Inspiration, Innovation & Information for school libraries and learning.
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.
We need to think less about marking out our territory and more about our sphere of influence.
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
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.
LeechBlock is an add-on for Firefox that allows you to block the sites that distract you when you need to be productive. You designate which sites you want to block and when you want your access restricted. For example, you can block YouTube and Facebook from 8am to 12pm on weekdays to keep yourself on task when you should be dealing with emails and writing that end-of-year report.
You can also give yourself time limits for certain sites. If going cold turkey is too much for you then allow yourself ten minutes of Goodreads time each hour before you get back to work. Don’t trust yourself at all? Block all dot-com sites for the afternoon. Want to keep yourself from checking work emails on the weekends? Block your school website to make that simple click a little more difficult.
LeechBlock is not a fool-proof solution to all your internet problems. You can set a password to slow yourself down but there are ways around every barrier and if you really want to check your newsfeed then Leechblock won’t be able to stop you. What it does do is make you stop and think before you automatically click on the sites you habitually check. It will allow you to change your patterns and hopefully break the bad internet habits that lead to wasted time.
This is a great tool to introduce to your students. Blocking Facebook during study sessions will teach them to stay focussed on the report they are meant to be writing. Try blocking wikipedia on the library computers for the first half hour of a research session so students are forced to check out other sources! Make them think about their patterns of internet use and if they are really making the most of their time.
Don’t use Firefox? No problem. Check out this article with similar tools for different browsers.
Have you ever used a tool like LeechBlock?
image by ladybeames
Old magazines, weeded books, last year’s telephone books – see this amazing range of artworks created with imagination from thousands of printed items.
I’m not sure what happens to a small building created from 7,000 telephone books when it rains – but maybe it’s weathertight?
Other artworks include book ‘flowers’, towers, installations of different kinds, painted sculptures, lighting fixtures, and even a scorpion carved from the pages. Take a look at Amazing Book Sculptures here, at: Amazing Book Sculptures.
Could this inspire an innovative artwork for your library – using old newspapers, out-of-date magazines, any weeded items that will only be dumped…? If so, do send us a photo!
flickr image by al_green
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