Tag Archives: Creativity

Race for Relevancy- Keeping Our Eyes on Where we are Going

Many years ago…in another lifetime, I dabbled in auto racing (specifically rally and autocross for those fellow enthusiasts). While there are many skills you learn in racing, arguably the most important is where to look.

THE RULE: You look where you want to go.

It is deceptively simple advice. Why?  Because we are trained to drive using certain tools and methods to keep us safe. When you drive competitively you must employ different techniques designed to get you where you are headed faster, more effectively and, ideally, before the other guy. The downside (there always is one you know)- there are risks.

Relying on traditional driving tools and methods, novice racers can be distracted by the cars beside and behind them observing their progress.  While others focus on their instruments- checking RPM and speed- instead of feeling their car’s performance and response to the road for a faster response time. Some look only a few paces in front of their car. Unfortunately, when they do this they only see what really, in essence, is already done.  There is no time for course correction.  Looking a few paces in front is to look at the result of decisions already made.  All these traditional practices of driving, slow you down and shift your focus from where you are going.   When racing you look up and ahead.  What is coming? Where do you need to position your wheels to take that next curve? The really experienced drivers have studied the track in advance and know the curve after the next one.  They not only know how to set up for the coming curve but how to exit in preparation for the one they can’t even see.

Libraries have been talking about the future for decades.  SO why are we still having the same conversations? Why aren’t we making more headway? Because we are relying on our traditional tools for our decision making and thus ending up with traditional results.

These outmoded methods include:

  1. Look for Trends: Much like the driver who monitors the cars around them, we become distracted by those around us.  While yes we can learn from one another, too often we become distracted by the ‘innovations’ of other libraries and simply replicate.  We allow ourselves to become followers instead of leaders.  Look outward and forward.  What is the NEXT thing? What is happening in other disciplines that will influence libraries?  Simply put- by the time you read it in Library Journal it is old news.  Someone has been there and done it.  Does that mean you should not incorporate the idea? No! Go for it.  But do not stop there.  Use that innovation as a stepping stone to your next.
  2. Ask your Community What it wants: Oh now this one will get me in trouble…but hear me out.  When I was on faculty at a Washington State University, we took a student poll asking what services students would like to see in the library.  “Beer” was the #1 response.  Yes, I know that in some countries they do serve beer in academic libraries -but that is a topic for another blog.  The point here being, your patrons do not always know what they want!  And they most certainly do not know the possibilities of what you could give them.  Still not convinced? How many times has someone said “I wish the library carried eBooks” or “I wish the library did…(fill in one of a thousand other examples of something you already do)”.  We all bemoan that patrons do not know what the library offers.  So why do we think they have the magic answer to our future?  Librarians have debated “What is a 21st Century Library?” for decades…WE have to find the answer.  The response will let us know we got it right.
  3. Using Statistics for our decisions and direction: Just as with the driver focused on the space in front of him instead of the coming road, by the time we see these, they are behind us.  If we are being honest, the majority of our data is at least a year old by the time we can use it for serious analysis.  In addition, most of us would also agree that much of what we measure we do only for state requirements or our boards; not because we truly believe it reflects the interest and usage in our libraries.  This leaves us always responding never instigating.  WE will never be able to set ourselves up for the curve if we are busy responding to old information. Am I saying that statistics are useless? Of course not, but they aren’t going to get us to the future.  They are a gauge that can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the decisions we have made.  But to make the truly innovative and edgy decisions there are rarely stats to lean on.  This is where instinct and experience come into play.

You are the expert. You know your profession.  You know what is needed.  Be bold, Trust yourself and move forward decisively even when those around you tell you all the reasons you will fail or should not try.   As John Locke told us, new ideas are always suspect for no other reason than that they are new.

If we are to find our future, we must stop using outdated tools and methods.  Instead we must look to the future.  See what is coming and head towards it. Without excuse or apology.  Look where you want to go and MOVE.  So why is something that sounds so easy one of the toughest skills to master?  Simple. Keeping your eyes on the future and driving straight at it is hard because it forces you to trust your instincts and abandon the tools we traditionally use to keep ourselves safe and on course.

All those who stay on the edge or try what no one else has take risks.  Sometimes you fail. As with racing, the goal is, at best, to succeed and, at worst, survive the failure.

