Whether you're starting a business or struggling to keep one afloat, using free resources at the Pima County Public Library can save you time and money.

Here are some of the free tools librarians wish more local small businesses knew about:

A to Z Directory database

What it is: A nationwide directory that generates lists of potential customers, contacts or competitors

Where it is: Use it at any library branch; use it on the library website; or download an app. Click on Business Databases at www.library.pima.gov/research/business

The library staff can show you the basics, or you can watch training videos online.

How it helps: Some ideas are to figure out the local demand for your product or service, create a custom list of potential customers in a given neighborhood, develop business-to-business contacts, or find a good location based on where competitors are located.

"People will say, 'Gosh, I wish I knew this at the beginning,' " said librarian supervisor Tom Farmer.

Business-Plans Handbook

What it is: Hundreds of sample business plans, based on real, successful plans.

Where it is: Use it at any library branch or click on Business Plans at www.library.pima.gov/research/business

How it helps: You can use the plans as models for your own plan when you're trying to get financing. Follow the formatting and fill in your own details. Find flaws in your own plan.

"Finding that out by doing research first is better than flailing and finding out the hard way," said librarian Deborah Brown.

Business startup page

What it is: A carefully curated set of links.

How it helps: Sometimes less is more when it comes to starting a business, Brown said. These links point you to accurate information on business basics, business plans, industry research, franchising and legal matters without hours of search-engine work.


What it is: An information hotline

Where it is: Call 791-4010

How it helps: Ask 'em anything. The library staff knows where to find answers, so you save time. "We're expert at finding information," Farmer said.

Information Power workshops

What it is: A monthly workshop about market research

Where it is: The next one is at 10:15 a.m. Saturday at the Main Library, 101 N. Stone Ave. Another is planned for Oct. 27. Call 791-4010 to register.

How it helps: Library staff members show you how to use research tools to spot industry trends, analyze market demand and find potential customers.

Catalyst CafE

What it is: A monthly tech talk

Where it is: 5:30 p.m. the second Tuesday of the month at the Main Library, 101 N. Stone Ave. Upcoming topics include Pinterest, online marketing and fundraising.

How it helps: Learn about new technology or social media, brush up on some tech skills, or connect with other businesses and nonprofits.

Office or meeting space

What it is: Wi-Fi and computer access, and meeting rooms with reservations

Where it is: All branches have places to use a computer - yours or theirs. You can reserve a meeting room, such as one of four conference rooms at the Main Library, by calling your branch.

How it helps: Gives you an office away from home or on a different side of town, or a place to meet with your team or meet clients.

Contact reporter Becky Pallack at bpallack@azstarnet.com or 573-4346. On Twitter @BeckyPallack.