This post was originally published on June 17th.
I have been around libraries for a while now. I have been an administrator at both a public and academic library. I have done some consulting work. I write, publish, and present on a variety of library topics. I am preparing to embark on teaching LIS at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, MN. From all of this experience, I have reached one important conclusion! Libraries and librarians, by in large, lack entrepreneurial spirit.
In Nina McHale’s recent post on Breaking Up with Libraries she states:
Also in the mix is my general frustration with library technology. We pay BILLIONS to ILS and other vendors each year, and for what? Substandard products with interfaces that a mother would kick to the curb. We throw cash at databases because they have the periodical content our clients need locked up inside them, and over a decade after the failure that was federated searching, we STILL do not have an acceptable product that provides a user-friendly interface and makes managing the data behind the scenes as easy as it needs to be for library staff.
- Revolutions start local. Start the revolution in one locale and spread it from there. Every ecosystem has its own idiosyncrasies, and skepticism is prevalent, so start with quick wins that make sense in that specific location. And make quick correctable mistakes. Once you get on the right track in one locale, you can spread the revolution quickly. You don’t have years to wait for measurable results before scaling up, just know you are on the right track.
- Revolutions need participants. The “shot heard round the world” will be a town-meeting-style, entrepreneurship stakeholder workshop to create excitement and commitment, and to learn. Convene representatives of banks, churches, universities, public schools, unions, cooperatives, entrepreneurs, the municipal and federal government, trade and industry associations, economic development organizations, some “foreign” diaspora resources, and the media. Meet with them individually to prepare them, and learn about the assets and liabilities of the local entrepreneurship ecosystem.
- Revolutions require resources. In parallel, connect the community’s entrepreneurial support resources, both online, and bricks and mortar. It’s very possible to get that up and running in just a few weeks, and the same platform can be scaled immediately when the revolution heats up.
- Revolutions need revolutionaries. No society is devoid of entrepreneurs, ubiquitous protests of “we have lost our entrepreneurial spirit” notwithstanding. They may be under the radar, languishing in non-entrepreneurial positions, or channeling their entrepreneurial spirit in non-productive ways, but they are present. Find and enlist them. Support and mentor them. Galvanize the entrepreneurship resources and stakeholders to support them as well. Use your positions of power to help them find new customers, investors, advisors, and business partners.
- Revolutions need a call to action. Use the conventional and social media to generate unprecedented legitimacy for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship. Ask people with the hunger to create to come forward with their ideas and then “flood the zone”: give interviews, have television programs, bring in high visibility experts, create billboards, etc.
- Revolutions need an inner council. Convene a small band of revolutionaries to advise you, many of them entrepreneurs. Listen to them. Share your concerns openly. Engage in frank, candid, open dialog. Avoid speeches, politics, and grandstanding. Reach out to the people who have left your community and who became successful outside, because there are almost always pools of entrepreneurial talent living overseas, and most of them would love to help back home.
- And last but not least, revolutions need leadership. Public leaders and their co-instigators have a key role to play in sparking the revolution and keeping the torch lit. If you are not at the top, go and enlist the most senior public officials around — mayors, senators, prime ministers or whomever. Get them to go out and visit new ventures, large and small. Give them awards; tell your public that entrepreneurship is key to your future. Repeat the message, and repeat it again, on television, online, in tweets, blogs, and Facebook posts. Make sure they inspire everyone to do his or her part.
So may you start a entrepreneurial and innovation revolution. May you see problems as challenges to be solved instead of things to complain about, and may you play an active role in solving the problems that we face.