How Business Information Points can help you get the job you want

Westminster Libraries Business Information PointsWestminster Libraries have four Business Information Points (BIPs) which are aimed at helping people start up their own business by providing access to a wide variety of online resources, books and magazines. However, have you ever thought about how these resources could help you not only start up a business but also find and gain the job you really want?

In Westminster Reference Library we have witnessed just some of the ways in which it can be done. To start with, library users are afforded that extra bit of time they need on the library’s BIP computers to find and apply for jobs as well as do their business research, administration and planning. And the online resources – both the In House Specials and the 24/7 resources – have come in handy as well. Indeed, just a few days ago someone used Marketline to help prepare a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis on a company with whom he had an upcoming interview.

Careers 2017COBRA the Complete Business Reference Advisor (log in with your library card number) shows people how to start up and run a successful business. However, it is also helpful in showing which qualifications you may need, organisations you could contact and what to do in order to start out on your own or find a job in a particular area. Similar to this is the yearly careers directory, a book which explains in brief which qualifications you will need to begin and progress in certain careers as well as what each job entails, how much you will be paid and what the future prospects are.

Market research databases such as IBISWorld, Marketline and Mintel can all help you to research the best sector to aim for. This is important as it might take time to prepare for a career through gaining the necessary experience and qualifications.

You can use Experian and Marketline to find out which companies you can approach and look at to find the job and experience you wish to gain. Experian can also help you learn about key names and connections, this can also be done with Who’s Who UK (log straight in with your library card) which is searchable by keyword as well as just name.

Use these databases to learn about companies and markets, plus the experience and qualifications you will need to help you in any applications you make. When it comes to actually applying for jobs they can help you prepare for those tough interview questions. Most libraries also have books to help you do any tests which you may need to perform during the application process.

How to pass professional level psychometric tests by Sam Al-JajjokaHandling touch job interviews by Julie-Ann AmosThe interview book by James Innes

The BIPs in Westminster are located in Westminster Reference Library, Paddington Library, Church Street Library and Pimlico Library – come and see us, and keep an eye out for BIP events that might be of use in your career planning.


Tricks of the trade

I love the trade cards we hold at the Archives Centre, I always have done. They are so decorative as well as being packed with information about the business they are advertising, who owned it, what it sold and where it was located.

Trade card of William Woodward, nightman, 1 Marylebone Passage, Wells Street, c1820 (Ashbridge 411 Acc 1909). Image property of Westminster City Archives.

Trade card of William Woodward, nightman, 1 Marylebone Passage, Wells Street, c1820. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

Westminster City Archives has over 300 trade cards, mostly dating from the mid-18th century, so the main decorative feature is Rococo shell patterns in keeping with the style of the time. They also frequently include a picture of the workshop or shop and the products they made or sold. Business premises were known by signs, a bit like modern public house signs, before street numbering was introduced in the 1760s.

Trade card of Evan Bynner, family grocery warehouse, 35 Little Newport Street, late 18th century (Box 63 No. 2e). Image property of Westminster City Archives.

Trade card of Evan Bynner, family grocery warehouse, 35 Little Newport Street, late 18th century. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

One of my favourite cards from the collection is that of Evan Bynner, family grocer, whose trade card contains a picture of a Chinese man in a conical hat. Trade cards often contain interesting information about racial stereotypes in the 18th century, as we can also see from the one for Barrett’s old tobacco at the sign of the Two Black Boys against Somerset House.

Trade card for Barrett's old tobacco at the sign of the Two Black Boys against Somerset House, Strand, 18th century (Box 63 No. 33f). Image property of Westminster City Archives.

Trade card for Barrett’s old tobacco at the sign of the Two Black Boys against Somerset House, Strand, 18th century. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

We have a postcard for sale in our bookshop of the trade card of William Woodward of Marylebone (pictured at the top of the page), who removed nightsoil (no prizes for guessing what that was in the era of chamber pots!) and other rubbish, emptied drains and cesspits, and swept chimneys in about 1820.

Trade card of John Perry, maker of jockey and hunting caps, at the sign of the Cap and Habit, Beaufort Buildings, Strand, mid-18th century (Box 63 No. 13b). Image property of Westminster City Archives.

