Who Needs Business School? The Hidden Startup Resources At Your Local Library

Maybe you haven't stepped foot in a library since high school, but the internet doesn't have all the answers. New survey data shows that libraries are good for entrepreneurs. Here's what you've been missing.

Even with a world of information in our pockets, studies show that libraries are an indispensable resource for communities--especially for people looking to start a business.

According to an article by the Freelancers Union, which draws on survey data from South Carolina public libraries, those mainstay institutions are more than moody backdrops in adventure films. Libraries are great for entrepreneurs and economic growth. Here's why you should dust off that library card for startup success:

They give a template for good practices

You don’t have to start from scratch: Sample business plans, examples of employee policies, and community databases with information on demographics are just some of the resources available for free at libraries. Researching the regional and national trends gets a lot easier when the library has your footwork done for you.

They stimulate new business growth

Of those surveyed, 38% believed libraries help attract new businesses to the community, and even more agreed that they attract patronage to keep those businesses alive.

They serve as community hubs of activity

When you’re still arguing over what the company should be named, a physical workplace may be a bridge to cross when you come to it. Many public libraries offer meeting rooms and workspaces--giving startup teams a place to gather other than their nearest coffee shop. Repaying them with word-of-mouth support is always appreciated--and a generous donation when that conference room helps birth a billion dollar idea.

They help close the entrepreneurial gap

In 2010, the Free Library of Philadelphia estimated that their services valued nearly $4 million, from workforce programs to computer usage. Forty-one percent of library patrons who use it for their business said that not having a local library would negatively impact their company; 33% said it would have a “major negative impact on their business.”

Arguably the most valuable aspect of libraries are their role in leveling the playing field. Public libraries offer a world of Internet resources for lower income adults, older individuals, and the unemployed--portions of the population that would otherwise miss out on opportunities Silicon Valley trust-funders take for granted. Small and rural libraries make up 80% of libraries in the system, where the economy recovers slowly. There’s also the Digital Public Library, and most local libraries offer e-books--not to be outpaced by technology.

Hat tip: Freelancers Union, American Libraries Magazine

[Image: Flickr user Loughborough University Library]

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