Manchester’s Commercial Library and Ask About Business service

Today I visited Manchester’s Commercial Library and Ask About Business service with my colleague Nigel Spencer. The weather was spectacular all day which made for wonderful views from the train over Cheshire and the Peak District. But also put a lie to Manchester’s reputation as grey and wet city. Walking along the canal past Victorian industrial palaces and modern glass and steel offices to the impressive circular building (apparently based on the Pantheon in Rome) was a delight.

The meeting was to compare developments in our respective services and to explore how we can support each other in future. They demonstrated their recently launched Ask About Business service, which is particularly impressive.

“Ask About Business is a new partnership between eleven library authorities in Greater Manchester, Blackpool, and Blackburn with Darwen.  Led by Manchester Library & Information Service, Ask About Business provides access through libraries to information that supports:  Pre-Start and new businesses, Existing business, Jobseekers, Consumers, Inventors, Business students”

What is particularly inspiring was the decision to use their numerous local libraries as the front line for this new service. Customers are then referred to business information specialists on a case by case basis.

It was flattering to hear that some of their initiatives (such as workshops and use of success stories) were inspired by our activities in the Business & IP Centre. Considering the limited budget they have been working to, their achievements are even more extraordinary.

Providing remote free access to the Cobra (Complete Business Reference Adviser) database (one of our most useful sources for business startups) is inspired.

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