When I study a problem the thing that is foremost on my mind is do I understand the problem at its most basic functional level? To get past the current form of a thing so as not be prejudiced by how things are done today in their current form. To understand the function of thing vice the form is critical to building a solution that solves the problem for tomorrow, not yesterday. To help explain what I mean consider a library. If I asked you to build a library, what would the result be? A building for sure, one with many books perhaps? Maybe some computers? Maybe a place to study or if you are even more open minded, perhaps a place to look and listen to media, music, video, etc. But I would argue that you have yet to really understand what is the essential function of a library, you have described what makes up a library, not what a library is. In this day and age I find it amazing that libraries still exist. Sure there is a niche population in every neighborhood that a traditionally defined library still and will probably always serve. But in the age of the Internet when all media can be digitized and flung around the world for zero cost, does a dead tree library make sense? In the near future Amazon Kindles will be free, the hardware will simply become a content delivery mechanism. The razor to the razor blades so to speak. However, much content is free, many works of art exist in the public domain. So where does this leave one of the most important monuments to the American community, the noble library? Simply put, it is dead. At least it is dead in the way we traditionally defined the term “library”. This goes back to my first point of trying to understand the pure function of a library. In my mind’s eye, a library is avenue to share knowledge. And in the interests of not totally destroying the original concept, I will concede it be an actual physical building for the public to go to. But inside, the game changes.
I believe America has been led astray when it comes to educating her populace. In primary and secondary education we have become so enamored at teaching to the test that we no longer have anyone who can think creatively and solve problems uniquely. We have taught a generation to be robots who simply rely on the concept of rote memorization as a testament to intelligence. Then in undergraduate education, we have become so damn greedy that we will create degrees (Bachelor of Arts in Leisure Study, seriously?) simply to convince our children that everyone “deserves” a degree and that they should take out huge loans, stymie their financial health before they even have job, and earn that sheepskin! Trust us, that is the American dream! In short, we have a bunch of “educated” people that cannot find themselves out of a brown paper bag.
This is where I think American libraries come in to play as we reinvent the future of the American workforce and education. Enter the idea of hackerspaces but on a much broader scale than teaching just tech. Teaching tech skills or any hands-on skills that make people productive (no, sorry PowerPoint showmanship and Excel wizardry doesn’t count) coupled with personal manufacturing (think MakerBots) will be key to America’s revitalization in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Back to the reality that entrepreneurship is about YOU creating something with your hands, selling physical or virtual goods, and building that into a sustainable business. Entrepreneurship is not “investing” in other people’s startups, if you didn’t invent it you aren’t an entrepreneur, sorry. So take a look at the hackerspace link above and see the future of libraries.