Trade card of John Perry, maker of jockey and hunting caps, at the sign of the Cap and Habit, Beaufort Buildings, Strand, mid-18th century. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

Other interesting trades show up in the trade cards of John Perry, maker of jockey and hunting caps, and Richard Siddall, chemist. Perry’s language is as flowery as the border on his card – he “Makes and sells all sorts of Caps, Ladies Habits & Gentlemens Cloaths in ye Neatest manner and at the most reasonable Rates” – and Siddall’s weird and wonderful picture makes him look more like a medieval alchemist than a purveyor of “Chymical and Calenical Medicines With all Sorts of Druggs”.

Trade card of Richard Siddall, chymist (sic), at the sign of the Golden Head, Panton Street, 18th century (Box 63 No. 29f). Image property of Westminster City Archives.

Trade card of Richard Siddall, chymist (sic), at the sign of the Golden Head, Panton Street, 18th century. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

The most famous trade card collection in the country is the Ambrose Heal Collection. Ambrose Heal was a member of the Heal’s furniture shop family on Tottenham Court Road, who bequeathed his collection to the British Museum. He also wrote several books on the subject, one of which, called London Tradesmen’s Cards of the XVIII Century: An Account of Their Origin and Use, 1968, containing over 100 illustrations, can be seen in the Archives Centre search room. Why not come along and have a look for yourself?

And if all this has whetted your appetite, have a browse through a fascinating collection of trade cards via the John Johnson Collection of ephemera, held at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. You can view the collection online – just log in with your library card number!


Westminster Music Library – a fresher approach

Despite September’s impressive attempts to imitate our August heat wave, summer is finally over. Autumn has rolled in and schools and universities have resumed business as usual.

Autumn from the Four Seasons by Vivaldi, at Westminster Music LibraryHere at Westminster Music Library, however, we do not resent the end of summer. The beginning of the school year brings with it thousands of students, and many of them musicians. Did you know that there are five specialist music conservatoires in London alone? Even conservatively estimating an intake of 100 per college per year, that’s 500 new music students in the Greater London area each year – all of whom could benefit from our wonderful collection at Westminster Music Library.

We are proud to have one of the finest public music collections in the country, and are keen to share it with as many musicians as possible. But how does one reach all of these newly-settled musicians? This is where we are immensely thankful for Freshers’ Fairs. Conservatoires’ Student Unions do a fantastic job arranging these each year for new students to discover what services they could benefit from during their time in London. I was fortunate enough to get to two of these Fairs this year, and meet hundreds of students in the process.

View from the Westminster Music Library stall at the Royal Academy of Music’s Freshers' Fair 2016

I first attended Royal Academy of Music’s Fair, in their very grand concert hall. Over an intense two hours, students flooded in. The amount of foot traffic was amazing and our stall was always surrounded. Fortunately, I was sharing a table with my colleague Barry, who was representing RAM’s local public library, Marylebone Library and Information Service. Between us we were able to keep up with the interest in our stall! A large number of students signed up for memberships after learning about our wide selection of stock and generous loan allowances. Being music students, many were particularly interested in our rehearsal space with piano. Here I also met our friends from Barbican Music Library, with whom I would be sharing a table at our next Fair. By the end of the Fair Barry and I were exhausted but satisfied with the interest shown.

Barry from Marylebone Library at the Royal Academy of Music’s Freshers' Fair 2016

After a few days I was out on the road again, carrying with me our same sheet music samples, fliers, membership forms, and, most importantly, free chocolates to entice hungry students. I was slightly concerned that my poor little folding bicycle would collapse under the strain on the way to Guildhall School of Music and Drama! Guildhall’s Fair was in their downstairs Theatre, a huge underground space. The size of the space allowed many more stallholders to be present, and I particularly enjoyed seeing my friends from Paxman Musical Instruments Ltd., who sold me my own instrument many years ago. Other stallholders ranged from the local police force to the Royal British Legion, and even a stall selling second-hand bicycles to new students. (Fortunately my bike had survived the journey and I didn’t need to replace it!). The Guildhall Fair was spread over five hours, and the stream of students was thinned out compared to RAM’s. Over the afternoon I was able to engage many interested musicians in conversations about their musical needs and how we can help them at the Library. Once again we had a great success, handing out many shiny new membership cards. Jacky, representing Barbican Music Library, was a wonderful table partner. The students could hardly believe it when they discovered that there were two specialist music libraries in London!

