Re-inventing umbrellas and corkscrews in the Business & IP Centre

Squid_LondonIt never ceases to amaze me how innovative our customers in the Business & IP Centre are. In just the last couple of weeks I have been helping visitors who have re-invented the most iconic of household products, the umbrella and the corkscrew.

It started when a young man came up to the enquiry desk to ask if I could help find market research on the UK umbrella market. Sadly, the well-known publishers we hold such as Mintel and Keynote don’t tend to produce reports on niche markets like these. But a bit of creative researching led to some useful information on some of our other databases. I was of course curious as to why he wanted to know this information, (I would like to think this is part of what makes me a good information professional). “I guess you are going to tell me you have invented a new form of umbrella”, I said. His response was, “That is correct. I came up with the idea many years ago, and have now decided to patent it”.

As a heavy user of umbrellas to and from work (sadly they are necessary part of life in this rain ‘blessed’ nation), I can’t wait to see what his solution will be. The only real innovation I am aware of is the patented wind proof umbrella. Although an honourable mention should go to Squid London with their colour changing model, who just happen to be one of our Success Stories.

ScrewpullThe next encounter was with an older customer who wanted to find sales figures for corkscrews in the UK. Once again, we were not able to locate a market research report on this niche product. However we did manage to locate a few articles estimating sales and covering trends in the market.

As something of a gadget man I was interested in hearing about his corkscrew invention. But he wasn’t in a position to go into details at that point. However he did say that his idea was remarkably simple. I was left wondering if it will be any better than the ScrewPull system which is my current favourite. This involves the use of a low friction screw to penetrate the cork, combined with a mechanism that pulls it out of the bottle in one continuous movement.

By coincidence the previous evening Stephen Fry had been showing off what must be the most complicated and expensive corkscrew ever invented, on his Gadget Man television show.


Higgs Corkscrew


Librarians – No more excuses – says Stephen Abram

Stephen Abram is always a thought provoking speaker and his talk entitled No More Excuses, at last months SLA annual conference in Washington was no exception.

I am grateful to Woodsie Girl for reminding me of some of his salient points to add to my notes.

Stephen pointed out how the recent SLA funded alignment research had shown how our customers and managers often think more highly of us than we do. He wanted to know why librarians and information professionals are so shy about telling the world about how great we and our services are.

It makes him angry that we appear to be a profession of introverted complainers. This is not the way to survive and prosper during the current economic and future technological challenges we face.

How do we get to the next level?

Alignment research has shown others think more highly of us than we do.

Why are librarians and info-pro’s so shy about telling the world about how great we are?

Stephen quoted from You matter from Seth Godin’s blog:
• When you love the work you do and the people you do it with, you matter.
• When you are so gracious and generous and aware that you think of other people before
yourself, you matter.
• When you leave the world a better place than you found it, you matter.
• When you continue to raise the bar on what you do and how you do it, you matter.
• When you teach and forgive and teach more before you rush to judge and demean, you
• When you touch the people in your life through your actions (and your words), you
• When kids grow up wanting to be you, you matter.
• When you see the world as it is, but insist on making it more like it could be, you matter.
• When you inspire a Nobel Prize winner or a slum dweller, you matter.
• When the room brightens when you walk in, you matter.
• And when the legacy you leave behind lasts for hours, days or a lifetime, you matter.

Stephen said we had no excuses—only reasons, and that if you have two lists of innovation limiters and encouragers, which list is longer?
Think…what’s the difference between an excuse and a reason?
Here are our TOP TEN reasons why [we can’t do things].
10. Innovation sparks dissonance and discomfort.
9. Innovation increases the amount of seeming failures.
8. Results only show up long term.
7. More meetings.
6. CEOs conserve resources. Innovation requires more resources.
5. Innovation flies in the face of analysis.
4. The perceived absence of time.
3. Over-reliance on cost-cutting and incremental improvement.
2. Inability to enroll a committed team of champions.
1. Insufficient conviction that innovation will make a difference.

So, I leave you with this—DREAM BIG. There’s no excuse. Your impact is so great and
powerful that it would be immoral not to make your dreams come true. SLA is there for you on
an international basis to help you with those dreams and making a difference in the world. Live
and learn. Network and enjoy. Say “yes” every chance you get. Put yourself in the way of being
asked to volunteer. Say “yes” to SLA and more. Be part of the change you want to see. Choose
to have an impact, an important impact.

Initial thoughts about SLA 2009 conference

Although I have yet to make it back home as planned, thanks to missing my Thursday evening flight, I have been mulling over the SLA 2009 Conference in Washington DC.

Here are some initial thoughts:

Colin PowellIt was fascinating to hear Colin Powell talk about some of his experiences in his long and mainly distinguished career  (many of the American librarians I talked to have not yet forgiven him for failing to dissuade President Bush from invading Iraq). Although his support for the Barack Obama in October 08 has somewhat softening their criticism of him. He has become a big fan of Web 2.0 technologies, and tries hard to keep up with his grand children. He expressed concern that America may have over-reacted to the 9/11 atrocity by making it too hard for tourists and foreign students to get visa permits. He felt this was damaging the economy of the United States as well as limiting the opportunity to promote the benefits of democracy and freedom.

I think the highlight of the trip was a night-time visit to the Library of Congress on Capitol Hill. The round reading room was a thing of beauty. I was lucky enough to be allowed behind the counter and down (a tiny flight of stairs) into the space below.

File:Library of Congress.jpg
The round reading room
Underneath the round reading room
Underneath the round reading room
Underneath the round reading room
Underneath the round reading room

For the initial views of a first timer to the event I suggest you look at woodsiegirl’s blog post.