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Chamber of Commerce

August 18, 2003

One devil’s advocate asked me if there was really any point to the library joining the Salida Chamber of Commerce.

After all, virtually every chamber member pays some kind of property tax to the library district. Mightn’t they prefer it go for books?

I suppose some might, but our membership fee is not simply a tax rebate. We’ve joined an association of mutually interested parties — most of them businesses, but also including individuals, nonprofit associations, and government bodies.

Some advertising for the library might result from the listing, but that is not our intent. We want to serve our community as fully as possible, and businesses are part of our community.

Not just businesswoman and men, mind you, but “businesses.” Certainly, many business people hold library cards, but do they think of the library as a potential conduit for the knowledge they need at work?

Chamber membership is simply one connection to the local realm of commerce.

The library is a cultural and educational asset for our community, and it is often a selling point for new residents, but part of the library’s value is in it’s connection to a larger infrastructure providing access to the world’s knowledge.

Our community is a small pond greatly affected by the vagaries of the economic weather. If the library can help local entrepreneurs effectively cast into larger ponds around the world, we would be pleased.

The library’s new ability to provide its databases through your Internet at home or office makes them much more convenient to use.

When we added the genealogy database HeritageQuest to our list, it seemed as if hundreds of people came in to add PINs to their library card records so that they could be authorized to use it at home.

Now we also offer a comprehensive directory of businesses and residences in the U.S. and Canada called ReferenceUSA. Any individual might find it useful, but it’s a valuable business tool because its powerful search ability can generate marketing lists.

Some local businesses have probably purchased lists from the company that maintains this database — InfoUSA — which is still happy to provide this service, of course. But now you can make your own lists, if you’re so inclined, and download them for sorting on your own, at no charge.

The business directory includes 12 million American and Canadian businesses, searchable by such traits as Yellow Page Category, SIC number, zip code, city, MSA, etc. The information includes contact information, sales, number of employees, and more.

The residential directory has 120 million American and Canadian households and includes such census data as median household income and median home value.

Downloading is restricted: 25 records per download from within the library, and 10 from home. However, it’s easy to redo the search and download the next 10 and so on to collect a larger list.

This is a compromise that protects the company’s data. This limitation maintains functionality while it discourages theft. Yes, theft: Early on, someone downloaded millions of records and then sold the data as his own.

The ability to generate lists out of this data makes it useful for innumerable projects: job hunting, mailing lists for fundraising, more precise business-to-business marketing, marketing your business to the general public.

Feel free to try it and ask us questions. Meanwhile, we’ll be learning to use our new digital video projector, with which we will provide some live training in the use of these tools.


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