As we close in on the final days of the May design challenge, taglines for the future of the library, I can’t help but grin at YALSA (Young Adult Library Association)’s TeenTech Week 2012 theme: Geek Out @ Your Library. As our June “maker” challenge looms, I wonder if some students and schools might “put their geek on” and get behind YALSA’s initiative?
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We need librarians more than we ever did. What we don’t need are mere clerks who guard dead paper. Librarians are too important to be a dwindling voice in our culture. For the right librarian, this is the chance of a lifetime.
Given that we just released our first monthly Design Challenge yesterday, this was mad-timing that Seth Godin published a post just today entitled, “The Future of the Library“.
Timing is indeed everything!
“What could be better than people who don’t have access to knowledge getting the ability to find out whatever it is that they want to find out?” she says. “And that’s what I think is so gorgeous about Wikipedia — it’s this limitless space; it can be as big as it needs to be. It can actually contain the sum of everything that we know, right?”
— Sue Gardner, Wikipedia director
Perhaps a few nuggets to chew on as we daydream the future of K-12 libraries together.
“I know that tomorrow you’ll be dealing with broken printers, and shelving backlogs, and the rising costs of subscriptions.
But you must look up. You must never make what you do replace why you do it. And if you can’t link broken printers and shelving to the grand challenges of our society, then you ought to ask why you are doing them.
We must stop reacting to the world around us and start inspiring it! For too long have we defined the core of our profession – service – as standing ready to serve. No one ever changed the world by standing ready. We do it through action.
This is the time – this is the place – we are the people.”
– R. David Lankes
Backstory: “Gaming guru and Reality is Broken author Jane McGonigal is organizing a game to commemorate the New York Public Library’s centennial celebration. On May 20th, 500 gamers will spend the night in the main branch of the library on 42nd Street to complete 100 “quests” designed by a McGonigal-directed team.”
More details here.
During our initial Next Chapter meeting in Atlanta on April 1-2, leaders from around the country came together to explore the future of the library. On a beautiful spring day, we worked to tackle this issue by exploring three different challenges:
- Embracing a rapid-fire introduction to design thinking.
- Answering the question: What is the future of learning?
- Answering the question: What is the future of the library?
The three scenarios opened eyes to the power of design, challenged our preconceptions, all while creating a connection between peers.
We were introduced to the rules of design and asked to provide verbs that describe the library:
From there, we developed a list of nouns and from those nouns split into groups and developed ideas around one of the nouns that spoke to us. From that list of nouns, each group decided upon a theme and built an experience or improved a place based upon that theme.
Our three groups came up with ideas that ranged from a dining club, to a mobile studio, to improving the sense of community in an airport.
The Future of Learning
Future of the Library
We ended the day with a session led by Joyce Valenza, Buffy Hamilton, and Helene Blowers.
The conversation was a powerful one that led to a great debate around the degree to which we should reimagine the library and if there were certain “sacred cows” that we embraced and were reluctant to release.
While there was debate, that is the beauty of the design process.
If we all agreed upon what should be created we would not push the boundaries and truly envision something unique and transformative.
In the end, the three challenges pushed us to rethink how we worked with one another and created ideas and approaches that would not have come by thinking within our comfort zones. If we are to truly reimagine the next chapter of the library, it will take a willingness to let go of our sacred cows, let go of our biases, and embrace ideas and approaches that may seems completely foreign.
If we are able to do that, we have the chance to create some powerful visions of what the library can be in the future.
Photo credit: Laura Deisley, Christian Long, and David Bill
“Next Chapter”, the first installment of the Reimagine : ED program, kicked off at the Lovett School in Atlanta, Georgia on the first weekend of April, 2011.
That weekend brought together thought leaders from across the country to connect and imagine the future of the library. The weekend represented two components connection and inspiration. Both were vital to create an environment that would allow us to push the envelope as we began to envision the future of the library.
In an effort to create a degree of comfort and connection between our attendees, in which many were meeting for the first time, we started the weekend with a dinner. The goal of our evening was to connect and create a level of comfort between the attendees so that when they would meet the following morning there was already a personal relationship and degree of comfort, which as we would see is vital to embracing transformative change.
The dinner party itself took on a different feel. To begin, while sitting down to some of the best barbecue in Atlanta, we used several prompts to help the generate conversation that would create more of a personal connection between the participants. These prompts included:
- If you were a superhero, what would be your unintentional super power?
- If you were to give a TED talk, what would it be? (and not about your career)
- Describe an awkward moment during middle school?
- If you could start a restaurant, what would it be and what would be your signature dish?
After dinner, we were led by futurists David Stalely and Andrea Saveri in an exercise on how to envision the future. Stalely focused on the fact that innovations are not simply iterations on current ideas or technologies but rather mashups or new ideas that stem out of two very different concepts. To support that thinking, each participant was given two cards with an image on each card. With our two images, we were asked to create a new idea. It was a wonderful practice as we geared up for the next day, as we would be asked to “reimagine” the next chapter of the library.
The next day, at the Lovett School, was dedicated to building upon those new connections and be inspired to mash things up and create something new. This not only required a connection but a willingness to embrace the rules of design.
Jeff Sharpe, Trung Le, and Sarah Malin led us through an introduction to design thinking and a challenge that helped us understand how to listen, brainstorm, and create. This experience gave us a foundation on the importance of the design process as we would move throughout the day.
Future of Learning
Under the guidance of Lucy Grey, David Jakes, and Andrea Saveri, we then explored the most powerful and effective ways to learn. Their exercise provided us the chance to outline what we as a group believed to be powerful examples of learning.
Future of the Library
Finally, Joyce Valenza, Buffy Hamilton, and Helene Blowers helped us explore what library has been and what it should become. This experience became one of the most heated as we were asked to truly rethink the role of the library in a transformative learning environment. For many there were certain components to the library that were essential where as others believed that we should “blow up” the model all together. What this session proved was that transformative design is not a clean and easy process but rather something that takes a lot of work.
As we finished up the weekend, we realized that building comfort and connection between the participants is essential to create the right environment to be inspired to create something truly unique.
Even then, barriers were evident in blocking us from completely embracing a radical shift. Many of us had been holding on to our biases as keys to the future but realized that if we truly want to embrace what the future of the library, or anything for that matter, we must step away from those biases and embrace the process.