I was at a meeting of the SINTO Business Information Group yesterday and the main item was the Libraries are Good for Business Report (LG4B). The LG4B project was initiated by MLA Yorkshire as a programme of research and advocacy on public library business information provision in the Yorkshire region. The aim was to map existing provision, to encourage the development of a coordinated regional offer involving the fifteen library authorities and to provide evidence to support MLA Yorkshire in its advocacy of public libraries at the regional level - especially with Yorkshire Forward. This work had been carried out by the Centre for the Public Library and Information in Society (CIPLIS) and myself.
The research has shown a fairly strong provision of business information in most areas although this is threatened by cuts and restructuring in some areas. The research also demonstrated that a regional structure has evolved (I don't think anyone planned this) with a hierarchy of business information services. Sheffield and Leeds provide 'advanced' services providing support for the wider region. Other 'developed' services provide a good level of service to their own area which can be supported by referral to an advanced service while a few 'basic' services rely heavily on outsourcing or referral.
Co-operation between business libraries is well developed in South and West Yorkshire through SINTO. North Yorkshire is a special case and seems happy to be self reliant while Humberside has struggled to maintain local co-operation in recent years. The Humberside libraries have been invited to participate in SINTO. Contacts with local Business Links has always been seen to be important but can be patchy and there is a lack of a strategic approach to co-operation and partnership working.
MLA Yorkshire has use this work to support advocacy with Yorkshire Forward and in the Regional Economic Strategy for Yorkshire and Humber 2006-2015 there is a specific reference to the need for good connections with public libraries in the context of the Better Deal for Business Framework (BD4B). MLA Yorkshire has proposed to the Society of Chief Librarians Yorkshire (SCLY) that there should be a formal sign up of libraries to this framework which would raise the profile of public libraries as part of the regional business support network.
My final report on this project makes a number of recommendations for action. More details can be found on the Business Information Group page of the SINTO wiki. However it is very easy for reports to disappear into a black hole and not to have any influence on strategic planning. There are worrying signs. MLA Yorkshire has said this project is now finished and it is not clear if they will continue to press Yorkshire Forward on this issue. There also seems to be a lack of involvement by Heads of Service with this research and I have no idea if SCLY are planning to sign up to BD4B. Finally I am not convinced that Yorkshire Forward really recognises the importance of information within their Regional Economic Strategy. It would be a great pity if this report were to end up in the wpb or even worse - filed away on a library shelf and ignored.