Dartmouth October Conference 2012

Dartmouth October Conference 2012
“Outside the Box: Innovation in the Library”
Notes from Wendy Shook and Carrie Macfarlane

Our top 4 take-aways:

  1. For innovation to be accepted, all users, suppliers, and contributors have to buy into the idea.  When planning, look for the weakest link and always ask: Why would this user/supplier/contributor want to change?
  2. “Minute Movies.”  This could be a theme to consider for video tutorials: short scenario-based video tutorials that start with a “why” (eg, I was told I needed 3 peer-reviewed journals articles), then teach a skill to meet the need.
  3. The “Awesome” box. Students returning materials can drop them in the regular return box or in the “Awesome” box, the contents of which are then posted on the library site as student picks.
  4. The Harvard Library catalog (HOLLIS) has a text-a-call number feature. Does III or Summon offer anything like that? We’ve seen some students take a photo of a call number.

Keynote Address: A Wide Lens Perspective on Innovation
Roy Adner – Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College

  1. There is a difference between innovation and successful innovation.  Innovation is seeing and filling the gap between what the user needs and what the user wants (or what you can convince the user he wants).  Successful innovation is innovation that  considers not only the user’s point of view, but whether or not that innovation can work in an existing framework, and the co-innovations required to make it a desirable solution.
  2. For innovation to be accepted, all users, suppliers, and contributors have to buy into the idea, and this means assessing changes in relationships.  “Managing adoption chains” means assessing and balancing the benefits and drawbacks for each contributor and user group (a chain is only as strong as the weakest link); the user might get an improved rather than superlative product if compromise is necessary to get all partners to cooperate. When planning, always ask: why would this user/supplier/contributor want to change?
  3. value proposition vs. scale of deployment
    • The most common pattern is prototype to pilot to full rollout
    • An alternative could be (as Apple tends to do):  rollout prototype with full scale deployment to minimize conflicting partners (conflict is avoided because the partners are buying in rather than participating in co-development) This requires assessing and applying the “minimal viable ecosystem”.
    • A by-product of the “minimal viable ecosystem” technique is the establishment of de facto leadership rather than being a collaborator.

Transforming Concepts into Actionable Project through Project Management
Shanti Freundlich – Liaison Librarian: Health Sciences, Nursing, & Social Work, Beatley Library, Simmons College
Vivienne Piroli – Deputy Library Director, Beatley Library, Simmons College

  • The principle discussion seemed to centre on “getting stuff done”; mission and vision driven projects achieved through cross-function teams and non-hierarchical leadership opportunities.

“What’s My Motivation?”: Adding Story and Context to Screen Shot Tutorials
Kari Mofford – Undergraduate and User Services Librarian, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

  • LIS can employ dramatised “minute movies” to add interest to video tutorials and to make them more memorable (even if still slightly embarrassing).
  • The awkward/embarrassment factor can be mitigated by inviting students to be part of the creative development (the overall storyboard /content developed by LIS), filming, and editing.  This might be an interesting way to reach out to students, and use their insight into making useful, memorable tutorials that have more impact.
  • It’s a good idea to start a video with the “Why,” then teach a skill to meet the need that’s been identified. Starting with the “why” can help with voice, giving the narrator a sense of purpose and conviction.

Using a Participatory Design Workshop to Renovate a Library Teaching Space         Laura Farwell Blake – Head, Services for Academic Programs, Harvard College Library
Reed Lowrie – Science Reference and Cartographic Librarian
Cabot Library, Interim Manager of Reference Services, Widener, Lamont, Cabot and Tozzer Libraries, Harvard College Library

  • This was a description of how a single, popular classroom/workspace was renovated using the input from both teaching staff and students.
  • The approach to focus groups was interesting, but inviting a lot of input can backfire when not all of the suggestions are applied and conversely, too much change can alienate traditionalists.
  • On a personal note: This was a bit of a walk down memory lane for Carrie, who used to manage this classroom and still knows several of the folks who facilitated its renovation! :)

Changing Their World, 4 Strings At a Time: Ukuleles in the Library!
Lisa Lavoie – Director of Library Services, Tunxis Community College

  • Entertaining attempt to generate interest in the library using a quirky gimmick. Their ukuleles have been borrowed hundreds of times.
  • A useful take-away, however, is the visceral reaction a tangible resource other than books can generate.

