Research published during National Libraries Week, which has just ended, indicates that small businesses make up 60 per cent of the users of libraries' business information services that are "a growing and valuable source of information to the business community". Moreover, 71 per cent of those surveyed used the library service as their usual source of information, compared with 34 per cent using the next most important source, the Internet.
As many as 40 per cent of businesses used the service more than once a month, with business people struggling with information overload increasingly turning to local librarians to act as their navigators. Not surprisingly, perhaps, the smallest businesses - with one to five employees - relied on this source more than others.
Satisfaction with the service was high, with 60 per cent of users said to be wholly satisfied with the information they received and 94 per cent planning to use the service again.
Ross Shimmon, chief executive of the Library Association, said: "In an increasingly technological age, public libraries provide the human element and personal interaction for people who spend hours working alone. The self-employed in the survey made up 19 per cent of users of the service.
"For this group the BIS [business information service] is an important source of information at little or no cost with the added benefit of experienced staff to assist."