On March 31st we visited the City Business Library. This library is run by the City of London Corporation, which is basically the local council of a very old and small central section of London (around Moorgate and the Barbican) which is the centre of London (and often UK) business. The City of London runs three other public libraries: the Barbican Library, the Camomile Street Library and the Guildhall Library. City Business Library is due to move into the Guildhall Library building at the end of this year.
The first thing to know about this library is that it is public in the truest sense of the word. Anyone can walk in off the street and use the library; you don't need to get a card and there are no security checks- quite amazing. It is reference-only and a wonderful tool for those running or setting up their own business, students studying business, or city workers in general. They specialise in "current business information which is intended to be of practical use"- many things they do not keep for more than three or five years. They have information on British and international companies, business around the world, market research, management and finance.
The library's website is very well designed and helpful, with many links to guides about how to find information in the library. The library itself is very clearly laid-out, with colour coding and large direction signs, as well as cards housed amongst the shelves indicating where you can find out more information on a particular subject: a sort of 'if you like this, you'll love this...' tool.
There are frequent free (pre-booking) events run at the library, almost every day in fact. These range from "Tax efficient allowances for the start of the new financial year" to "What is a Self Invested Person Pension (SIPP)?" (Good question!) The library also provides free training sessions for users on how to get the most from the many marketing and business databases it subscribes to.
I particularly enjoyed talking to the librarians on this visit. They are friendly and obviously deeply committed to providing their invaluable service to the public. Whilst the information and technology provided by this library is absolutely current, the service is firmly grounded in the ideals of 'old-fashioned' helpfulnes. A surprisingly inspiring visit.