FORT COLLINS — A 10-year-old service of the Poudre River Public Library District is seeing a spike in activity as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Distressed businesses, businesses looking to cut costs or those trying to reach more customers are all availing themselves of services of the business library — a free service in which a trained business librarian helps patrons find data that might help them survive the pandemic.
“I had a client who got laid off as a chef,” said Matt West, the former Thompson School District teacher who is now the business librarian at Poudre. The chef, despite knowing how difficult running a restaurant can be right now, wanted to start his own eatery.
West provided numerous services. “I first sent him a heat map,” he said. A heat map details where competitors are located. Then he provided industry reports to help the client write a business plan and prepare himself to apply for bank financing.
He tapped databases to find overviews of industries and trends that apply. “I like to err on the side of giving more information rather than less,” West said.
He looked at information relating to curbside delivery of food — an operating tactic many if not most restaurants are using when they can’t have inside dining.
West helped find potential customer lists sorted by geographic household so that the individual could use the list to create a mailing list for advertising.
Other types of businesses might want to have similar lists sorted by interest areas. A bike store, for example, would want to filter its potential customer list by people with interests in biking or outdoor recreation.
And West sifts through resources that might be available and often directs people to the Small Business Administration or the Small Business Development Center, where West received training himself. The SBDC office in Fort Collins is next door to the Poudre library on the campus of Front Range Community College.
West said people wanting to start businesses are among his current client base, but one hot spot he’s noticed involves businesses whose leases are expiring.
“Some businesses are looking to reduce square footage so are looking for new locations. Heat maps showing their competitors are important to those decisions,” he said.
West said he has access to online classes for people in business or those who want to start businesses. “It’s all free with a library card,” he said.
“Free” is an important consideration for many small businesses. Those that can’t afford to pay for business research can find help from the business librarian. “It’s all about equity and inclusion; it’s available to people who can’t afford to pay for research,” he said.
Services are available to all demographics, he said, even those who don’t speak English as their primary language. A nonprofit specialist at the library helps nonprofit organizations find resources such as grants, and a careers librarian expects to be busy in 2021 as recovery from the pandemic is expected to occur.
West serves with area economic developers, county and city officials and others as they meet weekly to brainstorm how to meet the needs of businesses under stress. “We use the strengths of each other and try not to duplicate what others are doing,” he said.
To use the services of the Poudre River business librarian:
- Call 970-221-6740 and ask for business help.
- Get a library card in order to access library databases from home.
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Go to www.poudrelibraries.org and navigate to “resources” where there’s a link to business resources.
The Longmont Public Library does not have a designated business librarian but does have business resources available at https://www.longmontcolorado.gov/departments/departments-e-m/library/eresearch/business-resources.
The High Plains Library District headquartered in Greeley also does not have a designated business librarian but other librarians are willing to help. Call 970-506-8610.
The Boulder Public Library has business resources available at https://research.boulderlibrary.org//business.
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