Entrepreneurship is a form of literacy, whether it’s around regulatory issues, access to capital, understanding the tradeoffs implicit in the choice of a business structure, understanding appropriate marketing strategies or knowing how to effectively engage public agency procurement processes. Making sense of an inherently complex set of requirements means mastering a novel form of literacy, and can take time. Concepts need to be concretely understood and a new, technical vocabulary needs to be acquired. Clearly, getting from an idea for a new business to implementation means walking a path of learning, supported by trustworthy guides and advisers.
The world is filled with entrepreneurs who have figured this out and have a track record of starting one enterprise after another to prove it. But what if we could dramatically scale up the scope and spread of such know-how? What would our communities look like if a well-grounded culture of entrepreneurship became strong and robust? What if scores of strong microbusinesses began to emerge and flourish in all corners of our City? What options and prospects would then open before us?
Libraries Empower Communities
As manager of the Business & Technology floor of the J. Erik Jonsson Library in downtown Dallas, I often reflect on the library’s relationship to community education and development. On a weekly if not daily basis, I meet citizens from neighborhoods all across the City who long to take control of their economic destiny, either through self-employment or by starting a micro-business. Against this backdrop, it makes sense for the Library to partner with the Office of Economic Development, helping to foster a culture of partnership and collaboration. Together, our two City departments are combining our unique resources to create new virtual and physical spaces for people to learn and practice entrepreneurship, while having easy access to a network of reliable business resources and information.
Libraries have always been about fostering a culture of learning. We have always found ways to connect the curious with the passionate, to amplify the voices of citizens and to instill confidence in the art of using information to meet complex challenges. Neighborhoods that generate local jobs and opportunities and learn to capture and retain the flow of dollars through the local economy are less vulnerable to the vagaries of decisions and forces. In this way, citizens become the protagonists of their own story.
Indeed, the free public library movement kicked off in the 1880s in response to a wave of 12 million minority immigrants who arrived seeking brighter prospects and a better life. Today, the challenges are different, but the essential mission has not changed. Nor have the deep challenges of the 21st Century, when so many of our fundamental systems are so far from a state of equilibrium, any less daunting. Together, we can rise in the spirit of constructive resilience to engage the community, remove barriers to entry and help to foster a culture of learning and empowerment.
Learn more about the evolving partnership between the Dallas Public Library and the City’s Office of Economic Development here on this blog as we begin to roll out programs over the coming weeks. Leave us a comment below.