Archive for the ‘Library innovation’ Category

Libraries of many kinds have for years been collecting, preserving and in turn offering, in digital form, content provided by people and organizations with whom they have a connection.  This post features two libraries that are connecting with local musicians to record their work which can then be streamed from the libraries’ websites.  Both the Santa Cruz Public Library and the Iowa City Public Library  have launched online streaming that enables their card holders to access the work of local musicians, free of charge.

Santa Cruz’s collection is called SoundSwell, which as a name is a great combination of concepts!  Iowa City’s Local Music Project may not have the same catchy name as Santa Cruz, but the initiative is equally “sound”.  (OK, enough with the puns!)

Projects such as these are excellent examples of how libraries have a valuable role to play in community development in the digital age.  By collecting, curating and offering access to locally relevant content (all very traditional activities for libraries), using accessible digital tools, these and other libraries are supporting artistic, cultural and economic activity right where they live.  Congratulations!

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I found this series of videos about James B. Hunt Jr. Library at North Carolina State University to be really inspiring.  In particular I like the reinforcement about importance of how a space is experienced.  I do see some potential challenges in ongoing maintenance over time (e.g. 80 different types of chairs) and I wonder what happens when the BookBot is having a bad day.  But overall the planners and designers clearly had savvy, vision and passion and the ability to get past some typical barriers as they took an important leap forward.  Good for them!!

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One of the purposes of this blog is to feature and explore innovation in libraries.  Staying relevant and succeeding in the coming decade will require that libraries undergo reinvention and renewal through intentional, ongoing practices within our organizations and in partnerships with others.  Using the so-called “Google 9” principles of innovation (there are several variations around the Web), I am proposing the following adaptations and elaboration for libraries:

1. Ideas come from everywhere — anyone in any unit or department, regardless of position can propose an innovative idea and it will be considered.

2. Innovation, not instant perfection – test early and often and evaluate based on small versions or pilot projects.

3. License to pursue dreams – allow individuals opportunities and flexibility to pursue ideas and concepts that interest them (and that are relevant to creating/sustaining an innovative organization).

4. Morph projects, don’t kill them – there are often useful, effective elements of programs or services that can be preserved or transferred to a renewed or updated version or to other initiatives.

5. Share as much information as you can – ensure internal mechanisms are in place that enable collaboration.

6. Users, users, users – continually bring their focus and feedback into discussions around planning, implementing and evaluating programs and services.

7. Data is apolitical – organizational hierarchy, authority and influence still matter, but be rigorous in the use of metrics.

8. Creativity loves constraints – articulate the vision, then set parameters for available resources and timelines or deadlines.

9. You’re brilliant?  We’re hiring – recognize innovators when you see them, hire them if you can, or if you can’t, consider collaboration or other ways to get them involved.

While innovation is commonly tied to technology, it’s also important to focus on non-technological means to find new and creative ways of offering or supporting programs and services that are linked to the needs of users.

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A few years ago when I gave a presentation on the future of libraries I used a prediction offered by Professor Joseph Janes from the University of Washington’s iSchool, that a library is essentially made up of five basic categories:

  1. Stuff
  2. Help
  3. Place
  4. Values
  5. Interaction

After my presentation the participants broke into small groups and discussed what might change for each category as well as what might stay the same and what factors will likely influence what libraries will be doing in the future.

Recently there have been some news stories that focus on public libraries that are offering high-tech “hackerspaces” or tech shops as part of what their services.  The Fayetteville Free Library in New York State is developing a “Fab Lab”, a free high-tech space that allows users access to machines and software in order to design and fabricate things.  What things, you might ask?  So far except for 3D printing the predictions are a little vague.  The products will be most likely be moulded out of plastic (although the high-tech fabrication machines also work with wood and other materials), they will be three dimensional, and they are meant to be functional; lots of opportunity for the DIY set, in other words.

The Allen County Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana has another example they are calling the TekVenture Maker Station.  TekVenture is a non-profit organization with a tag line that speaks to interconnecting imagination, technology and community.  It and the library are partners in this small but ambitious endeavour.

TekVenture Maker Station (photo credit: TekVenture.org)

It’s much too early to know whether these efforts will be adopted more broadly and become more mainstream.  But they do speak to all five of the library categories offered by Prof. Janes.  In this case the users create the stuff with the help of the library that provides a place for learning through interaction or collaboration with partners so that creators can interact with others in their own learning.  As for values, Allen County Public Library’s director, Jeff Krull says that libraries are “in the learning business and the exploration business and the expand-your-mind business”, and so he says, the Maker Station fits with the library’s mission.

