My working day at the Business & IP Centre starts as I wake up from a daydream on the tube at King’s Cross, to the announcement “Exit here for the British Library”, which is just a few minutes’ walk away from my office.
I am on ‘desk-duty’ today, so head straight out to the reading room where all our information resources are located (and freely available with a Reader Pass). The day officially starts from 9:30am Monday to Saturday (except for Mondays at 10am), when the Centre literally opens for business. We take it in turns to cover the enquiry desk, where we answer questions from customers, assist with our impressive set of business databases and give information advice. Today kicks off with an elderly customer who wants a list of contact companies who make butchers’ cutting boards. It is his first visit to the Library, but he has impaired vision and also isn’t confident using computers, so I help him use the Kompass database. It takes us about 15 minutes, but together we are able to generate a list of businesses he can contact.
Today, just like every day in the Centre, half of our customers are brand new. During my two hours’ of desk duty I help 15 people with their research enquiries and download the information they require. These include showing our business databases, our hard copy market research publications, our trade and business directories and our small collection of business start-up books. I often refer people to our set of Industry Guides created by the team to help navigate our content by topic. In my experience most of our customers come in with a business idea but are unsure of what resources are available to help them get started.
Some people require help with ordering from our collection of 17 million hard copy publications using Explore the British Library, and to find publications sitting on our shelves in the reading room. Questions vary from a quick request for a login or download from a database, to a more complex enquiry that will take much longer. This is where we directly get to interact with our customers and make use of what we call the Reference Interview.
It is at this point that I meet Tg Tea Founder Sophia Nadur. She is researching a green tea RTD (Ready to Drink) product which she was planning to launch. TG Tea is an organic green tea drink that is also low in calories, so Sophia is looking for scientific and market research. I find it exciting to see the results of this kind of research in the Centre – and I have been promised some samples from Sophia so I can see what the finished product looks and tastes like.
Although the majority of our customers are business start-ups, we still have visits from plenty of patent researchers looking for current and historical inventions. We also provide help and advice relating to the other intellectual property strands of trademarks, copyright and registered designs. And our customers range from sixth form pupils, undergraduates, MBA students, academics, inventors, start-ups and growing small businesses.
I always feel proud to be a part of the Centre when I see our busy networking area open for ad-hoc working, small business meetings and of course networking. There is definitely a buzz in there today as I walk through on my way back to the office.
After my reading room duty I return to the ‘hidden’ part of the Business & IP Centre. There we work on telephone, email and Questionpoint enquiries. Today I answer questions on a variety of topics, and sometimes have to refer for help to other subject specialists within the British Library, partners and even externally. One example of a query received by telephone was an older lady asking for evidence of the ‘Iron Cows’ she remembered in her childhood. They were milk dispensers available from high-street shops, out of opening hours. Generally though, the queries are business or intellectual property related.
I check my emails throughout the day for queries received by the Business & IP Centre’s Research Team, who offer a priced research service mainly for patent searches (prior art), business information and Public Availability Dates (PADs) for use in legal cases. The client base for this service is international, ranging from start-ups and IP specialists to legal firms. Today I respond to a request from a regular client from a pharmaceutical firm in Italy for some patent-related information.
Lunchtime has arrived, so I stop for something to eat and head to the British Library’s staff restaurant. It is a good time to catch up with colleagues from across the Library. Today I end my break with a visit to the British Library Shop to see what merchandise they have in store to buy a present for a friend.
I head back to the office. Throughout the day there are various tasks or projects going on behind the scenes. I spend quite a bit of time sharing information I hope will be useful to the rest of the team. I share information, knowledge and best practice with other colleagues, departments and partners who deliver our services and projects. Each member of the team also run workshops in the Centre and are sometimes invited to run them at external events. We offer workshops such as ‘Beginner’s Guide to Business Information’ and ‘Beginner’s Guide to Intellectual Property’ to help customers understand and access information. We also host webinars which can be accessed by a national and global audience.
I respond to a customer who would like to book a Business & IP Clinic, and so pass this request to a team member who coordinates the clinics. These clinics can be really helpful to early stage start-ups, as a place to talk through their ideas in private with an impartial listener. Together we can get a clearer picture of what they want to do and the next steps they need to take.
It’s about 3pm in the afternoon and as I work with information, part of my day is used to keep abreast of the news, current affairs, business subjects and online content on social media. Social media platforms are one of the drivers of Open Innovation and collaboration that our team has championed in our Open Innovation international project. I frequently collaborate and connect with others to share information on hot topics, events and useful contacts. Social media tools are great for inspiration and marketing, and they allow us to share knowledge, insights and stories from both inside and outside the Centre. Today I share a story on ‘How to Run a Chocolate Business’ relating it to one of our Innovating for Growth programme clients Amelia Rope, who coincidently has a chocolate-making business and is featured in one of our success stories videos.
Occasionally my day ends late when we have evening networking events and talks. The Business & IP Centre Inspiring Entrepreneurs events have been running for a number of years and they take months of organisation. Usually it is all hands on deck to pull off these events and tasks are delegated to us to organise, host, attend, usher, register, network, market, tweet, blog and answer any queries that delegates may have. We have had a back catalogue of archived past Inspiring Entrepreneurs videos available to view on You Tube, along with screenings in our Business & IP Centre’s around the country and anyone can join in via our live webcast.
So now I have told you about my typical day in the Centre which makes me reflect on the perks of the job. Working at the British Library, I also get to see our exhibitions and our current one is celebrating the 800 year anniversary of the ‘Magna Carta’ and occasionally I have a wander around the Sir John Ritblat Gallery of Treasures (did I mention that this gallery is free for everyone?). I also enjoy attending an interesting evening (or weekend) talk on any topic under the sun, but mostly I love the sense of satisfaction I get when meeting fabulous interesting people, including the seasoned and budding entrepreneurs that come into the building.
This is just an overview of my day in the life at the Business & IP Centre and only scratches the surface of what we do. I hope to see you around the Business & IP Centre London in the near future and please do say ‘Hello’!
Seema Rampersad on behalf of the Business & IP Centre