Innovation and entrepreneurship

Innovation and entrepreneurship
Michael A. Crumpton
University Libraries, University of North Carolina at Greensboro,
Greensboro, North Carolina, USA
Purpose – This article aims to discuss the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship in today’s
economic environment and why such activities should be part of leadership.
Design/methodology/approach – The article references journals and conference activity that have
demonstrated successful innovation activities.
Findings – References and additional reading provide case studies and examples of successful
innovative ideas. It is noted that more innovation and resulting entrepreneurial activities will be
needed as libraries redefine themselves.
Practical implications – Innovation can work but needs the culture in which to operate.
Social implications – Collaboration with the broader community is not only beneficial but
necessary in a global society.
Originality/value – The article references both an active journal and conference cycle for persons
interested in more information.
Keywords Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Creativity, Leadership, Creative thinking
Paper type Viewpoint
This column over the last couple of years has been with regard to techniques and ideas
that impact financial decision making within our libraries. And also in recent years,
many aspects of librarianship have changed and this includes financial and economic
considerations in the operations of our facilities and the managing of our budgets. This
has led a drive to look for more innovative methods and techniques to offset budget
woes, as well as infusing some people with an entrepreneurial spirit to create, promote
and utilize products, processes and services in different ways. It is therefore
appropriate to discuss innovation and entrepreneurship as it relates to leading results.
So what exactly is innovation or the concept of being innovative? Innovation is
defined as creating better or more effective or more efficient processes and services or
generating the ideas or culture that will breed this creativity. This is coupled with the
willingness to implement changes to existing methods or techniques in order to gain
the benefits of greater efficiency. Libraries have begun to view the value that an
innovative supportive culture can bring as it relates to ideas that move traditional
approaches for service and resources to new and riskier ways of functioning. Yes,
being innovative can be risky, but only in the sense of overcoming the fear of doing
something different.
Examples of successful innovation can be read in Rush Miller’s “Damn the
Recession, Full Speed Ahead” (Miller, 2012) and Ronald C. Jantz’s “Innovation in
Academic Libraries: An Analysis of University Librarian’s Perspectives”, (Jantz, 2012)
both of which have full citations listed at the end of this article. Both of these articles
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Received 5 July 2012
Accepted 5 July 2012
The Bottom Line: Managing library
Vol. 25 No. 3, 2012
pp. 98-101
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/08880451211276539

stress the importance of leadership in establishing the vision, promoting the culture
and supporting the efforts made on behalf of innovative initiatives. This is true to the
very foundations of innovation as defined by the robotics engineer Joseph
F. Engelberger who put innovation into the simplistic definition of; recognizing a
need, creating a solution with competent people and appropriate technology and
finally, the financial support needed to implement. Leadership must be present at all
Eric von Hippel in his classic book,
Sources of Innovation identifies “end-user
innovation” as the driving force for ideas and solutions that can make a change to
processes, products and services. For libraries, serving the needs of the end-user is
indicative of every library’s mission statement so it stands to reason that changes to
patron needs should be reflected in needed changes to library services and resource
allocations. Sheryl Knab, Editor-in-chief of the
Journal of Library Innovation
(, in her opening comments for the journal said, “True
library innovation has the potential to make a difference to our end users’ library
experience and perhaps improve their quality of life to some degree”. In today’s
economic environment innovation will be sorely needed to meet the changes imposed
by reduced budgets, technological enhancements and social expectations of libraries
that are evolving.
Innovation can take different directions as it impacts products and processes. This
includes changing the method that a process takes in how it is delivered to the
end-user, changing what services are offered and this might include discontinuing
outdated services or support, changes that are conceptual as to how end-users perceive
of use the library as it relates to the larger organization of community and changes to
the specific mission that the library is focused on from the inside, how do you and your
staff see who you are and what you are doing. You see these types of innovations in
businesses as they change to meet customer demands, with your vendors as they
change to modify product offerings or methods that improve their efficiency and with
your community partners, who might be faced with similar challenges in which they
seek innovative solutions.
Innovation is about making changes but it must be considered as more than just
making changes in order to be perceived differently. Innovation requires definition and
research and has a greater impact on the end-user by adding value to existing products
and services and is considered lasting and sustainable. Libraries should approach
innovation strategically in order to make permanent gains to organizational culture
and end-user buy-in to new concepts and ideas. Jennifer Rowley in her article, “Should
your library have an innovation strategy?” (Rowley, 2011) discusses the importance of
a strategic approach. She writes about characteristics of successful innovation and
discusses potential barriers involving political structure, external environmental
factors as well as the internal organizational culture and structure. Success is creating
that effective link between innovative outcomes and how it’s accepted and utilized at
any given point in time, like everything else, timing can be critical and should be part
of the strategic consideration.
