Innovative Services in Libraries

By Dysart, Jane; Jones, Rebecca | Computers in Libraries, June 2011 | Go to article overview

Innovative Services in Libraries


Dysart, Jane, Jones, Rebecca, Computers in Libraries


We've had a number of conversations recently about innovation. Does innovation mean incrementally changing systems or services to be better than they were? Or does it mean really doing things differently, fundamentally changing our products or operations? Stephen Abram, an information industry watcher and thought leader, provides his perspective on how to recognize innovation. I think there is room for lots of discussion around this topic, and I hope that Computers in Libraries magazine will keep on carving out a little space for continuing conversations about innovation in our sector. We want to learn from each other and illustrate to our funders that we do have an impact on our communities.

Academic libraries are going to where the students are. They are creating mobile apps for smartphones--apps that map the campus, connect to the library catalog and digital resources, and link to librarians. They are building courses on Facebook and YouTube. They are also collaborating across faculties for media and digital creation and curation.

And speaking of going where our communities are, several libraries have recently opened branches in airports, including one in Schiphol Airport near Amsterdam in the Netherlands and another at Taiwan's Taoyuan Airport, although it has no paper books.

A recent study funded by the Special Libraries Association and shared in the October/November 2010 issue of SLA's Information Outlook pointed to information professionals, medical research bioinformaticists, and analysts working in teams with scientists so closely that their participation is written into grant proposals. These librarian team members understand the environment so well that they identify gaps and address these with solution-oriented services to support their community. The study found that all innovative libraries had supportive leaders, no fear of failure, and strong reference/interview skills.

Public libraries are very creative in engaging their communities; the following are some examples:

* A community QR code scavenger hunt led by the public library in Topeka, Kan.

* Apartnership with local technology companies to provide adult computer education programs in the library

* Akids reading program implemented around a professional football team such as the Tiger Cats in Hamilton, Ontario

* Agaming program that draws in teens and creates a safe place for them

* A community (or online) book club where everyone reads and discusses the same books together

The House of Commons Library in the U.K. wanted to increase its student education program from the 8,000 onsite visitors each year to 80,000 on-site visitors a year--that is, it wanted a tenfold annual increase in online visitors. To this end, the library created an education unit, hiring teachers to teach teachers in schools across the U.K.--teachers who, in turn, could reach thousands of students and educate them about the political system and engage them in the governance of their country.

To recognize innovation and spark insights for our own innovation, we need to see the world--in person if we can or via the videos and experiences of others. Curtis Rogers' reaction after a European tour is priceless. …

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