Would your business benefit from a trip to the library?

Posted on: 19 February 2014

Libraries aren’t just about books.

Is free information enough?

For businesses, it’s possible to get information equivalent to a thousand books by reading blogs, online articles, Twitter feeds and even watching videos on YouTube. All of which are free.

But what if you want to read specific content that is relevant to a particular topic, and you want something that is:

  1. bound into a neat volume with a contents page and an index
  2. easy to physically flick through
  3. written by a professionally published author whose views and opinions are supported by 1000s of book sales?

With so much free information readily available, many SME business owners decide that paying for that volume goes against the grain. But they forget that there’s a reason business owners buy certain books: because you can’t get them free online and they’re really worth reading.

Books don’t have to cost money

The problem is that too many of us forget that you don’t have to buy a book to read it. In the UK you’ve been able to read books in public libraries since 1425. Business needs might have changed somewhat since then, but so have the libraries.

Once you’ve read or borrowed the volume you’re looking for, before you walk out of that library door consider what else you might be able to get from your library for free.

Libraries are more than just books

Most of us know that libraries are now much more than just houses for books. They’ve diversified into CDs, videos, publications, events and places to meet people. But you may not know that several UK cities now benefit from libraries boasting a plethora of business-related resources. Many of which would cost much more than the latest hardback to access from home.

For example, City Business Library in central London offers free resources and events for people starting up and managing a business. Electronic and paper versions of resources that you have to pay for if accessing them from home, like the Economist Intelligence Unit and Euromonitor, are available free of charge.

The Library of Birmingham is another good example of where to access Business and Learning databases as part of your library membership. You can read the past three weeks’ edition of the Financial Times, access business start-up factsheets from COBRA, and even access Mint UK, again all for free.

Get your business into a library

Saturday 8 February was National Libraries Day. It rounded off a week of activity across many of the UK’s 4,000 libraries that aimed to promote the presence, value and benefits of your local library.

What National Libraries Day failed to promote was the value of libraries to small business owners. Not only through their access to otherwise costly business resources, but the good ol’ fashioned book.

Because the truly excellent authors, with truly valuable things to say, don’t give their intellectual property away for free. Their words are so sought after that they can charge for them. And your library is likely to have a copy, or at least be able to get you one – and you guessed it - for free.

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