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3 Research Tools for Entrepreneurs Available at your Local Library

“Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination. They open up windows to the world and inspire us to explore and achieve, and contribute to improving our quality of life.”

–Sidney Sheldon

Let’s be honest, if Library Day was your favorite day in elementary school, then your childhood never experienced a dull moment. From book fairs, reading time on the carpet with your librarian, and competing with classmates in gaining Accelerated Reading (AR) points, the Library was THE hotspot for creating imaginative and creatively brilliant minds. Even our friend, from PBS kids’ hit-show, Arthur had us hype singing and dancing to get us to visit our school andlocal  libraries.


world-without-internet-gifs-libraryPhoto courtesy: Giphy and Teen

But somewhere along the way, a lot of us grew up; our lives became busy. The library’s magic soon faded away and became a a place where we dreaded. It became our inhabited home to forcibly remove social distractions to just get by in school. We then lost our sense of need for the library. To keep our youthful spirits alive, we only recollect that it’s a house full of books we’re too busy to read and a place for us to be silence for a short time.

Oh, but there’s good news! With the digital age rising, local and university libraries, primarily in metropolitan areas, have begun to step up their game and have reignited their magic to provide a necessity for your life as a college student and entrepreneur. Here I will share with you 3 incredible resources (in no particular order) that will assist you in growing your business to success through the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library** system that others may not typically be knowledge of or have access to:

1) SimplyMap

“SimplyMap is a web-based mapping application that enables you to quickly create professional-quality thematic maps and reports using powerful demographic, business, and marketing data. SimplyMap turns complex data into valuable information that is easily accessed through an innovative and user-friendly interface.”  -CMLibrary

What I like most about SimplyMap is how interactive this database is and the multitude of information you can receive. For example, from the search settings you set you are able to get an in-depth market analysis from viewing various demographics (in a more visually interesting representation) that will allow you to to get a clearer idea of not only where to advertise your product/service but where people are location-wise that actually buy products/services similar to yours.

2) Lynda.com 

“Lynda.com is an online educational site that includes over 3,000 courses (and over 130,000 videos) in popular fields like web design, web development, IT, education/instruction, media production, and business. 

Courses for all levels cover technical skills, creative techniques, business strategies, and more.  Courses may also include exercise files (practice), closed captioning and text transcripts.  ”  -CML Library

Lynda.com and I have a long history together, back in the days when I was a curious teenager eager to lurk through the world wide web. Through the years, Lynda.com has evolved and has become a Mecca of sorts for online users to improve their skill sets in various areas. Lynda.com also has video training courses on topics such as:

  • Web design for making a landing page or building your website
  • Social media and web publishing tools for Content Management and marketing through such outlets
  • Business and career skills – productivity, marketing, time management to brush up on your professional skill set


  • You can only access course content through the CML lynda.com login page not by directly visiting the lynda.com homepage.
  • CML lynda.com accounts are accessible through mobile and tablet devices using your device’s browser not lynda.com apps.
  • Users will need to create accounts in order to track course progress, create playlists of potential coursework, and keep course notes.

3) Universal Class

“Universal Class is an online education experience offering over 540 courses in all sort of subjects like Entrepreneurship, Home and Garden Care, Computers and Technology, Health and Medicine, Homeschooling, Job Assistance, Law and Legal and many more.”  -CMLibrary

Very similar to the concept of Lynda.com, Universal Class offers a wider variety of free courses for the general public to take. Don’t know what you’re good at or passionate about to start a business? Try a few classes and you”ll just might find it! As a bonus, with certain classes, you can earn certification in selected subjects which will be great to add as traction when pitching to potential investors or donors in the future!

BONUS (for my fellow Smithites): Reference USA

“One of the world’s largest databases of industry and company information, with contact information, sales and employee figures. Searchable by yellow page heading, SIC code, geography, and more.”

Reference USA is an outstanding resource tool offered through the JCSU library. It allows you to check information on key factors average start-ups don’t think about such as:

  • Market Analysis
    • Potential Market (if you are selling to other businesses or if you need residential listings)
    • Competitive Analysis (who else is in the same business and where are they located)
    • Marketing Strategy (sign companies, printers, grand opening mailing addresses, etc.)
  • Operations
    • Location
    • Equipment (check for “used” equipment companies and “wholesalers”)

giphy (6)

You didn’t think that your local library would offer such treasures, did you? Well, these are only a few of the wonderful resources Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library has to offer for all those who own a library card. Don’t worry, I got the hook-up on where to get yours today! Click here to head to the Library card information page on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg library site and fill out the application form online! If you are TOO excited and want your card right away, you can just head over to the nearest branch (Main branch in Uptown and Beatties Ford branch) to apply in person and get your card immediately. Be sure to bring a photo ID with your current address and for non-resident students (anywhere outside of Charlotte-Mecklenburg) bring your JCSU student ID too!

Once again, the library is here to come through and remains the real MVP! Remember to give back to your local library when your business takes off!

Let me know, I’d love to hear about it! Follow me on Twitter @MeganDeniece_

Megan McLean: This is my HBCU

Megan McLean, CEO, The Learning Tree Tutorial and Enrichment Program and Innovo Scholar is participating in ImpactU, the 10-week undergraduate summer incubator.

Megan McLean is an Innovo Scholar and Johnson C. Smith University sophomore. McLean will incubate her business, The Learning Tree Tutorial and Enrichment Program through the 10-week summer-long ImpactU college incubator program. McLean will share her insights with Smith Institute regularly through her “Lessons Learned” posts.

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