Developing innovation and creativity
Creativity experts cite age as a possible factor in creative output specifically as it
relates to how an individual’s question the status quo. According to Bob Kelleher, from
Innovation and
99, creative thinking will be the way we define leadership in
the future as questioning the status quo of existing services and ideas. In his
presentation at the 2012 Annual Conference for the Society of Human Resources
Management, Kelleher showed research on the amount of questions asked by children,
teenagers, and then adults, which demonstrated a decline in how we question things as
we age. Future research revealed a relationship to the rules and regulations that are
imposed upon us as we move into adulthood. The creative leader will find ways to
encourage organizations and people of all ages, to ask the questions that will lead to
innovative ideas and concepts.
Part of a human resource perspective on how organizations develop a culture of
innovation is to allow that creativity that will foster ideas for change. This includes
considerations for how creativity is presented in job descriptions and/or evaluation
tools, how new and creative ideas are rewarded and how professional development
opportunities are open ended so as to allow creative thinkers to get “outside the box”.
Rowley views collaborating with others; departments, organizations, other institutions,
etc, as a strength that librarians have and can be exploited into leading libraries into a
culture of creativity that fosters innovative ideas with the resulting changes.
Innovation versus entrepreneurship
According to R. David Lankes’ Atlas of New Librarianship, innovation is further
defined by entrepreneurial activities. In the text his example centers around the capital
or resources needed by an entrepreneur to successfully implement an innovative idea.
Thus entrepreneurship demonstrates the innovation by putting the idea or concept into
practical use with the infusion of resources, be it capital or support of institutional
leadership. This is a capitalistic approach that libraries have seen, once again, with
vendors and businesses first, but are now embracing as their own to drive innovation
in their institutions and professional field. In fact the Kauffman Foundation has
influenced innovative thinking and entrepreneurial proposals in their effort to engage
citizens to mobilize society toward building and maintaining a sustainable existence.
Viewing entrepreneurship as an exercise in social responsibility complements the
missions of libraries and was the inspiration for the first conference for librarians on
the subject of entrepreneurialism in 2009 (Kauffman, 2011).
This idea of a conference for librarians to celebrate their entrepreneurial attributes
was repeated in 2011 and spawned a webinar and an edited book (listed in the
references) that celebrated innovative and entrepreneurial contributions and
accomplishments of each chapter’s author(s). The third “Conference for
Entrepreneurial Librarians” will take place on the campus of the University of
North Carolina-Greensboro on May 16-17, 2013. The conference focus will be on social
entrepreneurship in libraries, more information is available at:
Leading results in today’s libraries will require some innovative spirit to carry
organizations through the changes that will need to be made to secure a sustainable
future. And demonstrating those innovations with tangible products and services that
impact and change processes as we know it, will become the librarian entrepreneurs of
this future. Innovation takes leaders who are willing to invest in an open and creative
culture that will foster new ideas and break standard or conventional thinking in
carrying out professional responsibilities. And these leaders will have to incorporate
innovation strategies into the strategic planning process in order to make innovation
real and sustainable.
There are already examples in the field of how innovative and creative ideas have
made an impact on the end-user and the success of journals and conferences that
celebrate innovation, creativity and entrepreneurism is encouraging for a new vision of
the future of librarianship.
Jantz, R.C. (2012), “Innovation in academic libraries: an analysis of university librarian’
Library & Information Science Research, Vol. 34, pp. 3-12.
Kauffman: The Foundation of Entrepreneurship (2011), “Entrepreneurship in American higher
education: a report from the Kauffman panel on entrepreneurship curriculum in higher
education”, 2006,
Collaborative Librarianship Vol. 3 No. 1, pp. 16-27, available at: www.
Miller, R. (2012), “Damn the recession, full speed ahead”,
Journal of Library Administration,
Vol. 52 No. 1, pp. 3-17.
Rowley, J. (2011), “Should your library have an innovation strategy?”,
Library Management,
Vol. 32 Nos 4/5, pp. 251-65.
Further reading
Krautter, M., Lock, M.B. and Scanlon, M. (2012), The Entrepreneurial Librarian, McFarland
& Company, Jefferson, NC.
Scanlon, M.G. and Crumpton, M.A. (2011), “Re-conceiving entrepreneurship for libraries:
collaboration and the anatomy of a conference”,
Collaborative Librarianship, Vol. 3 No. 1,
pp. 16-27.
About the author
Michael A. Crumpton is Assistant Dean for Administrative Services at the University of North
Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC. Michael A. Crumpton can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Innovation and
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