The number of people visiting public libraries may have fallen significantly, however, a 2014 YouGov poll found that 51 per cent of the UK population had a current library card and 47 per cent had used it in the previous 12 months.
You might think the internet is helping to kill public libraries, but Roly Keating, chief executive of the British Library disagrees. As reported by The Telegraph in January, he believes “computers, smart phones and social media [pose] no threat to the traditional library”, instead they encourage people to visit the British Library, which enjoyed a 10 per cent increase in visitor numbers in 2014 (1.6 million visitors compared to 1,465,318 in 2013).
It’s not hard to understand why so many people flock to the British Library. Located on Euston Road between two of London’s major railway stations, Euston and St Pancras, the UK’s national library opened in its fantastic new home in 1998 (although its origins date back to 1753). It houses more than 150 million items (source: The British Library), with three million items added every year (including a copy of every publication produced in the UK and Ireland).
The world’s earliest printed book, Diamond Sutra, is sometimes on display, while other treasures include Magna Carta, the Lindisfarne Gospels, Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook, two Gutenberg Bibles printed in the 1450s, The Times first edition from 1788, various original Beatles song-related manuscripts, as well as 60 million patents, four million maps, eight million stamps and more than 260,000 journal titles. The British Library has more than 625 km of shelves and more than 16,000 people use its collections each day (on site and online).
Many business owners use the British Library. Its Business & IP Centre was launched in 2006 “to support businesses, entrepreneurs and inventors [to] grow their organisations.” It provides small-business advice, support and resources and has so far been used by more than 350,000 business people. According to the British Library: “Many entrepreneurs have benefitted from the Business & IP Centre’s collections, workshops, events and advice sessions.
“The Centre offers free access to the UK’s most comprehensive collection of business and intellectual property databases and publications, including general startup advice, information on funding sources, market research, company data, business news and information on patents, trade marks, registered designs and copyright.”
Once you’ve registered to get your Reader Pass there’s no charge to use the Business & IP Centre and you can book online to attend workshops and events. It’s also a designated PATLIB UK centre, part of a Europe-wide network of patent information centres (find others in the UK), while ambitious London-based micro firms might be able to join the centre’s Innovating for Growth programme.
If you’re based in the South East or travel to London for meetings, why not call into the British Library Business & IP Centre next time you’re in town? Alternatively, locate your local public library (Scotland and Wales have their own national libraries, of course) and find out how it can help your business.