for Andy: librarian entrepreneurship

Andy Woodworth has a lively discussion going on about librarian unemployment. (Have I mentioned how much I envy his discussion-starting skills?)

This has me wanting to start a discussion about librarian unemployment over here, what with my being an unemployed librarian, but I can’t think of any way to get that going other than “let’s all complain about long-term unemployment”, and I’m really not interested in hosting that. Like Andy says: it’s boring. Important topic; boring (negative, soul-sucking) discussion.

But I am interested in what Andy has to say about entrepreneurship. A lot of his commenters have seized on that point, speculating on the impossibility of starting a business as a librarian, but to me, entrepreneurship is a continuum. At one end, zero, are people with no initiative, who want their employers to tell them what to do. On the other end are people who support themselves entirely with profitable, dynamic businesses they’ve started.

But there’s this whole spectrum in between! We see part of it in the apparently awesome Kent Barnard, who saw an opportunity for a children’s storytime at his job as a bookseller and made it happen. I’m not interested in starting a business as my full-time gig — I want to have a more traditional type of job — but part of the way I’m trying to convince people to hire me is the projects I work on, like writing and making a virtual book fair for a school library (which I might develop into a sideline business) and helping to Buy India a Library. All of these are things that, yes, use my library degree, and involve money. In two of them, the money’s even for me. (Enough to live on? No. The job hunting continues.)

What I’m getting at here is a definition of entrepreneurship that — yes, at its extreme, is about money, maybe even enough to support oneself — but is more of an attitude. Where are the unfilled needs, that can be met with information skills, energy, tenacity? Where can we create something where there was nothing?

Maybe that’s the basis of a full-time business. Maybe that’s a sideline. Maybe that’s a route to working for someone else (I cherish the hope!).

I agree with the unemployed librarians of the world that the in-between times are no fun, and there’s a lot of barriers to employment these days. But I agree with Andy that carping about barriers is dull and, ideally, the intense pressures on our field will be Darwinian:

Personally, I want the tougher librarians to make it. I want them because we have some serious fights on the way and I don’t want people who will give up at the first sign of resistance or wait for someone to take charge of them. I want fighters, I want people with initiative, and I want winners.

I want our response to the crushing horror that is the job market to be kicking ass. I want my future coworkers to be the Kent Barnards of the world.

If I’m going to sponsor a conversation about unemployment on this blog (I realize just now) I want it to be the one where I hear what you are doing to kick ass: I want to glory in your accomplishments for a while! And if you’ve got some entrepreneurial idea that needs a librarian superhero teamup, I want to hear that too. I want you to find one another in the comments and build a something from the nothing.

Make it happen. There is no spoon.