British Library begins a major expansion of its Business and IP Centre network

 With a £13 million investment, announced by the government last year, the roll out will take the small business support services currently concentrated in 14 city centre libraries and by 2023 equip more than 100 spread across England.

North Shields, Allerton (Liverpool) and Bolton will kick off the initiative followed next month by South Shields, Sunderland, Wakefield and Birmingham including its prison library. 

Open to people from all walks of life with a business idea, BIPCs have a diverse user base. More than half of those who use a centre as a pathway into trading are women and a third come from under-represented ethnic backgrounds.

As well as offering core resources such current market research and business databases, the centres will bring in local business leaders and role model entrepreneurs and offer events and tailored workshops.  

Recent research shows since 2016 and up to the pandemic BIPCs contributed £78 million of gross added value to the UK economy and led to 12,000 jobs being created.

Its Reset. Restart emergency online programme launched during lockdown to build new skills and resilience has attracted 3,600 business owners. 

Liz Jolly,  the British Library's chief librarian, says: “At their heart, libraries are trusted spaces with professional staff who have a mission to connect people with information. From Glasgow to Brighton, our BIPC Network harnesses the power of libraries, bringing in expertise from the local community to help people from all walks of life turn an idea into a successful business. 

"We’re delighted to mark this next chapter in the network’s journey, growing from 14 to over 100 new regional and local Centres across England, with a longer term ambition to expand across the UK. Our mission is to put business support in every library, but we’re also learning lessons from the past year, by making sure more and more of our business and IP workshops, events and 1-1s are open to everyone online.” 

Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage added: "It is brilliant that small businesses and entrepreneurs will now be able to access invaluable support and resources in more parts of the country than ever before.”

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