When you think of your library, do you just think of books? Today’s libraries have various other resources business owners can use to grow their business without spending any additional money. Contact your local library to see which of these are available to you.
1. Mailing list databases
Many libraries have a subscription to a database such as InfoUSA. You may need to go into the library to use the database, but it still beats paying a monthly subscription to get your data. You can use these databases to research your target market, create a mailing list or even do some research on your competitors.
If you get stuck while working in the database, ask a library staff member for assistance. They may even be able to tell you about additional databases that can help you with your research.
If your library has public computers, chances are they have some good software on them. Most will at least have a business productivity suite such as Microsoft Office, and some may have additional programs such as publishing or graphics software. Again, you’ll need to be in the library to use the software, but it’s less expensive than buying your own software license.
Or if you’re thinking about buying some software, you may be able to try it out on the library computer first. And not only can you try out the software, your library can help you use the software you already own.
3. Software training
Some libraries offer free classes to help you learn popular software programs. Even if the library doesn’t have a class, they probably have books or videos to help you learn your software. And if they don’t have them locally, they can get them for you through interlibrary loan.
4. Ebooks and audio books
As audio books and ebooks become more popular, libraries are expanding their collections into cyberspace. Your library may have a subscription to online library sites that offer audio, video and ebook downloads. You should be able to access these online libraries from home using your library card.
Some libraries take this service a step farther and offer the actual ereaders too, so you can get your ebook and borrow the library’s ereader to enjoy it. It’s also a great way to try out these devices before you commit to buying one for yourself.
If your library doesn’t have these tools
What if your local library doesn’t have some of these tools? Then consider a small investment in a library card from a nearby area. If you live in a suburb of a larger city, get a nonresident card for the main city library. If you have a university nearby, get a library card from there. Our local university gives you a library card if you become a Friend of the Library — a tax-deductible donation of just $20.
If you haven’t been in your local library lately, make time to stop in and see how they can help you grow your business. And while you’re there, grab a good book to read after your busy work day is done.