If you want to hear the radio coverage of these efforts that was aired by CBC’s Spark program here is the link to the podcast of the episode (#166).  Scroll down to the audio portion called “Hacking the Library”.

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In an October 2011 ITI Newlink article, Nancy K. Herther described a battle between OverDrive, the global provider of digital content,  and the Kansas State Library over the terms of their contract and pricing for eBooks.  One of the fundamental issues for libraries in the provision of eBooks to users, has been the ownership of content that they have purchased from eBook vendors and their right to lend that content —  not just through the duration of their contracts or licenses, but after the contract has ended.  Until recently libraries have assume that they owned the content and vendors have not claimed otherwise.

But with the skyrocketing adoption of eBooks, more and more publishers and vendors have taken a contrary position, claiming that libraries are only buying access and only for the duration of the contract.  In one of the most audacious moves by a publisher, HarperCollins decided to restrict the lending/downloading of eBooks to 26 occurrences on each library website, at which point the library would need to pay again for access to that content.  This caused an uproar and HarperCollins has faced harsh criticism for its announcement.

As Ms. Herther’s article states, the Kansas case raised a variety of important issues and problems in the eBook industry, including competition over platforms, buyers’ rights and the still unstable relationship of eBook vendors with publishers, libraries and consumers.  With the relationships continuing to take shape, libraries are adapting to various methods of providing this form of digital content to users.  However, one well known librarian, Sarah Houghton-Jan (aka the Librarian in Black) feels that the licensing relationship with eBook suppliers has been a huge mistake.  She points to non-profit models such as the Open Library project and Library Renewal and others as one possible way out of the current conundrum.

The story is far from over, but the Kansas State Library’s battle holds lessons for libraries in many other jurisdictions.

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Photo Credit: San Jose Public Library

The San José Public Library launched an augmented reality site recently and announced it on its blog on September 10th in a very down to earth post  Augmented reality layers information on top of a view of the real world, typically on a mobile device.  In this case historical photos and documents from the library’s local history collection have been chosen to augment three different walking tours near the city’s downtown.  The website for this augmentation has been branded as Scan José, which is cute and memorable.

This site also enables one to view the images in 3D by downloading the appropriate application from iTunes or the Android Marketplace.  Very cool!

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With Labour Day now over post-secondary institutions and their libraries are once again welcoming new and returning students on campus. Many of these libraries are discussing and planning services that match the current trends in the field.  What are these trends?  According to a June 2010 report of the Association of College & Research Libraries there are 10 top trends underway in academic libraries.  I’m listing the trends below exactly as they are written in the report, except that I’ve changed the order.  The report has them in alphabetical order, which is oh so librarian-like, don’t you think?

  • The definition of the library space will change as physical space is repurposed and virtual space expands;
  • Changes in higher education will require that librarians possess diverse skill sets;
  • Increased collaboration will expand the role of the library within the institution and beyond;
  • Libraries will continue to lead efforts to develop scholarly communication and intellectual property services;
  • Technology will continue to change services and required skills;
  • Explosive growth of mobile devices and applications will drive new services;
  • Academic library collection growth is driven by patron demand and will include new resource types;
  • Digitization of unique library collections will increase and require a larger share of resources;
  • Demands for accountability and assessment will increase;
  • Budget challenges will continue and libraries will evolve as a result.

I live in Metro Vancouver, so as I discuss trends and issues with colleagues and visit library buildings and websites I see what one would expect, namely that each institution is aware of these trends but is incorporating services that align with them at its own pace.  For example the development of a Learning Commons or Research Commons as a key set of resource for academic success is expanding in local post-secondary institutions, both in terms of physical spaces and virtual content.  This development involves a convergence of a number of the top 10 trends described by ACRL, including collaboration between libraries and other partners, technological shifts, repurposing of physical space, diverse skill sets amongst library staff and assessment of and accountability for the resources invested in these initiatives.

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Since 2002 the New Media Consortium’s Horizon Project has issued an annual report describing and predicting the impact of emerging technologies in the coming five years.  Libraries of all kinds, but particularly academic libraries use this report as a guide to planning for investments in new technology, training and initiatives that will help them to better serve their users.

