Notes on "Think Like a Startup"

Think Like a Startup: Creating a Culture of Innovation, Inspiration, and Entrepreneurialism
Panel session presented by: Brian Mathews, Associate Dean, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
Carly Strasse, DCXL Project Manager, California Digital Library, Oakland, CA
Susan Payne, Virtual Services Librarian, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD
Steve Morris, Head, Digital Library Initiatives and Digital Projects, NCSU Libraries, Raleigh, NC

  • Libraries are filled with extreme uncertainty & need to create something new
  • “Startup”: Valuable, scalable, reliable model
  • 9 out of 10 startups fail; what does the 1 out of 10 do right?
  • Don’t waste time on what doesn’t work
  • End perfectionism: Good enough is good enough to start; launching the minimum viable product is OK, we can always continue to improve upon it after the launch
  • Feedback loop: Build à Measure à Learn
  • Entrepreneurial Library Program at Johns Hopkins
  • What would success look like?
    • Fill a need
    • Align staff skills
    • Careful scoping (encourage innovation without squashing it)
  • What’s gained from innovation?
    • Lessons learned
    • Visibility for the library
    • New skills & expertise among the staff
    • Funding model
    • Stronger relationships through collaboration
  • Some innovations:
    • Discovery & search tools
    • Digital collections & repositories
    • Mobile apps & services
  • Experiment cheaply & quickly
  • Avoid unnecessary complexity
  • Involve – and work closely with – all stakeholders
  • Keep & analyse statistics
  • Manage risks
  • Take advantage of any spin-off benefits
  • Create a timeline
  • Fail4Lib (
  • Failing is OK as long as you learn from it; always fail with grace & style
  • T-shaped model employee (this should be every employee the library hires):
  • Each manager’s brain should be like tofu; it takes on the flavours of those around it
  • DataUp tool:
    • This is an open source tool that helps researchers document, manage & archive their tabular data. It integrates with Excel.
    • Facilitates archiving, sharing & publishing
    • It can be an add-in or web-based application
    • The Add-In appears as a ribbon in Excel (Microsoft-only version)
    • Web-based works with any platform
    • Scientists upload their worksheets and are prompted to create metadata
    • DataUp also generates a citation, which allows scientists to easily copy & paste it into their CVs
    • DataUp then posts their work in a repository
    • We can find the code set for DataUp at
    • Facebook page:
    • This is the result of interviewing 200 scientists to see what they need for their research. Scientists were having issues with lack of data being presented & poor documentation.
    • Intercept researchers where they’re working
  • Hurdles to data stewardship:
    • Cost
    • Confusion about standards
    • Disparate datasets
    • Lack of training
    • Fear of lost rights or benefits
    • No incentives
  • Three unifying themes for innovation:
    • Cause (employees believe that they’re doing something important)
    • “Free” time (employees have time away from core duties to experiment, innovate, create, collaborate, fix problems, share ideas, volunteer to help others, etc.)
    • Sharing (employees are encouraged to share new ideas & invite others into the experience


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