Francis Serjeant , our Tri-Borough Reference Librarian, has opened the eyes of Hammersmith & Fulham residents to the potential of local libraries helping local businesses…
“The “Hammersmith Means Business” event, which took place on Thursday 17th March, was organised to bring local businesses and potential support services together. I contacted the organiser to ask whether I could run a library stall: I wanted to have a library presence to shatter people’s preconceptions that public libraries were a) obsolete in the modern digital world and b) solely concerned with supplying romantic and bestselling fiction, Great British Bake Off spin-offs, etc..!
The Hammersmith & Fulham Library resources were the main discussion point of our stall, but I included fliers for the Business Information Points based in several Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster branches. These provide online business resources relating to funding, business sector reports and Cobra, the comprehensive business information database, available in our libraries.
Over the course of the day, I chatted to many people about our services while a number of other passers added leaflets to their burgeoning collection of publicity material. The collection of business self-help books included on our stall were just a small sample of the range of practical business guides that can be borrowed in our lending library. Visitors had a good browse and photoed covers for their records.
Not all enquiries related to “how can libraries help my business?”: I was asked about general volunteering in libraries and several other people simply enquired how could they join and find out H&F libraries’ locations. There was plenty of scope to talk about the library service and our brilliant resources including Hammersmith & Fulham’s new 24/7 reference resource, NewsBank, a worldwide searchable newspaper database. I think several people were surprised that public libraries have gone beyond being a building-based service accessible only during opening hours: our online resources mean that we have so much more to offer than that!
A best seller was our hand-out listing the Business and IT Learning Nexus training courses. This resource is a distance learning package and can be done at any time suitable for the learner, and they are free! One interested visitor to the stall is a regular user of the reference study area and free wi-fi but had no knowledge of the other library resources and services such as Learning Nexus available to library members. I urged him, and all other enquirers, to join online, visit a library and be enrolled as a full member so that they can make full use of the service.
Our library stall was set up alongside rival attractions offering financial business advice, motivational trainers, advice for protection against computer hacking and even a chiropractor. But we were a success and will definitely return another year – the fact that exhibitors were plied throughout the day with free sandwiches, coffee and doughnuts did not influence this opinion!”