For those who may read this and say “But its not a race!” Really? Tell that to the folks in Douglas County, OR


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Get Creative At Your Library

Gregg Fraley at TEDxStoremont
Scaffolding To Solutions


The Secret to Creativity: Mike Dillon at TEDxEastsidePrep
A former Imagineer for Disney, Mike Dillon founded his own imagination company.


What creativity is trying to tell you: Jonathan Tilley at TEDxStuttgart
“The creative process is as individual as it is universal.”

What can you imagine and create to transform your “library” into a “LIBRARY!
we need lib

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You May Be A 21st Century Librarian If You:

Over two years ago I wrote Are You a 21st Century Librarian? and proposed the following six behaviors that would describe a 21st Century librarian.

You May Be A 21st Century Librarian If You:

1. Are Creative – …

2. Have an Entrepreneurial Spirit – …

3. Are Customer Oriented – …

4. Embrace Technology – …

5. Are Business-like – …

6. Adopt a New Library Paradigm – …

I also wrote that there are definitely more than six characteristics of a 21st Century Librarian and more would follow. Life is what happens while you’re doing something else.

You May Be A 21st Century Librarian If You:

7. Develop New Skill Sets – These are the skills they don’t teach you in library school; team building, collaboration, application of cutting edge technology, conducting training, individual professional development, applications of social media, crowd sourcing, open innovation, and many more. The point is to recognize what skill set is needed now and next year and develop it within yourself – on your own time if necessary.

8. Build A Great Team – In the 21st Century Library everything is done through collaboration, strategic partnerships and team work. Having the skills to bring people together through a shared vision and clear advantage in a joint venture is crucial to being successful in the 21st Century environment.

9. Think Strategically – Lauren Smedley, who is in the process of creating what might just be the first maker-space within a U.S. public library [as of 2011]. The Fayetteville [NY] Free Library where Smedley works is building a Fab Lab — short for fabrication laboratory — that will provide free public access to machines and software for manufacturing and making things.

Smedley says she plans on adding other equipment as well, including a CNC Router and a laser cutter. Smedley helped her library win a $10,000 innovation grant at the recent Contact Summit in New York and is also raising money via an Indiegogo campaign. She’s reaching out to local science teachers, as well as encouraging those already active in area hackerspaces and makerspaces to get involved.

10. Are Creative – “You can be a genius, but if you don’t have the creativity to put that knowledge to use, then you just have a bunch of knowledge and nothing else. I mean, like, then you’re just as good as my smartphone.” [Jack Andraka, age 15, Intel International Science Fair Grand Prize Winner] The point is librarians MUST be open to new ideas, new perspectives, new approaches to old challenges in our libraries. Librarians have been pounding away at “librarianship” during the first decade of the 21st Century in the same way it has been done for centuries. The reason the old way does not work is because the environment, conditions and library user’s expectations of libraries have all changed drastically. Without a new perspective of librarianship and the ability to create and implement new ideas to address new challenges, as well as old challenges, libraries will never reach their 21st Century capabilities.

11. Give Exemplary Selfless Service – “The needs and mission of the organization ALWAYS come first. It isn’t about me and it isn’t about the staff. I am responsible to see that this organization functions at the highest possible level of efficiency, responsibility, accountability and integrity. My job is to always meet that expectation and see to it that everyone else gets as close as possible.” [The Highly Successful 21st Century Library Director]

12. Make Your Library Relevant to Your Community – This is the ONLY thing that truly matters in the end analysis. You can have all the bells and whistles, all the latest technology, the best customer service in the world, but if the products and services your library is offering to your community do not “connect” with what the community wants – you will still not be relevant. PERIOD! End of story! End of library?

[Read also: Top Ten Traits of Great Library Leaders

A Sixth Challenge Every Librarian Must Face

A New Perspective of Librarianship

Re-Imagining The Public Library

21st Century Librarians Look Like: Game-changing Creativity]

Please contribute to this list with ideas and experience of your own.


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Watson Come Here – We Want You

Just as historic as Bell creating communication over wire, Marconi making it wireless, and Perotto creating the desktop computer, IBM has broken through technology to the holy grail of computing by inventing Watson – the cognitive computer. But they tell the story much better than anyone at their website. Visit it before you read on. Even the Watson website is impressive. How great must the computer be. Watson

A January 14 article from SmartData Collective – IBM Bets a Billion to Mobilize Watson Business Unit and Monetize Cognitive Computing – explains that IBM has now made Watson front and center in its empire.