 Jacky from Barbican Music Library at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama's Freshers' Fair 2016

We are thankful to these two conservatoires for hosting us, and look forward to meeting more students in years to come.

If you’re a student new to London, whether or not we visited your institution we’d love to see you – come in and find out what we have to offer!


The Man Who Could Work Miracles

H.G. Wells by BeresfordA recent enquirer to the Guardian Notes and Queries column asked

“Which sci-fi author has come closest to predicting the future? Perhaps Isaac Asimov? Aldous Huxley? George Orwell? JG Ballard? Philip K Dick ? Arthur C Clarke?”

Guardian commenters weren’t slow to point out the name most conspicuously missing from that list with reader ‘geot22’ pointing out that

“Guys like Huxley and H.G. Wells’ do it for me. Huxley, spot on, predicted how our, ‘scientific,’ culture would evolve, and all culture with it. Wells’ Time Machine hit lots of sweet spots. My favorite is the bifurcation of man. Whereas we commonly, now, refer to the 99% and the 1%, or 0.1% …, Wells gave us the terms Eloi and Morlock, so vital for us to see our way through today.“

So what else did Wells predict? Moon landings, the second world war, lasers and genetic engineering have all come to pass, time travel, invisibility and alien invasions haven’t so far as we know…

And why are we thinking about Herbert George Wells at the moment? Because 21 September is his 150th birthday and we’re big fans of his books here in Westminster. Plus, he spent the last decades of his life living in Marylebone, first at 47 Chiltern Court, next to Baker Street Station and then at 13 Hanover Terrace just by Regents  Park (where his windows were shattered in an air-raid).

The War of the Worlds by HG Wells

So which Wells should you read? Well, if you’re in any way a science fiction fan, The War of the Worlds is essential. It’s one of the first stories of alien invasion, this time in the homely surrounds of Surrey and South London, and contains some unforgettable images of the invading Martians and London, empty and silent after the population have fled. There have been several film versions and those of us of a certain age grew up with Jeff Wayne’s concept album, but the most famous adaptation is undoubtedly Orson Welles’ 1938 radio play which allegedly caused panic throughout America.

You can listen to it below and judge for yourself how frightening it is:

You can also find out what Wells himself thought, in this conversation between Wells and Welles:

Or perhaps you might prefer The Time Machine with its futuristic story of the feeble luxury-loving Eloi, evolved from the leisured classes, and brutal light-fearing Morlocks, once the workers. If you’ve never seen the 1960 film adaptation with Rod Taylor, you’re in for a treat. Another favourite is The Man Who Could Work Miracles, a short story within The Country of the Blind, and Other Stories (read it online here), about an office clerk who finds he has magical powers.

The Time Machine by HG Wells     The Country of the Blind and other stories by HG Wells

Science fiction is all very well, but Wells really deserves to be known for his social realism too. The History of Mr Polly and Kipps (soon to be seen in the West End as the musical Half a Sixpence), both of which draw on Wells’ unhappy experience as a draper’s assistant, are probably his best known novels but the lesser known ones offer their own charms. A particular favourite is The Dream, which combines both Utopian fantasy and harsh realism as a man from the future tells his friends of his dream of being a publisher’s clerk who becomes a soldier in World War I.

Kipps by HG Wells     The history of Mr Polly by HG Wells

There are plenty of places to find out more about Wells’ long life and career. Your first port of call should be the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log in with your Westminster library card) but having had your appetite whetted you may well want a full biography – there are many to be found in Westminster Libraries. Or you may wish to try David Lodge’s novel A Man of Parts which focuses on Wells’ many affairs.

Whether you commemorate Wells’ sesquicentennial with a book, a film or a radio play you cannot fail to be amazed at the extraordinary range of his works. Whatever you choose, you’re in for a treat.


Happy 100th Birthday, Roald Dahl!

Willy Wonka at Maida Vale Library's Roald Dahl centenary party, September 2016Several Westminster libraries held events this week to celebrate the centenary of the author Roald Dahl.

Maida Vale Library held a Roald Dahl 100th birthday party on Tuesday, which followed on nicely from this year’s Summer Reading Scheme, whose ‘Big Friendly Read‘ theme focused on Roald Dahl’s books for children.

