New findings published today by the British Library reveal that a two-year initiative to run business support services in libraries has attracted more than double the national average of women to start up their own businesses, and triple the number of entrepreneurs from black and Asian minority ethnic backgrounds.
These figures are taken from nearly 1,700 new businesses created over a two-year period as part of the Enterprising Libraries project.
Enterprising Libraries is a £1.3m partnership between the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), Arts Council England (ACE) and the British Library which has enabled 16 public libraries across the UK to provide free access to collections and face-to-face advice and guidance for entrepreneurs on how to start, protect and grow their own business.
Key highlights from the study reveal:
- Between April 2013 and March 2015 the Enterprising Libraries have together created a total of nearly 1,700 new businesses and 4,200 new jobs (predicted to rise to 22,000 jobs by 2017)
- The jobs were predominantly in the creative industries, tech and professional services sectors, and just under a third (29%) were created in libraries in the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ region, including Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Hull, Leeds and Sheffield
- Free business and intellectual property information (85%) was reported as a chief benefit, as well as face-to-face support (82% rated this as important), and the function of the libraries as a ’one stop shop’ for a range of business support needs (48%)
- Of the 1,692 businesses created by Enterprising Libraries, 47% of the founders were women (compared with the national average of 18%), 26% were from black and Asian minority ethnic groups (compared with the national average of 7%), 14% had a disability (including dyslexia) and a quarter had previously been unemployed or made redundant
The British Library has run its own dedicated space to support entrepreneurs, the Business & IP Centre, since 2006.
Enterprising Libraries has enabled the British Library to replicate the Business & IP Centre model in six major cities, plus collaborate with ten further library services around the country to spearhead a business support service in their local areas. The British Library’s ambition, as detailed our recent vision, Living Knowledge, is to expand the Business & IP Centre network to 20 city libraries across the UK by 2020.
The results of the Enterprising Libraries project are testament to the power of collaboration across the library network, and the British Library is considering new ways to connect with public libraries. This includes a proposal, announced today, to work with the Library of Birmingham – already a Business & IP Centre partner – on a special project around the time of the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare in 2016.
Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library, said:
“The findings published today offer hard evidence that libraries have enormous potential to help businesses to innovate and grow, through their ability to link people with vast amounts of information for free, and thanks to their special role as trusted, welcoming spaces in the community.
“As detailed in our vision Living Knowledge, I look forward to working with partners to realise our goal of a UK-wide Business & IP Centre network in city libraries by 2020.”
Kanya King MBE, CEO and founder of the MOBO Organisation and British Library Business & IP Centre Ambassador, said:
“The great thing about libraries is that they are open and accessible to everyone and, as such, I’m not surprised that these Enterprising Libraries have succeeded in attracting such a diverse audience in to use their services. There is so much untapped creative talent among women and ethnic minorities and I’m delighted to see these libraries helping them to turn their ideas into successful businesses.”
 Department for Business Innovation and Skills Small Business Survey 2014
 Department for Business Innovation and Skills Small Business Survey 2014
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Notes to Editors
The economic impact study is developed by Adroit Economics, based on a survey 1,623 respondents conducted in March 2015. The full report is available on request.
To read more about the British Library's vision for the Business & IP Centre national network, read our Living Knowledge strategy.
The 16 Enterprising Libraries are:
The British Library Business & IP Centre network: Library of Birmingham, Leeds Central Library, Liverpool Central Library, Manchester Central Library, Newcastle City Library, Sheffield Central Library
Enterprising Libraries grant projects: Devon libraries, Portsmouth Central Library, Northamptonshire libraries, Norfolk libraries, Hull Central Library, Middlesbrough Central Library, Greater Manchester libraries, Enfield libraries, Haringey libraries, Cultural Community Solutions
The British Library is the national library of the UK and one of the world’s greatest libraries. The Business & IP Centre, based at St Pancras in London, opened in March 2006 with the help of London Development Agency funding. Since then, it has welcomed over 400,000 people through the doors and has an excellent track record in supporting entrepreneurs and SMEs from all walks of life to start and grow businesses. The Centre provides free access to an unparalleled resource of business and intellectual property information (over £5 million worth), supplemented by one-to-one advice clinics, practical workshops and networking events, featuring ‘role model’ entrepreneurs.
Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2010 and 2015, we will invest £1.9 billion of public money from government and an estimated £1.1 billion from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country. www.artscouncil.org.uk
The Department for Communities and Local Government's job is to create great places to live and work, and to give more power to local people to shape what happens in their area.
The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs,
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