Libraries, Business Starts, and the High Street
Libraries can be a catalyst for regeneration and contribute to vibrant high streets. Libraries can help businesses start and grow, creating new jobs, and providing access to start-up spaces, advice and resources.
In 2014, an Arts Council England study showed that public libraries contribute to economic growth in towns and cities in three key ways: by increasing footfall and spend in the neighbourhood, by enhancing the profile and image of the area, and through their own spending (as an employer and purchaser of goods and services in the local economy).
For example, The Word, South Tyneside Council’s new state-of-the-art cultural venue that forms the centrepiece of the £100 million regeneration of South Shields Town Centre. Likewise, the 10 Business and IP centres (BIPC) set up by the British Library throughout England already support business owners, entrepreneurs and inventors with free access to a comprehensive collection of databases and publications. A 2015 analysis of this programme showed how these helped to create 1,692 new businesses and 4,178 jobs between April 2013 and March 2015, with a very diverse user base. Fully 47% of network users were women, 26% black, Asian and minority ethnic, and 25% were unemployed or had been made redundant.
British Library has planned to extend this network to help create essential knowledge-based businesses and jobs in cities across England at relatively low cost. Libraries can help remote workers and small businesses by renting out space for meetings or other work, generating income in the process. Wimbletech, located in Wimbledon library rents out business spaces for start-ups and co-workers, helping them connect with other local businesses in the process, as does the Workary.
Libraries go beyond simply helping people develop the skills needed in the world of work. While the digital skills training, formal and informal accreditations, back to work programmes, and volunteering schemes should not be discounted, smart councils should invest in libraries as enterprise hubs and business start-up spaces. With an economic payback of £4.50 for every £1 of public money. Libraries should be integrated into all Local Economic Partnerships’ economic development strategies.