By Peter Murgatroyd
In his recent white paper ‘Think like a start-up’, Brian Mathews has sought to galvanise the library community into action, to awaken us from our slumber and embrace an entrepreneurial mindset. “We don’t just need change”, he argues, “we need breakthrough, paradigm-shifting, transformative, disruptive ideas”.
In recent times Google, Facebook, twitter have changed the way that we live and work, shrinking the world to the size of a mobile device. The knowledge and information sector is the hottest show in town - where fortunes can be made overnight and governments toppled through the power of social media.
It is ironic that, in the knowledge generation, libraries are an institution in search of relevance and librarians urgently needing to reinvent themselves to survive.
How much can we learn from the Start-ups?
Some start-ups crash and burn. Others explode into life. Some blaze brightly and then seemingly disappear almost overnight
flickr image by freeasinfreedom
What start-ups have in common is that they are fuelled by the vision and inspiration of entrepreneurs who have the hunger and the courage to try to turn their vision into a reality - often in the face of uncertainty and with few guarantees of success. What they have in common is that they seek to create something new - not just a new solution to an old problem but a new way of doing things.
There IS much we can learn. We need to have a clear vision and the courage to turn that vision into a reality.
We need to think less about the innovation and more about creating a culture of innovation. Be receptive to and foster new ideas. Embrace blue sky thinking. Think less about coming up with the right answer and more about asking the right questions. Dream big!
We need to think less about developing a strategic plan and more about developing a strategic culture.
- Be a leader and not a follower
- A champion; not an also-ran
- Think big picture
- Think excellence
- Think relevance
- Be proactive NOT reactive
We need to think less about marking out our territory and more about our sphere of influence.
- Be a collaborator
- Always learning
An entrepreneurial mindset however implies that we are looking for a new start, to create something new where previously there was nothing. To launch a new brand. To define a new identity.
Yet for many of us in the profession we are not seeking to abandon the core values and vision of what a library stands for but to redefine, to reconceptualise how we can deliver that core vision in a way that is meaningful and relevant to current and future generations.
The challenge is not so much embracing entrepreneurship as a mindset but embracing the culture and the competencies off intrapreneurship – changing our institutions from within. In some ways this is more challenging and more difficult: shedding the baggage of the past, changing perceptions, rebooting our ideas and our passion for our work. Dismantling structures and deconstructing processes that no longer serve a purpose.
There is, I believe, much to be gained in reflecting on the values and passion that drove the establishment of the first libraries and that have inspired generations of librarians.
Equity of access to information, and the critical importance of preserving and making accessible the accumulated knowledge of our time
- Curiosity and the joy of discovering new knowledge
- The power of the imagination taking flight
- The celebration of library as a place of shared understanding and community
- Libraries as places of curiosity and discovery
- Libraries as community
As much as we need to embrace the entrepreneurial zeal of the start-up we must also seek to re-connect with the core values and passions of our profession.
The technology, via the explosion of new gadgets, widgets, platforms and apps, should not define our role. They are merely tools – a means to an end – an end that remains largely similar to the one that inspired the first librarians: Discovery and curiosity. Life long learning, Equity, Empowerment, Communication, Connection, Community.