Tuesday, April 17, 2007

CIL2007: Innovative Libraries: Best Practices & Tales from the Stacks

Innovative LibrariesToday Christina Pikas (pee-kas) and I presented at CIL on innovative libraries. This is a topic that we are both passionate about. In 2006, I presented a session entitled "Failing to Innovate: Not an Option." This session that Christina and I did was a natural outgrowth of that. You can see our presentation here. The presentation was well-received and led to many questions (and comments) afterwards -- something we both enjoyed! I want to spend time in this post publicly answering some of the questions, so that everyone receives the same answers.

BTW Christina has posted information here and here about our presentation.

As I mentioned, during our introduction, Christina works in Baltimore (MD) and I work in Syracuse (NY), so we used a number of Web 2.0 tools to work on this presentation including instant messenger (AIM), Skype, Google Docs, and Zoho. We also used e-mail. The PowerPoint was only created last week (after drafts were created in Zoho) and the only time Christina and I were able to talk face-to-face on this were yesterday and today. So we truly relied on Web 2.0 tools in order to make this happen.

How did Christina and I meet? We knew each other from our blogs and met face-to-face last year at CIL.

How did we think of this topic? After my presentation last year, we both realized that we had a passion for innovation and libraries, and decided this was something we wanted to investigate more. (BTW someone commented afterwards that she could hear/see the passion that we had for this topic. I'm glad it came through.)

How was the research funded? There was no funding. We did it because we wanted to. Funding, though, would have allowed us to do more, including visiting more libraries. (We did all of the interview via telephone except for one that was able to be done face-to-face.) Since this was not funded, it also competed with the other items on our plates.

How were the libraries selected? We asked people in the information industry about the libraries they thought were innovative. We did not want to interview the "usual suspects", but wanted indeed to hear from other libraries who are out of the limelight yet are being innovative.

Who did we interview? Slide #9 shows information on the eight libraries where the library leaders interviewed worked. Because we did these interviews under the John Hopkins University Homewood Institutional Review Board, we cannot disclose the names of those we interviewed. As you can see from the slide, the managers worked at public libraries, school library systems, academic libraries and one special (society) library. We had hoped to interview more -- including more from special libraries -- but we ran out of time. (Each interview took an hour, plus time to review and code the results.) Even with a small sample, we believe that we obtain useful data. We also know that there were significant trends in that data, even though the same was small.

What is our definition of innovation? On slide #4, we gave two definitions of innovation. The first one was what we used during the interviews. It was:
The creation of a new process or product resulting from study and experimentation
What innovations did our library leaders mention? First of all, we weren't really focused on what they did as we were focused on their environment, etc., that allowed them to be innovative. Talking about specific innovations allowed us to understand more about their environment, staff structure, use of resources, etc. Hearing about the innovation then was a means to an end. Those innovations were high tech and low tech, and we really did not try to keep a comprehensive list of what was mentioned, since that was not our focus. In some cases, you might not think that they were innovative, but they fit our definition AND were supported by other activities at the libraries. Christina has listed examples in her blog. I would add:
  • Re-doing the process for re-shelving books
  • Re-arranging the staff workroom
  • Implementing new patron services (including services for young children, teenagers and senior citizens)
  • Using MySpace and IM to interact with college students
  • Implementing technology solutions in a methodical fashion across an entire school library system
  • Creating new services
  • Partnering with institutions that are not the usual suspects
  • Implementing library software ahead of the curve
  • Using Web 2.0 tools
What's next? We would like to do an article, but we are not sure when we'll do it. As Christina mentioned, we would like to add more data before we did that article. We'd also like to go back to those institutions we interviewed to talk with them further. Since this is not our main job, I'm not sure when this all will happen.

Anything else? I enjoyed working on this presentation and conducting the interviews. I think we learned a lot and we hope that we were able to transmit our learnings during the session. I'm sure that this will not be the last of this project, so keep your eyes open for an article or more data or ???

Finally, I'd like to thank Christina for her work and patience on this. Without her, this would not have happened. Christina, thank you!

[Photo above is courtesy of Christina' camera and a kind attendee.]

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