Entrepreneurs, when is the last time you used your library card? Libraries have always been community symbols of knowledge and learning, but if it’s been a while since you’ve visited your local library, you might not recognize all of the resources they offer to small businesses.
The Michigan eLibrary, also known as MeL, was created by the Library of Michigan more than 20 years ago. MeL provides Michigan residents with free access to online full-text articles, books, digital images and valuable research information at any time via the Internet. All public libraries tap into MeL’s resources, allowing individuals to access resources online at any time.
“Though it’s based entirely online, MeL has all of the components of a traditional brick and mortar library,” explained Deb Renee Biggs, outreach coordinator at the Library of Michigan. “Many of MeL’s resources are incredibly valuable to entrepreneurs and small business owners.”
Building and growing a successful small business requires a great deal of specialized data and market research. MeL has many different portals, including one designed specifically for businesses. The business portal features pre-paid subscription resources like Demographics Now, Business Insights Global and Business Decision.
Demographics Now allows individuals to access demographics reports on any geography including income, race, age, education, retail spending, consumer expenditures and more. It also offers a people and business search that can be used to create mailing lists and sales leads.
Business Insights Global offers international research tools and educational material organized by country, company and industry. This content includes case studies, statistical data sources, academic articles, news articles and other topical information. This tool can be incredibly useful to businesses looking to expand internationally.
Business Decision provides users with business-to-consumer market data. Entrepreneurs who use Business Decision can analyze company profiles, product/brand information, investment reports and market share data. This information can help businesses refine their product and better penetrate the consumer marketplace.
These are just a few of the tools available through MeL. Though they’re incredibly powerful, they can sometimes seem overwhelming to first-time users. MeL regularly offers webinars to teach individuals how to use the tools and databases. Additionally, most public libraries have business librarians on staff. Business librarians can teach small business owners and entrepreneurs how to use MeL’s tools and ensure that they’re using the right databases for their needs.
Whether you’re looking to generate sales leads, write a business plan or explore new markets, don’t forget about the resources available through the Library of Michigan and check out some of the business tools available to you!