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About the Business Providers Directory

Business Research Project

          The Library of Congress established the Business Research Project in 1993 with a generous gift from the Edward Lowe Foundation. The Project's mission was to stimulate productivity, innovation, and entrepreneurship in the United States by creating and distributing better tools for studying business, with emphasis on the needs of small and start-up businesses. To accomplish this mission, the Project administered a wide variety of programs in conjunction with divisions throughout the Library of Congress, building on the Library's long tradition of leadership in the development and dissemination of information tools.

History and Purpose of the Survey

          In the late spring of 1994, the Library of Congress Business Research Project conducted a small, nationwide sampling of nonprofit* business information providers in order to identify peer-recommended low or no cost information services available to the small business community.

          {*For the survey, nonprofit was defined as "not conducted or maintained for the purpose of making a profit." Thus, federal, state, and local government agencies and their affiliates were included. Think tanks and trade associations were also to be construed as nonprofit organizations. Banks, lending institutions, and consulting firms and consultants, however, were considered "for profit" institutions.}

The goal of the survey was two-fold:

  1. to compile a first draft Project database of nonprofit organizations involved in the delivery of business information, particularly those services known for their quality, innovation, and creativity, as informally identified by specialists in the field of small business assistance and by such organizations themselves; and,
  2. to make such a preliminary compilation widely available for comment, revision and additions.

          Without a better sense of the potential need for, and uses of, a comprehensive directory of nonprofit business information providers, the Business Research Project felt that it could not commit its limited resources to building and permanently maintaining such a directory.

          Accordingly, the Project has proceeded to compile a more modest, non-scientific sampling of organizations known for innovative and quality service to small businesses. The results of this survey follow. Comments, suggestions and revisions are welcome, and should be addressed to the Bibliographic Enrichment Advisory Team or the business reference staff.

The Project is particularly interested in knowing whether this draft directory:

  1. is useful to provider organizations in identifying potential models or partners within and between states;
  2. is useful to reference librarians and business counselors in making referrals;
  3. should be developed as a volume of "best practices" in the field, with extended profiles of innovative service organizations; and/or,
  4. should be developed into a comprehensive directory of all non- profit organizations in the field.

Method

          In the course of the survey, the Business Research Project contacted 342 providers of business information and assistance from all fifty states. Staff of the Project compiled the original list of providers, and several business specialists reviewed and augmented it. The list included state headquarters of the SBA, SBDC, and SCORE offices, major state and local libraries, major university libraries, private libraries with open access, state chamber of commerce headquarters, and some private sector business organizations providing free or inexpensive business services.

Phase I

          The Project sent each of the 342 organizations a background letter explaining the survey and stating that a Project staff member would contact the organization in the near future to ask the following two questions:

  1. What are the names of nonprofit service organizations in your state that, in your judgment, do an outstanding job of providing information and other assistance to those trying to start or run a small business?
    and,
  2. In what ways are their services new or innovative, or otherwise outstanding?

          Answers to the second question added approximately seventy additional providers to the original list. Each mention of an organization in an answer was tabulated. Of the 342 organizations contacted in Phase I of the survey, 223 responded to the follow-up telephone survey questions.

Phase II

          Based on the results of Phase I, the Project identified seventy-seven organizations from twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia for inclusion in Phase II. The number of times an organization was mentioned as providing outstanding service, combined with geographic spread, determined which organizations became part of Phase II. As many states as possible are represented.

          Phase II consisted of another, lengthier telephone survey during which the Project compiled the following information on each organization:

  • NAME
  • ADDRESS
  • CONTACT PERSON'S NAME
  • TELEPHONE NUMBER
  • FAX NUMBER
  • INTERNET ADDRESS
  • SELF-DESCRIPTION
  • INFORMATION SERVICES
  • AREAS OF INTEREST
  • HOLDINGS
  • LIMITATIONS OF SERVICE
  • PUBLICATIONS
  • SOURCES OF FUNDING
  • NUMBER OF STAFF
  • FOUNDING DATE
  • CLIENTELE
  • GEOGRAPHIC SERVICE AREA
  • IMPACT ON REGION

          Project staff collected detailed responses by telephone and fax, with all results entered into a contact management software program (ACT!).

Content of the Directory

          The original directory consisted of the sixty-six entries compiled through the Phase II telephone survey. Eleven organizations did not supply the necessary information for inclusion in the directory. Each of the sixty-six organizations originally selected by the Business Research Project was contacted by the staff of the Business Reference Service in 2001, and asked to update its profile for this listing. Entries for organizations for which there was no response carry the notation "Entry from the 1994 edition." To the original listings, we have also added contact information for the lead Small Business Development Center in each state. The entries are listed alphabetically by state and organization name, with the exception of the lead Small Business Development Center office, which in each case, is the first listing under each state.

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  November 9, 2010
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