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Brian Matthews article on thinking like a start-up is one I’ve been thinking about since I read it. Since everything is in beta mode (a fancier, techie way of saying everything is evolving…no kidding), we in the library world must think as entrepreneurs and imagine what we need to reach patrons. We must build failure into our process and expect many ideas to fail until we find one that works. Everything is dynamic, not static. We are the ones to redefine the profession, to create something out of nothing. In theological terminology, it is called creation ex nihilo, or “creation out of nothing.” In the library sense, we have to start from scratch and not depend on the structures and forms we have always depended upon, and create something new. Of course, once we do that, we realize some of the old stuff was pretty relevant after all and can be re-branded or resurrected. People are still suckers for “old school” after all.

All of life is in beta, which could be defined as “in progress.” A beta version is a program that is always in a state of change, or not officially ready for the public.  My whole life has been in beta form. I always wonder if I’m ready for anything. Most things have been tweaked over the years, and I wonder if I’ll ever be a finished product. Actually I won’t, because that would denote some type of attainment or perfection, and I won’t even pretend.

 

Life is always in a beta-type state. We grow from very humble origins in the womb, to childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, adulthood, and then whatever else they call it when we lose hair, can’t see so well, and get aches and pains. The seasons come and go. We live, we die. We watch children and grandchildren grow up. Our careers, families, geography, and worldview change, as well as our relationships. It’s always been this way, just now technology seems to speed up the confusion.

We do lots of things to create stability. Pews and pulpits are nailed down and buildings are called sacred places for generations. Historical societies and archives seek to preserve our legacy in word and picture. We have 100 year old ballparks, ceremonies to mark special occasions, and traditions for joining together, celebrating new life, or saying goodbye. Human existence has always been a tightrope walk of change and stability. We like stability. We are creatures of habit. Yet, we also get bored and seek new adventures. Why else would people have settled in Kansas?

So I like to think of myself as a pioneer going out to start something new, yet find myself going back to the familiar things. “Strive to change the profession,” Matthews tells me. That’s fine, as long as someone shows me how. Oh wait. I don’t get it still. “Innovation happens out in the open- not behind closed doors.” But where do I go and did I remember my key so I can get back in? “Focus on relationship building instead of service excellence and satisfaction.” That sounds like a good plan. Maybe I can start there. “What will you invent next?” I’ll have to get back to you on that one.

Somehow we need to use both microscopes and telescopes so we can squint at the small details in the present while we gaze into the future. Both of these have to be true, and we can’t take one over the other.

I’m definitely a long way from entrepreneurial status. But Matthews continually speaks to me. “Aim for epiphanies.”

Boy, I could use some of that.

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