Friday post: were you in Paris in 1925?

It is highly unlikely that you were living in Paris in 1925, but James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, and others did, along with other members of the English-speaking expatriate community. And, like many expatriates, they would have been looking for a way to read English-language books.

In the age of Amazon, which seems to be able to deliver any book to our door in just a couple of days, and the internet, which delivers almost any text electronically in just a matter of a few seconds, we forget the challenge that passionate readers would have had in finding materials to read in their native language.

Sylvia Beach, an American woman living in Paris, founded a lending library and bookstore that was a solution to this need. She named it Shakespeare and Company, and her bookstore was a major literary landmark in Paris between the wars, from 1919 to 1941.

So what makes this a Friday post? I found a website that hosts the Shakespeare and Company project, a compendium of the records of the patrons of the library and the books that they checked out during those 22 years. The data is freely available on the site; you can use it yourself for exploration and analysis.

You can see what books each member checked out, and for many books, you can click through to a digital copy of the book that was in the library catalog at that time. What a fascinating way to explore the past.

How might this apply to your innovation efforts? Here are some questions for consideration:

  1. What datasets do you have that could be shared and might be of interest to a wider audience?
  2. What kind of project might you want to be a part of that would share a deep passion about a topic of great interest with a niche audience?
  3. How might a passionate niche audience align to your organization's work?
Dale Rebhorn

Dale Rebhorn

Dale Rebhorn is a teacher and student of leadership.
Madison, Wisconsin, USA