This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

May 14, 2009 - libraries mean business

by Rochelle Logan and Jamie LaRue

A couple of years ago the Douglas County Manager of Economic Development, Meme Martin, met with library representatives to talk about the business databases we buy. She wanted to know if we would consider augmenting those subscription services to support new "economic gardening" efforts at Highlands Ranch and Castle Rock.

Our interest was piqued. We wanted to know more about economic gardening. (It means, in brief, growing the seeds of businesses that are already planted in the local community.)

Libraries exist to serve their communities -- residents and business owners alike. And we're always interested in mutually beneficial partnerships.

Since that meeting in 2007, we purchased thousands of dollars in additional databases and other business materials (journals, books, etc.). Librarians now also attend many meetings of area chambers of commerce and economic development councils.

So these days, library staff are resources for business and economic development groups, speakers at brown bag lunches, researchers for complex questions, and much more.

What does that mean to a local business owner?

Here's an example. Rochelle recently participated in a 5K walk in Douglas County and got into conversation with a woman who owns a small business dealing with hair care. When asked how the business is doing these days, the woman replied that she was just trying to keep ahead of the next customer walking through the door.

She hadn’t written a business plan, or done any marketing or industry trend research. In truth, she really didn't know where to start. When Rochelle told her that public libraries have business services and professional librarians to help her, she was amazed.

Despite the fact that public entities are often told that we should run ourselves more like businesses, the sad truth is this: most businesses don't make it. The ones that do are the ones that do their homework.

And where do smart people go to do their homework? The library.

Let me say that again. The library and its resources just might make the difference between the success or failure of your business.

In this economy, the usual suspects of economic growth -- expanding franchises, big box retailers, etc. -- are slowing down or contracting. There have been many layoffs.

But for a long time, the fastest growing sector of our economy really has been the small office/home office start-up.

The second stage of that business development focuses on "gazelles." These are the businesses that have survived those crucial first years, and are ready for the next step: adding a new employee or two, renting downtown office space.

Realizing the great need for small business help, the library has created a new service. It's called BizInfo: Build Your Business Here.

Librarians at our three regional libraries in Castle Rock, Parker, and Highlands Ranch, have been specially trained to work with entrepreneurs on everything from finding sample business plans, marketing and industry trend research, and competitive analysis.

Where do you begin? It's probably easiest to visit us online. Check out this form:

In addition to the many services we provide to individuals, the library is also more consciously tracking issues that affect the entire county. Economic development is one of them -- clearly of great significance in a recession.

Libraries can - and do - add enormous value to our communities. To that end, we're also investigating hosting, or partnering to host, an "economic summit" -- an opportunity to bring together both business and government players to talk about how we can keep at least our local economy humming. Stay tuned.

Douglas County Libraries: we mean business.

LaRue's Views are his own.

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