Association of Research Libraries
Research Library Issues 291 2017
Intrapreneurship in Libraries
Intrapreneurship offers libraries an organic
approach to structural change. Reflecting
on Stoffle, Renaud, and Veldof’s seminal
1996 essay “Choosing Our Futures,”2
Neal proclaims that “we must dismantle
traditional organizational structures
to create more agile advancement and more robust internal and
external communications and collaborations.”3 It seems that even
20 years after the initial call to arms for organizational change,
libraries are still struggling to become more flexible and agile.
Intrapreneurship offers an opportunity to alleviate some of this tension
through lightweight initiatives that can work within the existing
structure. Organizations can address emerging areas of customer
need that may not fit into existing portfolios. Indeed, one of Batthini’s
definitions of intrapreneurship was the “internal start-up” model:
establishing a joint venture, a new subsidiary, a new outlet, or a new
business unit.4 In a library context, intrapreneurship’s internal start-
up model is often seen in holistic librarianship: cross-departmental,
project-based collaborations. This can begin an intrapreneurial
culture shift in an organization that breeds flexibility and resilience.
Library technology, too, is ripe for intrapreneurial innovation. We all
struggle to meet users’ growing expectations of online services and
products with our limited budgets and resources. It is a challenge to
keep library staff members’ technology skills up to date when low
turnover minimizes opportunities to add staff members with new
skill sets to the team. Providing quality professional development
in this area can be expensive and hard to deliver at scale. Library
leaders in charge of training-fund allocation may not be aware of
these skill deficits or fully understand the impact they have on service
delivery, making it difficult to direct development opportunities.
offers libraries an
organic approach to
structural change.
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