Not surprisingly, the 2011 Horizon Report states that eBooks and mobile devices are moving closer to mainstream adoption for educational institutions in the near term.  In the report’s “second adoption horizon” (two to three years) augmented reality and game-based learning are seen as the two technologies most likely to influence post-secondary education.  Augmented reality layers information on top of a view of the normal world (typically on a mobile device).  For example students walking by a building on campus can sync their device to a positional signal and it will display information about the building (e.g. a directory of offices inside, when it was built, the architect, etc.).  Game based learning for individual students or small groups can be integrated into coursework.  Great potential lies in the ability to stimulate technology-supported collaboration, problem-solving and procedural thinking.

Looking still farther ahead, the report suggests that in four to five years, gesture-based computing and learning analytics will become more commonplace on campuses.  Gesture based computing is essentially “wearable technology” that responds to body motion instead of a keyboard or mouse for computer input.  Learning analytics uses data gathering tools to enable study of student engagement, performance and practice, with the goal of using this data to revise curricula, teaching and assessment in real time.  In other words, this is technology designed to stimulate and support very dynamic learning environments.

Academic libraries will no doubt be watching these trends and collaborating with faculty and instructors to review and evaluate the predictions described in the report, and then plan services around their findings.

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The Anythink libraries are literally breaking new ground in their efforts at building community and developing partnerships.  At two locations, Commerce City and Perl Mack, community gardens are taking shape on plots just outside the libraries.  They were planned in partnership with Denver Urban Gardens.  Anythink’s goal is to focus 50% on food production and 50% on community building.  As focal points for the neighborhoods, there will be workdays that bring gardeners and passers-by together as well as discussion about sustainable gardening and what grows well and what doesn’t.  “Read, think, eat” is one heading in a recent library newsletter describing the project.  What better place but at the library?

The summer reading program at Anythink libraries has stepped away from the often-used model of providing participants with prizes and coupons from local merchants and fast food vendors.  Gone also are the tally sheets that track reading volume over the summer.  Their “My Summer” program is focused on learning and creativity based on the thinking that reading stimulates.  So it’s more about quality than quantity.  Of course the challenge for parents with kids in this or any program is to help develop realistic goals for the products of young, creative thinking and to support children in reaching those goals.  I think this model has greater potential than the more often-used ones, for enriching a child’s life experience based on the reading they do over the summer.

I look forward to watching how the Anythink libraries evolve and change over time.  They have challenged and disrupted (in a respectful way) many long-held public library conventions.  Their success may help lay the foundation for the survival of public libraries in the face of threats from diminishing relevance in the crowded “attention marketplace” of our current era.

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Anythink is the brand name for seven cutting edge, revolutionary libraries in Adams County, Colorado. To be more specific, as their signage clearly says, the seven Anythink locations and the bookmobile (aka “Anythink in motion”) are the neighbourhood service points for the Rangeview Library District.

Libraries don’t often embrace branding in the way Anythink has done. In fact some reject the concept entirely. But as an outcome of branding and what Anythink managers themselves call a disruptive approach to the provision of library services, the results have been phenomenally positive. In 2003 the Denver Post labelled the Adams County Public Library, as Anythink was then known, the “worst in [the] state”. Fast forward to 2010 when compared to 2009, checkouts increased by 50%, the number of library card holders went up by 30% and visits to the website rose by 84%. Public approval is rising and there’s a buzz in the library community about Anythink.

Anythink’s director, Pam Sandlian Smith and staff at four locations hosted me and my colleague Mary Somerville in a daylong tour. Also, they very generously arranged for Anythink in motion to take time from its busy schedule for a rendezvous and photos.

Pam, the staff and her Board have successfully rallied behind the brand and some positive disruptions to the usual conventions in public libraries. Gone is the Dewey system which has been replaced by “WordThink”, a method adapted from bookstores for arranging books and DVDs, etc. on shelves. Fines are not charged for overdue items, food and beverages are allowed, librarians are known as Guides and branch managers double as Experience Experts. These are more than just cosmetic changes, and reflect a hip, innovative and creative organizational culture.

In addition to these positive disruptions, new and renovated buildings are open, inviting and beautifully designed. Clearly, Anythink libraries have layout and design features that provide flexibility, a welcoming, comfortable environment and intuitive access to books, magazines, computers and to staff. Those staff members readily detach themselves from desks to roam the floor, to chat with and engage customers without being intrusive.

In my next post about Anythink I will highlight other of its initiatives that help build community in the area, and go beyond just thinking to creativity and learning.

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