I'm giving a local talk on the theme of ‘what libraries can learn from the business world' – and I need your help. Please send (or post) some reading suggestions. Anything outside the profession that is interesting or should be read.
A few of the books I am building around:
- Smart Mobs
- The Virtual Handshake
- The Cluetrain
- The Google Story
- Entrepreneurial Mindset
- Guerrilla marketing in 30 days
- Guns, Germs, & Steel
GGS is probably the odd one on this list, but the afterword touches upon an ‘optimal fragmentation principle.' Why did Europe rather than China colonize North and South America ? Why didn't Africa become a dominate world power? Why do some libraries still charge overdue fines and fear putting MS Word on their computers? (Ok, the author didn't mention libraries, that's my own question.)
GGS looks at the evolution of human history and suggests that geographic luck played a huge role in Europe 's rise. The optimal fragmentation principle, and I'm no expert here, suggests that there is an appropriate balance of control vs. freedom that is optimal for development. China was unified under one voice, one mission, which provided both pros and cons. One of the cons was the ceasing of ships and ocean travel. This is evident in our domain when you have a hands on director who, on a whim, can alter the direction the library for better or worse—or who can prevent necessary change from happening. On the other extreme is total fragmentation, in which you have warring tribes, or departments, completing for the same space and resources. Without central unity or communication, they are ineffective.
Magically, somewhere in the middle, is an optimal range of good fragmentation. Enough division to create healthy competition, but streamlined toward advancing the mission-- whether that is wealth, global domination, or helping patrons. Columbus had to go to several different ‘administrative' heads before he finally received funding to explore. European states were in constant competition, but that drove innovation. Libraries need to encourage a similar entrepreneurial spirit.
Hey Steven , do you want to write a paper on this?
Anyway, that's the gist of the talk. Please, any recommending readings: books, articles, blog entries, editorials, case studies, etc. Customer service, marketing, leadership, workflow. Anything outside the library literature. Thanks