First published in October 2016
This October marks the twentieth anniversary of my business, The Skills Library. I am celebrating the anniversary with a series of short articles about the work I have been doing.
First, why did I choose this name?
The name started as a brainstorming exercise. While thinking about starting the business, I created a list of words related to employment, careers and job markets. I listed words like “work”, “job”, “career”, “skills”, “future”, etc., and put the words in two columns. Then I drew lines between the columns, contemplating various combinations of words. Skills Library sounded good. Definitely “SKILLS” because I wanted the business to be focused on supporting people in developing career skills, with a mission to engage people in understanding how various skills form the foundation for successful careers. And I wanted to create a collection of resources that would support youth programs, schools, agencies and organizations in this mission, and so the word “LIBRARY” was a good fit.
The word “library” resonates with people. A library can be either personal or public. It is a place where you can find a useful, interesting and thoughtfully-assembled collection of materials. It is a place you can borrow from, and, in the case of a public library, a place you can claim as your own. A library implies an exchange of information, reflecting the openness that represents the best of a contemporary information-based economy.
The Skills Library is a big name for a solo business, and I was a little nervous about whether I could grow into the name. There was the obvious risk of being mistaken for a public library, and I have, in fact, received many phone calls asking if I was the local public library. More times than I can count, I’ve given out the local library’s phone number, occasionally told a caller when the public library would be open, and even gotten into a debate about local history with a caller who thought I might be a reference librarian. And even when not being mistaken for a local library, I worried a little at those moments when someone asked, “What is the Skills Library?” and I answer “oh, that’s just me, that’s my consulting business.”
But meanwhile, I am happy that the business has grown into the name. Although I continue to work as a solo entrepreneur, it’s rarely “just me” since I have had part-time employees, interns and various partners working with me on many projects. And more than that, clients take ownership of the projects, from databases to curriculum websites to skills portfolios to how-to-guides. I am delighted when I hear people refer to a Skills Library database with a sense of ownership, thinking of it as their own database where their information, program accomplishments and program reports are found. I am delighted when I check web traffic reports and I notice that materials that I have written about skills and careers are being widely read and shared. And I am delighted when new projects continue to come my way, with the goodwill earned from one project spilling over into invitations to launch more new projects.
Celebrating a twenty year anniversary feels good! Stay tuned for some more reflections over the next few weeks.