Surprising business intelligence from your library

Your library is hiding some surprising business intelligence, or at least, I was surprised.

At the Michigan Small Town Conference, I sat in on the session on economic gardening. The librarians presenting the session talked about all the cool databases of information they have access to, that the general public does not. And how useful this was in generating business intelligence for the small businesses in the economic gardening program. How they could access market information, data on competitors, and more.

WHAT? Information I can’t get at?? It can’t exist. Can it? 

Well, yes. It does. It’s in databases you have to pay to access. Business databases, health-related databases, newspapers, legal information. In a world where we are used to all free information all the time, we forget that private companies have done the work of compiling useful, targeted information into massive databases, and they make money by charging for access. 

Your library, or its state system, paid for the access rights to some of them. If you’re lucky, you can access these databases straight from your local library. If you’re really lucky, and you live in Oklahoma, you can get permission to access these databases from your own location.

In Oklahoma, the project is called Digital Prairie. Through it, you can access EBSCO Host, an astonishing resource of full-text articles from all sorts of business journals, and more specialty publications than you could possibly need. I am just floored by the breadth and depth of information available. So far, I’ve used it to find examples of comparable businesses and to look up scholarly articles on business planning.

Okies, take yourself to the public library right now, and ask about it. You may have to persist, because I don’t think it gets much use by the public. You might want to print out this page from the Digital Prairie site, the one where it says, “To use EBSCOhost from a home or office computer, obtain a special login and password from your local librarian.”

If you are from somewhere besides Oklahoma, tell me what surprising resources you have at your local libraries. 

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