The Extraordinary Library Experience

Libraries are in the midst of change, big change.  Library professionals often have to address the most basic of basics: funding, staffing, resources.  We see some amazing and inventive projects and visions for libraries. It is important, it is vital, to revision our libraries. Let’s not be ordinary and functional; let’s hold a vision for an Extraordinary Library Experience (ELE) for our patrons.

What would an ELE look like?

The physical library experience is beautiful, multisensory, and full of little enjoyable learning experiences.  There are small changes, adjustments, and experiments on a regular basis and the spirit of creativity and theater in the air.

The digital space is an engaging environment that students and faculty want to explore on a regular basis. There is something visually rewarding and clever about the design. Possibly even addictive.  It changes to meet new needs and expectations.

The classroom learning experience is empathic and interactive. We hit the right balance between challenging and fun.

The library shows up in unexpected places: a popup library at a campus conference, a special website for new and exciting collaborations, or librarians handing out passes around campus to a special event.

Outcomes of the Extraordinary

I imagine the following as outcomes to ELEs:

Faculty visits are increasing because of word of mouth.

Every seat is filled and students don’t want to leave at closing.

An alumni member who is writing a book dedicates the book to the library.

Faculty and students want to help design the next generation of the library experience with us because it is so exciting.

Visitors are so excited about their library experience, that they tweet about us, like us on Facebook, and tell their friends.

What It Takes

Luckily, extraordinary doesn’t have a price tag. It is priceless and yet it doesn’t have to be expensive.

It just takes a few key elements.

Think like a designer

Design thinking is a powerful tool for organizational and service-oriented development. A fundamental part of design thinking is taking a human-centered empathic approach to any problem. Perhaps the interlibrary loan request process is a bit clunky. How do we make it more streamlined and clear? How do we make it a quick and easy experience for a new user? Designers solve a problem within a set of constraints. Invite your team to think like designers.

Be ready for change

It is important to bring everyone on board. Change is exciting and can be positive. Communicate regularly.  Make sure the change will link back to the shared vision process that has already taken place. That will help with buy-in and participation.

Create a good process

A clear timeline will help everyone stay on track with the process of design. The design process is always iterative and experimental. The complete process is the following:

Select a Brainstorm Participants Group
Observe the Problem
Brainstorm Solutions
Select a Solution
Create a Prototype
Test the Prototype

Track results and adapt

The complete process is adaptive and iterative. If the results don’t solve the problem or create another problem it is always okay to go back to a previous step.

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