It was a jumpsquifflingly* hot and sunny day, but around 25 kiddles* aged 7 and over risked lixivation* for a phizz-whizzing* time. We decorated the library with a flying Willy Wonka and a model of the BFG. We had a variety of frothbuggling* Dahl-themed games, like hiding pictures of his characters around the library, an anagram game from character’s names, Dahl Bingo, spotting words in the poem “The Ant eater”, LOTS of chocolate (it would have been rude not to) and a Dahl themed juice bar – but no swatchscollop snozzcumbers*. Eric even dressed up as the Big Friendly Giant complete with oversized ears.

It went down very well and lots of the children and parents said what a gloriumptious* experience it had been.


Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary


* If you want to know what these words mean, you’ll have to come and borrow a copy of the Roald Dahl Dictionary!

The law’s an asset at Westminster Ref

Statutes at Large - Stephen at Westminster Reference Library, 2016Did you know that if you are doing legal research then Westminster Reference Library‘s Law and UK Official Publications Collection has an extensive range of printed legal and parliamentary resources, as well as online access to Westlaw UK?
A question I am often asked is “Why does your library advertise that you keep hard copies of case law, UK legislation, command papers and parliamentary reports, when all this information is available online?”

Case law

We hold printed copies of All England Law reports (1558 until 2005), Weekly law reports (1959 until 2015), Queens Bench reports (Family and Chancery), Immigration Appeal reports and Tax Cases.

All England Law Reports (19th century) at Westminster Reference Library 2016

Although we have access to modern law reports via Westlaw, sometimes case reports prior to 1980 may not have been digitised and consulting a printed report may be the only way to find a case that a customer has been referred to by their lawyer. Some people, especially older people, are more comfortable with consulting a printed report than looking for the online version. Sometimes there may be a precedent for a particular case in a judgment that was made in the 18th century and so it is vital we preserve historical case law. And finally, people are fascinated by the aesthetics of a printed law report from the 19th century, for example. As a library our remit is not only to hold sources of information but also to preserve them for future generations. It is important we do not neglect our duty of care to our heritage.

UK legislation

Although all UK legislation should be available online at, many users find it a difficult site to navigate, especially if they are looking for a specific act or Statutory Instrument. Often if a lawyer or the police have referred someone to a section of an act or Statutory Instrument then they want to see it in hard copy rather than online and since we have a comprehensive collection of historical legislation in our basement we can often oblige. The same applies to Parliamentary papers (House of Commons or Lords Debates and Committees, Command Papers and  Parliamentary reports). While it is true that they are available online, if the searcher has the option of searching online for hours or coming in to the library for instant access to the hard copy they will often choose the latter option!

19th century Local Acts available at Westminster Reference Library 2016

Westlaw UK

None of the above should be seen as downplaying the value of Westlaw as an online resource. It is popular with lay litigants and the legal profession alike. Westlaw is useful because it is updated every week so the Case Law, legislation and journal articles are contemporary.

Users can also use the site to email cases, which is very useful if someone is fighting a case and representing themselves.

A very valuable tool on Westlaw  is Insight. If a user wants to know about Power of Attorney, for example, they can type that phrase into Insight and it will give them a brief outline of what Power of Attorney means as well as legislation and case law pertaining to it.

Westlaw UK is one of our ‘In House Special’ resources – customers can use it at both Westminster Reference Library and in Marylebone Information Service. Ask staff for more information and help.


Joint Force Singers – The Movie!

Joint Force Singers - first rehearsal, September 2015It’s been well documented that singing in a choir is not only a relaxing and enjoyable activity, but also has great health benefits and promotes long lasting friendships.

Joint Force Singers, Westminster Music Library‘s twelve-month choral collaboration with Westminster’s Armed Forces, was made possible by a significant funding grant from The Armed Forces Community Covenant.

My mission when we set out was to raise awareness of the Armed Forces within our local community; I hope you’ll agree that this short film shows just how successful this has been. The integration of members recruited from the army and local community organisations has established bonds, inspired mutual appreciation, and created long lasting friendships.

It’s been an exciting year featuring a  number of high profile concerts; at Lords MCC, The Westminster Community Awards, Pimlico Proms, Armed Forces Week, The Guards Chapel at Wellington Barracks, to name but a few – you can read more about and see pictures from most of our events here on this blog.. Joint Force Singers has cemented our relationship with Westminster’s Armed Forces, brought together a fantastic bunch of people from across the community, and has built and cultivated many lasting friendships.  To quote Marylin Manson:

“Music is the strongest form of magic”