We hear about libraries that are “innovative”, but what does that really mean? What is library innovation? What makes a library innovative? Can one characteristic or initiative make a library innovative?
To find the answers to these questions, tune in to episode four of the Princh Library Lounge! In this episode our host, Marc Lapointe, is joined by Maxine Bleiweis and Bill Derry, two experts in library innovation.
Nowadays we hear a lot about library innovation and libraries being “innovative”. But what does the term “innovation” mean to our guests?
Maxine starts the conversation by stating that, in her opinion, it means being open. Open to new ideas that have the potential to become trends, both inside and outside of the library world. One must look at ideas and ask; Where is the library in this? and based on the answer, implement those new ideas. Maxine adds that innovation really begins by having staff who are open to new ideas.
Bill reminiscences about the time he worked with Maxine in Westport Library. According to him, staff were encouraged to scout for new ideas in different industries (schools, coffee shops, etc.) and later try those ideas in the library. He adds that in his opinion, being innovative means staying fresh and relevant via scouting for new ideas.
Maxine dives deeper into the topic of staffing; she states that even if you have the right staff, barriers to innovation can still manifest from different sources; e.g. restrictive job descriptions and service screens preventing interaction with the visitors who enter the library.
The right mentality among the staff is crucial for a library to be innovative. However, how important it is for such an institution to be innovative in technology, staffing or procedures?
Maxine answers the questions by stating that libraries cannot become stagnant, they absolutely always have to be relevant, as they are not just a nostalgic place of the past. Libraries exist for their communities, and as such, it is their duty to guide the people in those communities through an ever-changing landscape. She also states that libraries are a neutral and safe place, the perfect environment in which to take risks.
Bill agrees with Maxine, adding that libraries are places that have their communities’ success in mind. He also states that as libraries are for all ages, new ideas are important because they attract people from different age groups and different backgrounds, which creates an opportunity for the library to provide an “intergenerational experience”. He further elaborates by saying that new products provide visitors with a sense of awe, by allowing them to touch the future and see what is to come.
Maxine adds that her innovation projects had one essential goal in mind; to make everybody feel like they were a library person. This is done by ensuring everyone can relate to something happening there.
How can a library that is already in an innovative mindset support innovation? What are the first steps they can take in this process?
Bill states, as libraries are an open system, it would be natural for them to sta