Two Things You Can Do For Libraries To Help Entrepreneurs: First Redefine Entrepreneur

I don’t know if you have ever defined entrepreneur. I know I hadn’t since my teacher Mrs. Falco encouraged us all to be entrepreneurs when I was in sixth grade. I didn’t know what she meant at the time, and I certainly did not feel as though I was an entrepreneur.

Fast forward to 30 years later and I finally do see myself as an entrepreneur. I had the this “Ah Ha, Mrs. Falco was right!” moment sitting in the co working space at Trailhead listening to Jeff Reynolds explain who entrepreneurs are.

Then there’s this definition from Angelica Willis, University Innovation Fellow at North Carolina Ag & Tech University, in her interview with Boise State student Camille Eddy, “entrepreneurship is creating something that didn’t exist before and attaching value to it.”

How many times have you done this, as a librarian or library staff member?

Anyone with ideas is an entrepreneur. That’s you! You have ideas. How do you decide if an idea is a good one? How much it will cost? If people will like it? Bring it to scale? All new ideas require some entrepreneurial thinking.

Book displays, passive programming, active programming, maker services – all of these take entrepreneurial skills. You see what your users need, and you create something new, and if successful, your user base attaches value to this.

You know entrepreneurs if you have ever met or worked with or served: people with ideas, makers, etsy shop owners, inventors, tinkerers, storytellers, AR/VR designers, engineers, teachers, gamers, artists, social entrepreneurs, non profit founders, people starting businesses,”intrepreneurs” – people who want to modify processes within an organization.

I’ve been creating concepts and applying value to them for a long time including my time as a musician, a writer, and also as a librarian.

In addition to redefining entrepreneur, I highly recommend working towards using entrepreneurial skills in your library:

  1. Provide services to entrepreneurs
  2. Learn how to use entrepreneurial mindset in your library work

How, I’m sure you’re wondering now. How can I do this? Let’s start slowly.

First, let’s get exposed to the ideas. Later, on this blog, and in articles, I’ll share ways to more specifically get to providing services to entrepreneurs, and using the entrepreneurial mindset in your work.

Second, think about how you can get started solving problems locally. Brian Mathews suggests that libraries could start thinking like a startup and using these techniques to help improve our strategic culture, “Startups are organizations dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty.” He suggests that libraries actively work to solve problems in our community, and in that way, operate like a startup.

Here are a few suggestions knowing that I will share more over time on this blog. These steps will help you get exposed to the general ideas about what entrepreneurial ideas and toolkits mean and what they look like:

  1. Join the Library Entrepreneur and Maker Services ALA Member Interest Group 
  2. Take the dSpace Design Thinking Crash Course with an even number of colleagues
  3. Tour a co working space, and consider a membership, like Trailhead Boise
  4. Go to a meeting for a technology or entrepreneurial meet up group, like Girl Develop It in Boise
  5. Read up on Design Thinking for Libraries

What’s your response to this? Overwhelming? Interesting? How do you define entrepreneur?

Let me know. Comment. Let’s talk.



Eddy, Camille & Angelica Willis. 2016. Angelica Willis: Makerspaces and Student Innovation.

Mathews, Brian. 2012. Thin like a Startup: a White Paper to Inspire Library Entrepreneurialism



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