The Houston Public Library – “The People’s University”


By Mayor Annise D. Parker

Public libraries are often referred to as “the people’s university” and through them people of all ages and stages of life can gain free access to information that can help them improve their business, their skills, succeed in school, connect to the world through technology, or simply find the joy in reading.

The Houston Public Library (HPL), the nation’s seventh largest library in terms of population served, continues this tradition.  There is a wealth of business database resources accessible through the HPL website (  At no cost to the user, these valuable databases provide key information for small business start-up and operational needs including research on markets and trends, material on competitors and potential clients, and business plan samples.

These databases can be accessed by using the computers at any of the library’s 42 locations throughout the city of Houston or via the Internet from your home or office.  You will need a Houston Public Library Card to access these databases on-site or remotely.  Get a free card by completing a library registration form and presenting it along with proof of address at any of their locations.  You don’t have to live within the city of Houston to get an HPL Card.

Whether using an onsite or offsite computer, access the business databases by visiting the HPL home page at  Then click the “Research” tab near the top of the screen.  On the research page, locate the box labeled “Find Information by Category” and select “Business.”  When you select a database link from your home or office, you will be required to enter your last name and library card number to access any of the databases.

There are more than 31 specific databases that can be used to gain information about the business world.  Four databases are particularly helpful to small business entrepreneurs.  To locate information regarding an industry or market trends, consult the Business Source Complete or Factiva databases.  Business Source Complete offers scholarly business journals covering management, economics, finance, accounting, and international business while Factiva presents current data, articles, and news about companies and industries.  For data on consumer demographics, competitors, and potential clients, use ReferenceUSA, which covers over 14 million U.S. businesses.  Finally, to view any of the actual business plans, refer to the Gale Virtual Reference Library.

The HPL is also keenly focused on the possibilities of the future, continually looking for new and creative programs, services, and resources that support individuals, families, and businesses as they seek to better themselves, their neighborhoods, and the larger community.

Last year, the Houston Public Library recorded over 1.1 million computer use sessions of free access to the Internet for things like job searches, school projects, and business research.  In addition, the HPL provided over 10,000 free programs that were attended by approximately 200,000 adults, teens, and younger children.  These programs included bilingual child and family-centered reading programs, online tutoring services, and adult education classes such as Adult Basic Education (ABE), English as a Second Language (ESL), and computer skills training covering a wide variety of software and skill levels.

These programs are especially important given the region’s continuing growth. It is critical that our community continue to produce skilled workers who can fill the jobs created by the local economy and educated citizens who can be leaders in the community through civic organizations, social and religious groups, PTA’s and school boards, and more.

Public funding helps support these important efforts. Yet ongoing success also depends on the partnership between public and private entities.  Even here, the HPL is leading the way.  Through the Toyota Family Learning Grant provided by the National Center for Families Learning, the HPL has joined with Collaborative for Children and other partners to offer a new family-centered program over the next three years at two HPL locations – McCrane-Kashmere Gardens Neighborhood Library and Carnegie Neighborhood Library and Lifelong Learning Center.

Known as “Keeping PACE” (Parents and Children Empowered), the HPL Collaborative for Children with other partners will bring their respective expertise to provide two family mentoring series for families with a focus on economically disadvantaged families.  Keeping PACE is a family learning program that aims to position families for success through comprehensive learning workshops that strengthen the whole family.  The families will be equipped with the knowledge, tools, and resources necessary to achieve real quality of life change for themselves and their community.

I encourage you to visit our “people’s university” either online or in-person.  You will be amazed at the fun, innovative, and educational programs and services available…and they are all free!  Find out more at

Serving since January 2, 2010, Annise D. Parker has been elected as the Mayor of Houston three times.  She is Houston’s 61st Mayor and one of only two women to hold the City’s highest elected office.  For contact information, go to:


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