Services for Business at City Business Library

Esther Greenwood and Wendy Foster, City Business Library



The City Business Library (CBL) is a public reference library funded by the City of London Corporation and based in the heart of the City of London. It is open to everyone and provides access to a wealth of free business information resources. In addition the Library delivers many business seminars, workshops and121s ranging from how to use new media for business growth to how to access funding as well as CV and job searching strategies sessions. We also offer affordable desk space and meeting rooms for hire.

The Library specialises in information for people starting and running a business, job seekers and investors. Most of our users come from London and the South East, but many also visit from outside the UK whilst in London on business. All the information is less than 5 years old as people need a clear idea of the present and predicted business environments to make their decisions.

Our biggest area of work is supporting businesses that are starting and growing – start-up, sole traders, micro, small and medium enterprises. Like many library authorities we subscribe to the COBRA database which details the nuts and bolts of starting, running and growing a business; from writing a business plan to employing staff and exporting. This database has two advantages, firstly that we can make it available remotely to those with a City of London library card. Secondly, it is written in clear, every day English which is important when serving a linguistically diverse population.

We have market research databases covering the UK and global markets to help business owners to understand the current and predicted trends in markets for the next 5+ years. They are also an excellent source of demographic and financial statistics with detailed country analyses. CBL subscribes to over 100 magazines which look at different industries from the Petroleum Economist to Drapers. Magazines are often overlooked as a resource, but are invaluable as they have in-depth articles, reviews or interviews with industry leaders.

We hold two company information databases, one covering over 3.3million active UK companies, the other covering 112 million active companies worldwide. Customers can download contact lists and see a company’s last 10 years’ financial details. They are ideal for looking at the finances of potential clients or competitors. There are a number of subject specific databases such as Alf and Brad that look at the advertising markets.

We run database training sessions for the public on our market research and company information databases to help customers get the most out of the time they spend researching. If someone is not used to searching these types of databases it can be quite bewildering and as a result these training sessions are becoming very popular. We also provide guide sheets for using all our databases to assist customers further.

With the exception of COBRA and UK Newsstand the databases can be used only in the library according to the licence agreements. Most of the suppliers will allow downloading within copyright limits.


We host a variety of low cost seminars run by outside speakers on topics which support business start-ups and owners on subjects such as developing a business strategy, Social Media for business, and Search Engine Optimisation. We also run events ourselves such as our series of Doing Business in… which is ideal for people looking to trade abroad. Our most recent seminar on Doing Business in Brazil was supported by speakers from UKTI. We have also held seminars on doing business in China, Germany and India. In March 2015 we hosted Fashion in the City, an evening event attended by over 60 people looking to develop or start their business in the fashion sector. There were two speakers; one spoke about the fashion industry and keeping on trend whilst the other spoke about how she and her partners had set up their online shirt retailing business. There were also 10 stands run by support organisations such as Companies House and Portobello Business Centre. The delegates were from a variety of backgrounds in retail or fashion and design students thinking of self-employment. These events enable us to introduce the library to a wide range of people and organisations who we would not otherwise have been able to reach.

We have recently started a programme of 1-2-1 Business Guidance and social media sessions, spending an hour with each customer providing bespoke support and explaining what resources we have and how they might add value for their business. Customers have been very diverse; one woman was in the very early stages of thinking of starting an events company whilst one man had developed an IT management system and was looking for contacts in his target market and possible sources of finance. In these sessions we discuss issues such as legal status, finance, finding premises, who they need to tell when starting a business (HMRC, Companies House etc.,) intellectual property and forward planning. We refer customers to business start-up agencies in their local area for further business plan advice. There is a small charge for these sessions to cover the cost of time for the research and preparation for the session.

We run CV and job searching sessions for those looking for a new job. These are open to all people whether or not they are currently employed. We work with one of our outside partners who supports people with their CV and library staff run a session on how our resources can help job seekers. We have a LinkedIn group for those who have been on our job search sessions and about 70% have been successful in finding new employment as a result of attending these tailored sessions.

We have a variety of magazines for those looking for investment information including share prices. The magazines range from well-known titles such as Investors Chronicle to more specialist publications such as the International Financing Review. One of our databases contains share price information which is updated every 15 minutes for UK, US and Canadian companies.

We hold current company and stock exchange information for the past 5 years; all historical information is held by our colleagues in the Guildhall Library; this is also a free public library.

We are always happy to talk to library and information colleagues and their customers about our resources; please contact our enquiry desk on 020 7332 1812 or

We run free 90 minute tours for library and information staff from all sectors to promote our resources. For a list of dates or to book a place please contact the library – we would love to meet you!


Refer 31 (2) Summer 2015


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