What will become of the Library?

By | May 21, 2014

Slate magazine published an article by this title drawing the conclusion that libraries will be without books and it’s inevitable. Well, that may be but the present presents me with an opportunity to help public libraries everywhere make money and stay relevant.

We’ll get to the product in a bit, first, let me tell you a story. While starting my journey to a product, I need contact information of businesses across America. Contact information so that I’d reach out to businesses and find problems they face.

This is all done methodically. Pick a niche, reach out to businessmen in the niche, establish rapport and find what ailes their businesses. Then validate the problem with others in the niche. In the last 6 months I’ve tested three different niches of interest to me and not finding anthing viaable I turn to a fourth niche quite by accident.

Accidents have silver linings and this is the case here. At my local public library I’ve been speaking with the director, Cab Vinton, quite a bit and he’s been bending my ears talking about problems. Funny, I wanted to help but didn’t think about his problem in the library as viable products.

Let me go back just a bit further to the beginning.

About six months ago a fellow I know and whom I respect told me and a group of entrepreneurs I belong to that an online database called ReferenceUSA obtained through the local library is a great source of business information. So, I reached out to the library, found out the new director’s name, Cab Vinton, and made an appointment to meet him. I found from Cab that we didn’t have this database nor any like it.


It costs money and there’s been no interest in it.

Well, I have an interest in it and I expressed as much to Cab. No sooner had I mentioned this him than he obtained a trial subscription to ReferenceUSA and another database called AToZDatabases which I never heard of.

I looked into ReferenceUSA and found that my hope for this source of information was not as my friend suggested. But, AToZDatabases was a different story. Very different. During the trial period I harvested a sample list of prospects and reached out to those people. I found that the list I compiled from AToZDatabases was about 80%. This is not as good as some other sources yet remarkably good when you stop and realize this is obtained from your library for the price of your library card. Very good indeed.

The cost of AToZDatabases is just less than $1000/year so how to get it at my local library? This question formed the basis to start working with Cab. He’d have to scrounge for the funds to get it and to what avail? Only I expressed interest in it and providing it just for me is not good use of the funds. I can see that and whole heartedly agree.

I quickly suggested to Cab that I’ll help raise money from the business community here in Plaistow to fund a subscription. At the same time I knew that raising the money from local businesses, like a donation to the library, is not what I wanted. I wanted businessmen to use the database to improve their lot in life. Have a real vested interest, not an altruistic interest.

My next thought was create a webinar program to sell businessmen on the idea and show them how to use the database for their own advantage. A short training session. Actionable ideas. If I got 40 people on the webinar and half of them, 20, wanted to try and use the database and the ideas I’d share each could contribute $50 to the project at the library. One thousand dollars and 20 businessmen interested in using this resource. Not charitable contributions, rather, contributions to their own businesses.

This idea was left to spoil as neither of us made much effort immediately to continue with it. I checked with a neighboring library, the Salem library, and they had the databases. I could pay for a library card ($60) and get full use of the library and databases. So I did.

But this did not stop my desire to have the resource in our library and the businessmen profit from it. I like the idea of our businessmen contributing and most importantly using resources of the library. It’s good for the community and good for me and good for them too (I hope).

For a few weeks now, Cab and I have been meeting once a week to discuss, plan and eventually execute a webinar to gain sponsorship for the database in our library.

As I’ve been talking to Cab his interest in sharing problems of the library have been shared. While I originally did not think much of what ideas he had from a business point of view I do now.

And this brings me to the zenith of this story.He had to literally say to me a week ago, “You know, there’s a problem all libraries have. If you solve it we’d all take it”. Well, that was plain enough even for thick-headed me. He shared an important problem with me. Libraries need funds, they get donations in the form of books, CD, DVDs and more and what they cannot use they sell. The sell at fire-sale prices. This is the opportunity. Let me explain.

When for instance book donations come in, 300 books or more a month, every so often a book is worth a good  bit more than the bottom of the barrel price they’d charge at their book sale. Perhaps 10% of the books are gems in the rough. But how to determine the worth and what to do about it to see the hidden profit?

They could research books prices on Amazon.com.

They could sell these books on Amazon.com.

But at what price? The time the staff has to take to price ALL the books to find the gems. The time it takes to place the books for sale. The time it takes to reprice books if others are being sold that compete to severely. The time it takes to do all the work. Think 10 minutes per book whether the book is worth selling on Amazon or not.

Enter my solution to this need. Software determining the right price for the book based on it’s condition and competing books. Software taking just two scans of the bar code reader at the library to place the book for sale on Amazon. Software providing reports showing the library director how well their sales are, how much profit this software is delivering and more.

The product is Fastrax. More on this soon.

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