Great Videos from the Aspen Leadership Roundtable on Library Innovation (Pt. 2 of 2)

In this second part, I feature the talk by Michelle Ha Tucker, from IDEO. She deals with Library Innovation By Design.

Michelle’s talk is very easy to understand and quite inspiring for those thinking of taking this path. It is the path we’ve been on for some five or six years in developing a design mind-set with the aid of several design mentors and guides from UTS and elsewhere around Sydney. I’d agree with her observations and recommendations.

She described user centred design or design thinking as more of an approach than a process and then runs through a few different ways to describe the various stages that you tend to work through such as Inspiration > Ideation > Iteration > Scale, or Explore & Understand > Synthesize > Prototype > Refine & Scale, or simply moving from Research through a Concept Prototyping phase into Design. What I liked most is that she also said the best way to learn about it is to actually start doing it. There are a number of guides and toolkits around that can help. For example Design Thinking for Libraries, the Design With Intent Toolkit, and the (Social) Innovator’s Toolkit.

Michelle sees three reasons libraries should try design thinking:

  1. Libraries are the last great living lab (for designers?): we have dedicated spaces, a steady stream of users who can be observed and questioned on a day-to-day basis. And you can prototype, experiment and co-create with a diverse range of people.
  2. Librarians are great service designers. They really know their users best and the challenge is empowering front-line staff to create better solutions.
  3. Libraries are networked community infrastructure. We are at the centre of the communities strength and resilience connecting education and learning systems, public safety, economic development and civic engagement. MIchelle believes  the best solutions are systemic, complex and cross institutional, so with libraries at the centre of all of this, we’re well positioned to connect and make those partnerships deliver. The partnerships must be activated.

Michelle also recognised some tensions or barriers such as moving from:

  • just reflecting on data (historical benchmarking) to imagining a future or possibilities;
  • research answers questions to (design) research opens up new questions (be comfortable with ambiguity);
  • organisation structured around operational teams to an organisation driven by strategic teams; and
  • failure is avoided (at all costs!) to failure is invited.

Some resolutions or thought starters: hiring T-shaped people with one depth but a broad affinity with others and also X-shaped people who have developed expertise in two different areas (like art and science). Those people will lead changes in libraries.

On Innovation, Michelle said it was a verb (not a noun), both process and outcome, something that can be taught and about thinking big and starting small. It is not always new and she encourages taking something you see and contextualising it for your needs.

Finally she said that change happens at a large scale not top-down, but by empowering people on your front-line to act.

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