Honoring Student Assistants:  The Student Library Service Bookplate Program at Dartmouth College
Laura Braunstein – English Language and Literature Librarian, Dartmouth College

  • Bookplates are being used as a way to mark long service from student employees.
  • Students suggest the title of a book that is meaningful to them, into which the book plate is affixed.  On the positive side, book selection can make the student feel more connected to their library experience, and the thought was also put forth that this was the kind of positive reinforcement that could generate future support for the library.  the sometimes quirky, often random selections, however, did not necessarily reflect the library’s mission, and can potentially take up valuable shelf space. They have not gathered use statistics, but some copies have gone missing.
  • On a side note, the HOLLIS Catalog at Harvard now has virtual bookplates. Would we want to investigate these for this purpose?

There’s an App for That…Ask Your Librarian! 
Judy M. Spak – Curriculum Support Librarian, Cushing/Whitney Medical Library, Yale School of Medicine
Jan Glover – Education Services Librarian, Cushing/Whitney Medical Library, Yale School of Medicine

  • The discussion was largely based on the consistent use of specific apps across a cohort, and the management/development of those apps.  What stood out was that the apps and development discussed depended largely on every student, and by extension every librarian, having the same platform to work with/on.  Students are given iPads, but it is unreasonable to expect that no one will customize, or that subsequent cohorts will have the same version.
  • One surprising finding is that students and faculty both appreciated the lack of multitasking functionality on an iPad. This seems particularly relevant for faculty who are reluctant to allow the use of laptops in the classroom because of fear of distraction.
  • An interesting side note was the mention of the “personal librarian programme”, which sounded a bit like the 1-on-1 consultations we try to advertise to students.

Staffing the Information Commons in a Melded IT and Library Organization
Jill Parchuck – Co-Director Yale Center for Science and Social Science Information, Yale University Library
Themba Flowers – Co-Director Yale Center for Science and Social Science Information, Yale ITS, Academic IT Solutions, Yale University Library

  • The experiment was limited to one division of the library, and campus-wide and LIS IT seemed disconnected.
  • The thought occurs that even small steps in innovation may be difficult to adopt in institutions that have long and entrenched traditions.

Exploring the Future of Libraries: A Quick Walk Through the Work Taking Place in the Harvard Library Innovation Lab
Jeff Goldenson – Designer, Harvard Library Innovation Laboratory
Matt Phillips – Developer, Harvard Library Innovation Laboratory

  • An entertaining discussion by software developers (who weirdly apologized for not being librarians).  http://librarylab.law.harvard.edu/projects.html  Ideas included:
    • the “awesome” box: students returning materials could drop them in the regular return or in the “awesome” box, the contents of which would then be posted on the library site as student picks.  Neat idea, but problematic if the books selected as awesome reflect questionably on the institution – perhaps needs a disclaimer.
    • shelf view (will suffer a name change due to copyright infringement): a tool to generate a visual representation of a reading list as a section of bookshelf, with the metadata used to create visual approximations of spines.  It is debatable how much more useful than a list of titles this is, except that perhaps you could generate a simulated view of a section of shelf in the library and be able to navigate visually.
    • shelf.io: an app for users to generate an electronic, visual bookshelf to share (like sharing playlists, but more literary)
    • Introduction of the “library test kitchen” as an exercise in story driven design and entrepreneurship in context.  The presenters  described  becoming co-conspirators with the students and challenging the librarian-student power dynamic.  The result was unusual projects like the “white noise study table” to improve study focus,  and “coldspots” that were free from the distractions of being connected.
    • Would the Center for Social Entrepreneurship be interested in working with the library to imagine new services and tools?



  • The Harvard Library catalog (HOLLIS) has a text-a-call number feature. Does III or Summon offer anything like that? We’ve seen some students take a photo of a call number too.

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