A programme of events celebrating the centenary of Manchester’s business library service is being held at Central Library.

To mark the centenary, an “Open To Business” festival is being held, kicked off with Start-Up Day on Friday 11 October.   The festival celebrates both past and present, looking back at the history of Manchester’s business sector, including archive material highlighting stories of people that came to the city from other countries to settle and become their own boss.

The modern day Business & Intellectual Property Centre Manchester was previously known as the Commercial Library – which first opened its doors at the Royal Exchange in 1919.

In 1916, hastened by the economic demands of the First World War, a report advocating the formation of a commercial library in Manchester was approved by the Libraries Committee.  It was agreed that the Royal Exchange in the heart of the business centre offered the best position for the library and a meeting of businessmen at the Town Hall passed a resolution:-

“That the meeting of representatives of the trade, business and commercial interests of Manchester and district, do heartily support the establishment of a Commercial Library…believing that such a library and bureau of commercial information would be of great advantage in the development of the trade of the country, during and after the war.”

The Commercial Library was an immediate success, attracting nearly 70,000 readers in the first year.  By 1933, it had expanded to include 6,000 books, 582 periodicals and some 135,000 readers.

The service moved into the newly-opened Manchester Central Library in 1934 and remained open throughout the Second World War.  Its collection of books and periodicals continued to grow and in 1973, the Financial Times wrote:-

“It is a scandal that Britain has no national or centralised business information service… The Manchester Commercial Library is an outstanding example of efficient provision of business information…provided and paid for by the ratepayers… the staff are courteous, efficient and rushed off their feet.”

When Central Library reopened its doors in 2014 following a major transformation project, the service changed its name to the Business & IP (Intellectual Property) Centre Manchester.  Now part of a national network in partnership with the British Library, the service works closely with the city’s entrepreneurs and small businesses, inventors and jobseekers.  

As well as offering access to industry-standard information resources, BIPC Manchester delivers talks, workshops, demonstrations and networking opportunities, plus one-to-one advice at patent and IP, accountancy, and commercial legal clinics.  

The recent “Democratising Entrepreneurship” report, issued by Arts Council England, revealed that from 2016 – 2019, BIPC Manchester helped to create nearly 2,000 new businesses, generating a payback of £6.95 for every £1 of public money spent.

Start-Up Day was a day of free talks, expert workshops and tailored advice designed to get your business idea off to a flying start.  Whether you’re just starting out, need advice on protecting your intellectual property or are ready to take the next step, Start-Up Day helps turn your idea into a reality.

Other highlights of the “Open to Business” festival, which runs from October – December 2019, include talks with the acclaimed graphic designer Malcolm Garrett and Nik Nagarkar of the critically-acclaimed grime and dubstep collective Virus Syndicate and EY3 Media, one of the UK’s leading creative and digital agencies.  There’s even a walk led by Manchester Modernist Society – “From Boom to George Best” – which takes a look at the businesses that grew up around King Street.

Ravi Bhavsar from DarkStar Leatherworks has used BIPC Manchester to help grow his business, which specialises in creating premium products for motorcycle riders.

Ravi said: “The library resources, staff and business centre have been really helpful with guiding us in many different areas from intellectual property rights, conducting market research, learning about email marketing.  

“There were lots of workshops that helped us upgrade our skill set and with every interaction, we came across new opportunities on how to take the next step. It wasn’t one aspect but a series of interactions with the Business & Intellectual Property Centre that gave us the confidence to take a leap, try something different and stand out.”

Executive Member for Skills, Culture and Leisure, Councillor Luthfur Rahman, said: “Manchester has a proud tradition of fostering innovation and entrepreneurship through our libraries, which for 100 years, have provided access to high quality information for people who want to grow their own business.  

“Thanks to our strong partnership with the British Library, that offer continues to grow and evolve to this day.  With thousands of businesses benefiting from its services, I’m proud that the next generation of start-ups will develop at our Business & IP Centre.”

Isabel Oswell, Head of Business Audiences at the British Library, said: “Seven years ago, we partnered with Manchester Central Library to pilot a dedicated service designed to break down the barriers to information and expertise for start-ups and early stage entrepreneurs in Manchester and the surrounding areas. As the city celebrates the centenary of its commercial library, we are delighted that it’s modern-day iteration, the Business & IP Centre, has helped thousands of budding entrepreneurs in Manchester turn their ideas into successful businesses.

“In the past three years alone, the Centre has helped the creation of just under 2000 new businesses and an additional 863 jobs in the region. We are hugely proud of what we have helped to achieve with our partners in Manchester and look forward to helping to create more local entrepreneurs realise their business dreams.”

For more about the Open To Business festival, go to https://askaboutbusiness.org/opentobusiness.