Thursday 12 April 2012

Facing the future and playing while you're at it

This is a great white paper that I wanted to share with you that came out as today's Library Link of the Day, on the future of academic libraries and how libraries can innovate and become entrepreneurial on the journey to the future.  (Love the telescope metaphor as a way to bring the future closer!)
Think Like A Startup: a white paper to inspire library entrepreneurialism [Brian Mathews]
Some sobering 'what if' scenarios for academic libraries are covered in section one, but Brian Matthews goes on to encourage libraries to 'think like a startup' enterprise. Some of these ideas that Matthews covers are similar to ideas that were brought up at a 'Fastbreak' event that I went along to recently- taking risks, learning from mistakes, failing fast and failing smart, finding innovation and creative ideas through play and being passionate about what you do.  The Fastbreak events are 5 minutes talks by entreprenuers who give these talks over breakfast at the Powerhouse Museum. TheFastbreak event that I went along to, centred around the idea of 'play' and maintaining fun in your life to bring forth creativity and innovation.

To return briefly to the white paper, Matthews highlights some inspiring ideas, and even goes on to mention 3D printing, which I got first hand experience of, at the Powerhouse Museum Fastbreak talks.  I even got to take home a souvenir that was printed out using a 3D printer. It's just a little plastic cylinder, but to me it speaks volumes. It's kind of like a symbol which reminds me of all of the ideas that I gleaned from attending the Fastbreak talks.  It's really good to hold in your hand and play with, so whenever I look at it, or hold it, it reminds me to try to be a bit more creative and innovative in all the things that I could be doing. This article on bringing 3D printing to libraries and turning libraries into community hackerspaces blew my mind a little while ago- it just seemed so out there, and so amazingly incredible- but maybe this is the direction that libraries are turning towards?

3D printed cylinder: 

Some things I took away from the Fastbreak 'Play' talks (besides the printed cylinder):
- We need to re-think how we run business and organisations - play leads to creativity, creativity leads to good ideas and good ideas lead to innovation
- Think about applying the play philosophy or mindset that you get into when you travel, apply it to to everyday life and see what comes of it
- Reward bravery!
- Innovation is about thinking about things from someone else's viewpoint
- Play is imperative to practical problem solving
- Have fun so you can do better in your professional life

And let me lastly leave you with some big ideas gleaned from Matthew's white paper:

- Strive to change the profession
- Don't just copy and paste from other libraries: invent!
- Focus on relationship building
- Build a strategic culture, not a strategic plan 
- Aim for epiphanies

In the famous words of Steve Jobs (and now Brian Matthews) how can libraries 'dent the universe' and be 'insanely great'?

Thanks should also go to my library colleagues Chris Boyd and Samantha Hutchinson for sharing some of the links I've included in this blog post. Don't you just love professional dialogue and collegial discussion? I do!

Matthews, B. (2012). Think like a startup: A white paper to inspire library entrepreneurialism. Retrieved from:

~ Crystal Choi

Crystal is ALIA Sydney Convenor, works as a Faculty Liaison Librarian at the University of Sydney and tweets @crystalibrary. All thoughts and opinions expressed are her own.

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