Recession + Unemployment = New Beginnings at the Library

 The national unemployment figures keep going up and up……

Job losses hit 2.6 million as layoff pain deepens

Jeannine Aversa, AP Economics Writer   “A staggering 2.6 million jobs disappeared in 2008, the most since World War II, and the pain is only getting worse with 11 million Americans out of work and searching. Unemployment hit a 16-year high of 7.2 percent in December and could be headed for 10 percent or even higher by year’s end. “

 We have read all the stories how unemployed or financially strapped families and individuals have been flocking to their local public library. What are they doing???  Using the computers – scanning for and applying for new jobs, reading and learning about new skills, new career options and just plain reading, listening or watching videos to help take their minds off of their worries.

 With all of these traditional offerings at the library – maybe libraries can also offer unique new services and resources for the community they serve. Two articles help lead the way:

Should Public Libraries be Welcoming Homes for Ingenuity?    by Phil Shapiro    Think of: creativity, playfulness, ingenuity… at the public library.  A positive and inspirational article that focuses on answering his question: what is the connection between ingenuity and public libraries?  This article also references the following article by Helene Blowers.
Libraries, Learning and Play   by Helene Blowers.  A slideshare presentation that helps libraries to focus on passion, play, learning as key drivers to positively affect change.

Why did I link these two articles offering a more unique way to look at libraries??  Because I read a quote by Thomas Frey of the DaVinci Institute: 7 percent of the recently jobless will attempt to start their own businesses.” If libraries expand their focus to include creativity, passion, play and learning as key elements of programing and services, then they will be in an even better position to help inspire and influence the future success of the new business models explained below.

Fourteen Future Trends for Business in 2009 and Beyond by Thomas Frey

In the article Mr. Frey outlines significant business trends for the future. I’ll focus on two of them that could place the public library as a key success factor for these new endeavors.

Empire of One” – a one-person businesses with far reaching influence. Technology is driving a trend of placing unprecedented power and capability into the hands of the individual. One person starts a unique business. This business is web based for marketing and sales, foreign based for production or technical or design input and the business owner may not actually even touch the product for shipping to the customer.

 “Business colonies”  – a project-based business model where talent swarms and forms around specific projects. Educated and successful individuals will come together to create an informal organization focused on the creation and delivery of unique products or services. After the project is completed, the individuals disband and then regroup in new configurations based on new business opportunities and new customer needs.

 Mr. Frey has also written a series of articles that eloquently describe new business models and capabilities for the library of the future. New customer needs, new behaviors, new technology and ever greater demands on individuals and society will create the opportunity for libraries to reshape their vision, their physical presence and their services. Focused informational needs and the search for quality experiences can be the key missions of public libraries going forward. Please take a look at these thought provoking ideas and begin the internal and external discussions about how these ideas could be implemented in your library.

The Library of the Future Series: Part 2 – The Search Command Center by Thomas Frey

In spite of current funding challenges and rising demands for service – those libraries that strive to be innovative and adaptive today, will flourish when we move to better economic times.  

What will you do today to help make your library “great”?


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