Design Thinking @ Your Library, a SI2016 Recap

Librarians are, by our very nature, selfless creatures. We think about our users constantly, in just about every area of our work. From collection development to research instruction, web design to furniture and paint colors. But do we really know them and understand the full spectrum of their needs?

Enter Design Thinking @ Your Library, the 2016 AISL Summer Institute.

This June, 36 librarians came together from the four corners of the United States, representing Lower, Middle, and Upper Division libraries, all with a single mission: to learn how to “do” Design Thinking and to return to our schools ready to tackle challenges, great and small.

My background in Design Thinking is varied. Three years ago I participated in an awesome Leadership & Design Design Thinking workshop here at Emma Willard. We designed around the downtown Troy revitalization effort. This spring, I took an ALA course that applied DT to information literacy instruction.  I have read about it and watched videos on it. I was on a committee at school where we used it to study the effectiveness of blended learning in our classrooms. There have been some awesome Independent Idea blog posts in the past that dealt with the DT in the library, but in the vein of all the other awesome posts of late where bloggers admit their limitations,

I still couldn’t quite wrap my mind around how it would work, from start to finish, in the library world. There, I said it.

The Summer Institute changed all of that.

We started with an opening cocktail party where we mingled and got to know one another. We enjoyed delicious food and drink but then…it was time to get down to business. We split up into teams for a quick, fun Marshmallow Design Challenge.

Photo Jun 21, 7 37 57 PM (1)Many a group has attempted this challenge before, from Kindergartners to PhDs , engineers to corporate executives. Who do you think is the most successful? The engineers? Think again! It’s the little ones! Why? Because they are completely open minded. They jump right in and start building. Adults plan, contemplate the “what ifs”, and basically eat up their 18 minutes. Kids aren’t afraid to fail. They build. It falls down. They try again. If you need a great team building activity for a faculty meeting, this is a great one.

Photo Jun 22, 2 04 45 PM

Highlights of the SI included a fantastic keynote by Steven Bell giving us a birds eye view, or WHY Design Thinking works in tackling our “wicked problems”. Two of my amazing colleagues, science teachers and experienced design thinkers, then stepped in to teach us HOW to do it. We practiced as a group designing around my nemesis: a rickety wooden book cart circa 1960-somethin’, that hurts me, literally, falling over when I least expect it, bruising my shins. My assistant and I explained our many problems with the cart, the group interviewed us further to practice the empathy stage of the DT process, then everyone broke into teams to determine what they thought the “real” problem was (ie: was it a physical cart issue or a process issue?). That was an interesting conversation in and of itself! Their prototypes were AMAZING, and included, among other features, a student-led shelving system, fancy carts with huge tires, device charging stations so that we can listen to music while we shelve, flat, adjustable shelves to accommodate oversize books and a laptop for doing inventory, among other things. Designs shared via Twitter were picked up by Demco. How cool is that? I digress…

The final part of the conference was the one that my colleagues and I were most anxious about. How could we divide such a diverse group into balanced teams, around shared challenges in varied divisions, in a way that made sense and provided them with real, applicable, takeaways from the SI?

On the fly, we asked them to take a piece of paper, write their division at the top, their challenge as a headline, and at the bottom, which “track” of the SI their challenge fell under: Research, Physical Space, Maker, or simply “Other”.

You know what? IT TOTALLY WORKED.

Rather than tell you about their intriguing challenges, their thoughtful “What If…” statements, their design horizons, and their prototypes, why don’t you check it out on your own in this SI Libguide I created? While you’re there, feel free to visit the presentations, see the recommended reading, and download the free DT Toolkit provided by IDEO.

How can we ensure that we are creating the spaces, programs, and lessons that our community needs, both now and in the future? We do what we do best: we observe, we question, we listen, we invite other perspectives to the table, we think outside the box, we take risks, we try things! Whether we realize it or not, the skill set emphasized in design thinking is very much what we as librarians do best.

SI Participants, feel free to share your reflections below. If anyone has questions or if you would like to discuss the experience further, please let me know!

SI2017 will be here before you know it! It will be hosted by Caroline Bartels at the Horace Mann School in NYC focusing on One Book One School. More info to come as planning progresses.

I wish you all an excellent start to the ’16-’17 school year!

Save

The All-Powerful Portfolio

Someone recently referred to me as being “mid-career”. I did a double take and gave them my best

arnold

 

 

 

 

 

With that said, I will admit that library schools have changed a bit since I graduated in ’03. In addition to a required thesis or a comprehensive exam, many schools insist that their students create a digital portfolio of their projects, not only to organize their work and to give them experience in web design and features, but also to help them market themselves to future employers. I first learned of this shift years ago when my friend Melinda Holmes, Library Director at Darlington School, emailed me excitedly to tell me of her fantastic new hire. Even though the young lady was fresh out of library school, Melinda was so thrilled with all that she would bring to the table. How could she predict the impact of this hire?

I give you Exhibit A: the one and only  Liz Overberg  (sharing with permission).

Are you thinking to yourself, “What a great idea! Why haven’t I thought of that?!”, then you aren’t alone. I did too.  I wasn’t looking to leave my job, but at the same time, I knew that if that time ever came [spoiler alert: it did.] or if I ever needed to show administration what I’d been up to, I didn’t want to be going back through my documents, my pictures, my calendars, to try to remember all that I had done.

This is my portfolio . I created it using Weebly, but you can use whichever platform you like best. Liz tells me that her first portfolio was on Yola, but that she too liked Weebly so she migrated. When I did apply for another job, I embedded some Google Analytics code within the header of each page as well so that I would get pinged when someone viewed my portfolio. The report tells me things like where the ping came from, the user’s behavior: how many pages they viewed, how much time they spent on each page, the network they used, etc. It’s interesting.

In the coming months, positions will open all over the country. Contracts will go out, people will plan moves, shifts will occur. You might consider taking some time over winter break to get something started, or if you’re like me, get those updates loaded that you never seem to have time to do. I dare say no cover letter will catch an employer’s attention the way a link out to real world examples of your work will and it’s really as simple as this (in closing your cover letter):

For examples of my work, please refer to my electronic porfolio (insert link here). I look forward to discussing my qualifications with you further.

Sincerely,

Your Name

In this one move, you not only demonstrate your comfort with technology, but you give examples of displays that you have created, newsletters that you have generated, web pages you have designed, classes you have taught, Libguides that you are proficient in creating. You can list publications, conference presentations, shoot, you can even have an RSS feed to blogs or other social media you’re speaking through to demonstrate your ‘voice’, your creativity, your marketing skills, your values, and your collegiality.

No wonder Melinda was so excited about her find in Liz! If her listserv contributions and conference conversations are any indication, I would say that the portfolio correctly identified Liz as a mover and shaker in the independent school library world. Thanks for the inspiration, Liz!

Do you already have a portfolio? Thinking of creating one now? If so, won’t you share your URL or tell us of your experience  in the comments below?