marketing reports and newspapers. You will find emails, company histories, management and corporate trees, expenditures, consumer spending trends, historic business information and geographic-based searching.

Networking is vital for conducting business and the list-making capabilities of ReferenceUSA and AtoZ Database is mind-boggling.

Additionally, several of the databases will provide content for your personal and company’s social media pages.

Many people are amazed to learn a search-engine search (Google, DuckDuckGo, Dogpile) you are accessing a mere 15 percent of what is on the web. The bulk of the information is located in a database of specialized information,government, academic and trade publications.

Finally, there are three additional databases that provide a wealth of information and are accessed directly without the need of a library card.

American FactFinder and American Community Survey are incredibly data-rich resources from the US Bureau of the Census. Community stats on housing, race, gender, commute time, wealth are just the tip of the iceberg.

ThomasNet.com, once known as the “Big Green Books”, is now online and free. Find lists of manufactures, companies to contact for prototypes, industry white papers and more.

It is important to note that these business resources are valuable to job seekers as well. You should be conducting the same research for your job search as you would while developing or running a business.

Make friends with a public library’s business librarian and expand your opportunities.

Jodie M. Grasgreen is a Reference and Adult Services Librarian. She has enjoyed living in Akron for 33 years. Prior to becoming a librarian, she was involved in education politics and wrote for the West Side Leader.

The Devil Strip’s small business and entrepreneur reporting has been made possible thanks to the support of The Fund for Our Economic Future and the Burton D. Morgan Foundation. You can learn more about being an Akron entrepreneur by visiting akronisforentrepreneurs.org