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Friday, January 27, 2012

Entrepreneurship and the Unknown

Have you ever wondered if you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur? To start something on your own? To face the unknown?

Next Wednesday, Mark Lieberman from SCORE Chicago will lead a program at the library called "Going Into Business: Evaluate Yourself and Take the Firsts Steps" (Register here). As the title suggests, this program isn't so much about writing business plans and getting loans. Instead, the focus will be on evaluating yourself to see what skills you have (or don't have) to be entrepreneurial.

You may have noticed that being "entrepreneurial" means more than starting your own business these days. In fact, people that think and write about entrepreneurship believe that everyone--libraries, non-profits, even mega corporation--need to learn to take risks and face the unknown. 

Nathan Furr, writing in Forbes, makes this very point. He talks about entrepreneurship being about a type of problem, rather than a type of firm:
Entrepreneurship is about tackling unknown problems or unknown solutions... Large firms, old firms, governments, not-for-profits, virtually every organization faces the unknown from time to time. When they do, they are facing entrepreneurial problems. Therefore, entrepreneurship is not about the type of firm, it is about the type of problem.
We all face problems that require entrepreneurial thinking and skills. So, why not come to the library next Wednesday and find out if you have what it takes?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Learning to code

Mayor Bloomberg coding [totally fake image]

I recently signed up for a year long series of programming lessons called "Code Year". Every week you get a set of lessons that teach you a very popular programming language, JavaScript. Code Year has been very successful. They claim to have over 300,000 people signed up. Even Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, signed up for Code Year!

In fact, many people are recognizing that coding and programming aren't and shouldn't be an exclusive set of skills for an exclusive set of people. The media theorist Douglas Rushkoff's current mantra (and book) is "program or be programmed!" He writes:
It's time Americans begin treating computer code the way we do the alphabet or arithmetic...We are socializing, working, consuming, and living in a world increasingly defined by programs. Learning to code is the best way to understand what all those programs do, or even to recognize that they are there in the first place.
One of the best classes that I took during library school was called "Information Processing." Not a great name, but the class basically taught librarians how to program, as in computer programming. Learning the basics of how to write instructions (however basic) gave me the sense that I was looking into "the way things really work." And that's an incredibly powerful feeling.

We're only a few weeks into 2012, so it's not too late to make learning to code one of your resolutions. Not only are there online tutorials like Code Year, we also offer a range of books to help you learn to program. I would highly recommend any of the Head First books by O'Reilly, which are excellent.

Also, don't leave your kids out of the fun. I recently came across a really fun site called Kids Ruby which teaches kids how to use the programming language Ruby.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


With the start of the new year, we are kicking off a new series of programming around the theme "build." It's a wonderful concept because "build" can mean so many things. You can build a thing; you can build a relationship; you can build your own skills.

Having a young child in your life makes you keenly aware of how important building is. Just yesterday I spent the afternoon with my son building roads and houses with blocks. We laid out block after block on the floor--only to send them tumbling down, of course. Then started again.

Meanwhile we were listening to songs. He wanted to listen to "Three Blind Mice" several times in a row. I patiently obliged. This morning he was singing the song to himself, having already learned the words! This is just one example of how quietly and subtly we acquire new skills and ideas.

In many ways, this idea of "building" is central to the library. We exist so that everyday you can build on the things you know and enjoy. Of course, the centrality of the library building to your personal growth and development is changing with online databases and ebooks. But buildings and bytes are just resources to serve this larger goal of expanding and growing people and communities.

So, let's us help you build whatever it is you want to build. Check our homepage and events calendar regularly for "Build" events in the coming months. Get started this Saturday by bringing children to our exciting Lego events (here, here, and here)