Show your work – finding & creating inspiration in the library sector

We love seeing case studies, posts and articles from libraries and library staff celebrating their wins, whether big and small. But we also learn a lot from libraries sharing their experiences when things don’t necessarily go to plan.

And we’ve learnt from publishing more than 230 issues of our library newsletter that library professionals also really value when others in the sector share their experiences, including what worked, what didn’t and what they might do in the future. 

And we need more of this kind of transparency. 

Sharing your work can be daunting, but it’s infinitely valuable for helping other library professionals learn from your experiences (and preventing us all from reinventing the wheel). 

And this doesn’t have to be something big like a digital transformation of your whole organisation or the procurement of a new library platform. 

We are constantly impressed and inspired by small but thoughtful innovations we encounter. And this is often the approach we encourage for libraries trying to make changes or improve their services.

The rationale behind this approach is twofold (at least!). Financially, it mitigates the risk associated with large-scale changes, allowing for adjustments and refinements without the need for huge amounts of financial investment. Culturally, it aligns with the ethos of continuous learning and adaptation, encouraging libraries to embrace change in manageable increments. 

Seeing what other libraries are doing, finding examples of these kinds of small but impactful changes, experiments and initiatives can be a vital source of inspiration to others. 

We need more blogs, more documentation, more behind the scenes views of what’s happening in the sector. 

This is something that LibraryCamp (and FailCamp!) were amazing at. 

And this was also my favourite part of the recent Facet Publishing title, The Experimental Library: A Guide to Taking Risks, Failing Forward and Creating Change by Cathryn M. Copper

The book also includes worksheets and other resources but it was the case studies of experimental approaches in libraries across North America that particularly stood out. 

One example is how Wayne State University Libraries use experimentation in their service design. They launched a beta version of their website and used guerilla usability testing to get important early input directly from their users. 

One of the biggest challenges is how to encourage and reward innovation in libraries. 

Copper shares examples of different approaches libraries have used to foster innovation such as the Library Test Kitchen, which has evolved into an online platform for sharing “recipes” for playful, participatory innovation in libraries.

Another example is the Innovation Awards at the University of Toronto Libraries, a neat way to recognise and reward in-house creativity.    

The Experimental Library provides extensive advice on steps you can take to try to encourage a culture of experimentation in your library. 

But also, we would add that one of the best things you can do to unlock innovation is to improve the diversity of your teams (something that the book doesn’t address but you can read more about in this research here). 

We hope 2024 sees the launch of more awesome library blogs, more openness and encouragement on social media and an embracing of trying new things. 

And if there are library blogs that you love that are already doing this, please let us know