Duke Street Business Library 1

Business librarian Heather Sharpe uses the Lancaster Public Library's free business database service, which was restored Friday through donations.

The Duke Street Business Center is once again operating with a full arsenal of business databases at its disposal.

The Lancaster Public Library, 125 N. Duke St., was forced to eliminate its heavily used database collection after the Library System of Lancaster County cut funding for the service in December 2013.

Those services were restored Friday through donations.

“The system is up,” business librarian Heather Sharpe said Friday. “The databases are on our website now.”

However, she noted, the donations will fund the program only for 2015; the library is faced with finding a new source of funding by the end of this calendar year, or else the service will be discontinued again.

“That’s the situation. This is just a solution for this year,” Sharpe said. “It’s an ongoing issue — we need to look for funding each year if we want these services to continue.”

Sharpe said the majority of contributions, totaling nearly $70,000, came from the Forest Path Foundation, several local businesses, and individual donors A. Lucille Meissner and local Jeopardy winner Brad Rutter.

The business center offers library patrons free on-site access to the databases. Most are also available for remote access from a patron’s home computer.

The databases can be used for creating business plans and conducting market research, Sharpe explained, as well as exploring customer demographics, industry trends and specifics on competitors in the field.

“Often, we are the first place people will stop if they want to start a business,” she said.

The menu of database offerings is slightly different than it was before, Sharpe said. Over the past year, she said, the library staff reevaluated the collection and prioritized the most useful resources, weeding out some that were rarely used and replacing them with new, more helpful selections.

Tom Burgum, vice president of client services for SCORE Lancaster-Lebanon, said the center “is a critical resource for economic development in Lancaster County. The expertise of the staff and the assortment of information resources are important contributors to the success of emerging and existing entrepreneurs.”

SCORE, a nonprofit agency that offers mentoring, business education workshops and roundtables to support the creation and growth of local small businesses, refers hundreds of clients each year to the Duke Street center, Burgum said. SCORE clients use the center for market research, business planning assistance, financial guides and competitive assessments.

Since opening in 2006, the business center has had more than 20,000 visitors, about 5,000 of whom received personalized assistance with their business or nonprofit, Sharpe said.

Now, she said, the library is tasked with finding the means to keep the database service from expiring at the end of the year.

“I encourage the library system to look at the resources that are important to the public,” she said.

Director of development Jennifer Wiggin said she hopes the system restores the business budget. If not, she said, “we will be approaching businesses, foundations and individuals to continue to step up.

“We want these services to be available to the public,” Wiggin said. “Providing funding for these has never been part of our operating budget. We have gone above and beyond to restore them, but it wasn’t easy to do.”

System administrator Bill Hudson said last year that the business services were deleted from the budget at the request of the system’s various member libraries in an effort to cut costs.

“We were just listening to the membership,” he said then. “The membership was saying they wanted to spend more money on the core services, such as IT and cataloging.”

Brandon Danz, president of the system board, said Friday he is pleased the city library was able to restore the databases.

“It’s outstanding that they were able to find donors to fund that important service,” he said. “That cut was not an easy one to make.”

He said the system will consider revisiting the funding issue if its own fundraising ventures are successful.

Visit lancaster.lib.pa.us/DSBC or call 717-394-2651, ext. 131, for more information on the business library.

What to Read Next