O Negócio das Bibliotecas

Encontrei este artigo no The Wall Street Journal Online e mais uma vez fiquei com a sensação de que por cá a sociedade ainda não se apercebeu das capacidades, importância e potencial das bibliotecas (e aqui espaço para os centros de documentos e arquivos, se bem que e menos escala) e dos seus profissionais.
Recentemente alguém referia um outro artigo publicado na Revista UNICA do jornal Expresso de 17 de Junho de 2006, onde se chamava a atenção para uma nova área de trabalho que está a passar totalmente ao nosso lado - o crowdsourcing - e para a qual nós temos os conhecimento, as técnicas, os métodos e as ferramentas necessárias. Se encontrar este artigo ainda faço um post sobre isto!

Deixo aqui o artigo publico no Wall Street Journal sobre como as bibliotecas podem ser uma boa fonte de recursos para os pequenos negócios ou empresas. Basicamente este artigo mostra as possibilidades e as potencialidades das bibliotecas enquanto locais de acesso à informação e ao conhecimento.
É caso para dizer: se as bibliotecas podem fazer isto pelas empresas, imagine-se o que podem fazer pelo cidadão comum!!!!

Libraries Offer Resources for Small Businesses

By Tara Seigel Bernard

Where can entrepreneurs find office space, a research assistant, mentors and access to reams of market research -- all free of charge?

They might try the local library.

In an age where Google has become a verb and entrepreneurs have easy access to information from their home computers, libraries have been trying to evolve as well. Some have seemingly become small-business incubators in their own right: places where cash-strapped start-ups and established business owners alike can gather sophisticated information on a target market, draw up a business plan, bounce an idea off a seasoned executive, or perhaps, even find funding or build a Web site.

"When you think about Google, the term that is used in library circles, is the 'good enough' search," says David Hanson, business and specialty reference services coordinator with the Johnson County Library in Overland Park, Kan. "But when you are putting together a business plan," he says, "you need demographic information or marketing information, and it matters where you get your information. Good enough isn't good enough for you. That's where libraries can help."

Denise Upah Mills, an entrepreneur who keeps her local Johnson County Library on speed dial, camped out there for nearly eight months while crafting a business plan.

She was convinced there was a need for a rural high-speed Internet service -- it was 1999, still the early days in terms of the high-speed Web -- but didn't know the first thing about broadband. So, with the business librarians' help, she and her partners tapped databases and other resources for statistical data, demographics of Midwestern cities, and articles on trends in the telecommunications industry.

"The librarians there became our market-research department," says Ms. Upah Mills. "They became part of our unpaid staff and truly were invaluable. We wrote a business plan that was so complete and detailed that it impressed people that look at business plans all day long. That data was [all culled at] the library. And we paid zero for it."

A small investment-banking firm found investors for them, and, in 2001, they sold the company, Invisiband, for a "comfortable sum," she says. After closing the deal, she and her partners met in the library parking lot to celebrate.

While resources will vary across institutions, most libraries subscribe to a number of commercial databases, which can cost thousands of dollars a year. For instance, ReferenceUSA, a database with information on millions of businesses and households, coupled with census data and a lifestyle database, can make a powerful market-research tool. Entrepreneurs can find, for example, how many pet stores are in Brooklyn, N.Y., where they're located, residents' income levels, and whether they tend to own dogs.

One entrepreneur, who created a motorcycle-detailing kit, used a database of manufacturers to find motorcycle dealerships he wanted to target; then, he looked up their credit ratings, and created a mailing list targeting only those with the best scores.

"Putting that kind of information together can help people make more knowledgeable decisions," says Susan Phillis, director of the Brooklyn Public Library's Business Library.

Library patrons also have remote access to materials -- including a limited number of databases -- from their library Web sites. In fact, many list links to other sites and directories they have vetted and found particularly useful.

Many libraries are trying to attract entrepreneurs by adding classes and networking opportunities geared to the small-business person, as well as partnering with more local economic-development agencies and organizations like Score, a volunteer group of retired executives that meet with and counsel entrepreneurs. In fact, some Score executives also offer seminars, such as how to use QuickBooks, or the basics on franchising, adds Leslie Burger, president of the American Library Association.

A few years back, George Constantinou, then an aspiring restaurateur, attended the Brooklyn Business Library's entrepreneurial fair and learned about the library's annual business-plan competition. Sponsored by Citigroup Foundation, entrants attend classes on topics like creating a business plan, budgeting and marketing and then submit a plan. In late 2003, Mr. Constantinou and his partner, Farid Ali, who spent hours at the library mining databases, took home the top prize: $10,000 in cash and $10,000 in services.

"It was a great experience for us,'' says Mr. Constantinou, whose Brooklyn restaurant, Bogota Latin Bistro, is flourishing. "The library was really a one-stop shop for me to do research and write my business plan."

Since opening its doors 10 years ago, the Science, Industry and Business Library, or SIBL, part of the New York Public Library in Manhattan, says it has trained 64,000 people through its 20 free classes, where topics range from patents and trademarks to creating customized lists.

"Increasingly, what [libraries are] doing...is not only putting people in touch with information on the Web or information that is in books, but they're bringing experts to talk face-to-face with people," says Kristin McDonough, director of SIBL.

In The Wall Street Journal Online 30-08-2006

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