After reading through the Things To Read for this module, I found myself going back to the Steve Denning article “Do we need libraries?” Specifically, I wondered whether I could adequately answer the five questions he postulated. I gave it a try, with a little help from some additional reading material.
Question 1: How can we delight our customers and users?
Library users are looking for a comfortable place to access services. Places that “host experiences”, not just repositories of knowledge. Libraries can exhibit an enthusiasm for learning that is contagious, with inventive staff embracing a culture of innovation. Active learning meets interactive technologies. Today’s library users expect librarians to aid them in troubleshooting new technologies and learning new ways of using them. In order to surprise and delight customers, libraries need to listen to their concerns and analyze data to distill the wants and needs of the user community. Library staff who are not tethered to desks, who are more “mobile”, are more approachable and accessible, and therefore more likely to be engaged by the customers.
Question 2: How can we manage the library to enable continuous education?
This requires a change in management mentality, with less rigid administrative structure. Library management must continuously question and evaluate library services to see if they align with the needs of the community. Library staff should be encouraged to take initiative and experiment, and to learn from their experiences. As long as management is open and responsive to patron feedback, the shift from Traditional Economy to Creative Economy can be achieved relatively painlessly. Allowing front-line workers to be problem solvers fosters a culture of innovation and challenges their ambitions for the benefit of all.
Question 3: What will make things better, faster, cheaper, more mobile, more convenient, or more personalized for our users?
Continuous innovation and transformation focusing on collaboration and empowerment leads to a curiosity in users that encourages them to find solutions ideal for themselves and that fit their specific needs. Libraries can use innovative strategies to provide what have been very traditional services. Technological advancements such as open source software, cloud technology, and social networks/media let their users tailor their experience to their particular specifications. Perhaps rather than focusing on better, faster, cheaper we should consider making things smarter, sooner, and safer.
Question 4: What needs could libraries meet that users haven’t yet even thought of?
In the fast-changing world of technology, the future is rapidly becoming the present. Libraries strive to remain hubs of creativity and learning. Things such as co-working spaces, media labs, and Library of Things are relatively new in the library world, but users are already waiting for the next advancement. To stay ahead of the curve, libraries can find a way to connect real places with virtual spaces. Many libraries have a considerable virtual existence that synchronizes easily with the physical library world. Offering emerging technologies, collaborative spaces, and accommodation of different functions raises some interesting possibilities.
Question 5: What are the things that libraries are doing that users already love?
Integrating new technologies into existing services and providing electronic access to a wide variety of formats and materials has been very popular with library users. Customers are drawn to the new and unexpected. Some library innovations that have proven successful are MakerSpaces, digital media labs, café reading rooms, and embedded librarianship. The library where I work is creating a performance area for live entertainment. This isn’t the stereotypical quiet library atmosphere!
Denning, S. (2015). Do we need libraries? Forbes, Retrieved from
James, J. (Ed.) (2013). Library 2020: Today’s leading visionaries describe tomorrow’s library. Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, Inc.
Molaro, A., & White, L.L. (Eds.) (2015). The library innovation toolkit: Ideas, strategies, and programs. Chicago, IL: ALA Editions.