Even though so much is now online, you can still find lots of information in public libraries that you wouldn’t find through searching the web. Books about a company or its industry, or the directories and journals listed in Part 3 of this handbook may be free to read in a library but paywalled or inaccessible online. You can also access online databases that are usually paywalled from the computers in some libraries. The business section of a borough’s central library is likely to be an especially useful resource.
Just like on the web, browsing can result in some interesting discoveries, but beware of getting side-tracked. Ask library assistants which book is best for your purposes or search the catalogue – using subject keywords, author or publisher.
Libraries are being hit hard by the current government’s cuts to public spending, with 200 branches closing in 2012 and others having to limit their book-buying. If your local library doesn’t have what you need, ask the librarian if they can get a copy through the interlibrary loan service.
The most comprehensive is the British Library in London, where the law stipulates that a copy of every publication must be sent. To use copyright libraries, you will need to register by filling in a form and explaining that they have resources you can’t get elsewhere. Most keep their collections in stack storage so you may save time by ordering the publications you want in advance of your visit.
SPECIALIST AND BUSINESS LIBRARIES
There are several around the UK, stocking a wide range of trade journals, business directories and other useful sources. Ask at your local library for details of the nearest.
Many government departments or industry bodies, such as trade associations and professional institutions, have libraries of their own. These can be a great source of information – assuming you can persuade them to let you in. Some will charge.
They usually have good reference sources, including trade journals and directories. Universities vary in how willing they are to give access to non-students however.