Until now IBM Watson was important but had neither this stature in IBM’s organizational structure nor enough investment to support what the company proclaims is the third phase of computing. As IBM tells it, computing paradigms began with the century-old tabular computing, followed by the age of programmatic computing, in which IBM developed many products and advancements. The third phase is cognitive computing, an area in which the company has invested significantly to advance its technology. IBM has been on this journey for some time, long before the IBM Watson system beat humans on Jeopardy!. … Now IBM Watson is focused on reaching the full potential of cognitive computing.

I’ve been following IBM’s progress on Watson for some time, because it WILL have a profound affect on the role of librarians. Since I first ran across the brief article in early 2011 I knew that the world was on the brink of experiencing “thinking” computers. We have all seen movies about cognitive robots, Orwellian world domination by computers, and now there’s even a TV series with a robot police partner that has a soul – of sorts. So we have been fascinated with thinking computers for over a century. There’s even a movie in theaters now about a guy who falls in love with his smart phone – and it falls in love with him. [eyes rolling] As I’ve stated before, Jules Verne wrote “Anything one man can imagine, other men can make real.” so it should be no surprise that the thinking computer is now reality.

If IBM is right that cognitive computing will be the next wave of innovation in the industry and a new phase of computing, it has placed itself at the center of a substantial new market opportunity. Even at the most basic level to simplify the process of making information more available is what IBM Watson provides and our information optimization research finds is very important to 65 percent of organizations. [Emphasis added.]

IF IBM IS RIGHT…? Seriously! Did that young man just write that? How could ANYONE doubt that cognitive computing IS the next wave of innovation in computing? It is what the world has been waiting for with anticipation and dread. It will spell the beginning of awesome new capabilities for the individual, as well as businesses.

At the launch of the IBM Watson business unit, IBM Research’s Dr. Guruduth Banavar brought forward some of the latest thinking on cognitive science and the ability to teach machines to reason and … how it will impact roles and businesses in the next decade.

As it begins to scale its offering, part of IBM’s challenge is to manage the continuous information feeds that effectively make IBM Watson smarter. While IBM does not talk much about the content aspects of what is required, it is clearly more than just loading files, and these efforts are just as important as librarians are to libraries, whereby they are not just stewards to a collection of books but ensure the value and improvement of the library.

The author is stretching his expertise a bit to assume what the importance of the librarian is to the library, but it provides a great segway into how Watson has the potential to eliminate the reference librarian, and potentially other aspects of the library as well.

WatsonMedData This issue is not without controversy. On the Watson FB site is the diagram of Watson using natural language and evidence-based learning to crunch the world’s medical data. This obviously raises the age old question of security and privacy of individual medical records. The data has to come from somewhere. Is it possible that computers will decide they don’t need inferior human input? Yes, it probably is. Will it happen in the next 100 years? Who knows. The reality is Watson exists and it will change the way the world views information.

Would you rather “Ask a Librarian” with human limitations and biases with limited resources at your local library, or speak to a computer with almost infinite knowledge who will recommend resources and even tell you how confident it is that it will satisfy your question? Would you rather go to the Only Vanilla Ice Cream Store, or to Baskin & Robbins 31 Kinds?

This impending revolution in how people find information reminded me of Peter Brantley’s article from February, 2013 – You Have Two, Maybe Three Years… in which he stated;

The most serious threat facing libraries does not come from publishers, we argued, but from e-book and digital media retailers like Amazon, Apple, and Google. While some IFLA staff protested that libraries are not in the business of competing with such companies, the library representatives stressed that they are. If public libraries can’t be better than Google or Amazon at something, then libraries will lose their relevance. It’s good that the library e-book issue has heated up over the past year, and not just in the U.S. but globally.

But libraries have dithered for far too long – it is now time for action. No matter how glorious the vision of local 3D printing, community gaming, or how critical the literacy training and job assistance libraries offer, reading lies at the heart of the library mission – and as the world goes digital, we cannot let the library become a pile of dusty books. We must make the library the most cool and awesome space it has ever been.

But absent immediate innovation, libraries are going to be increasingly unable to meet the expectations of their patrons, and if such a breakthrough cannot come in the next two or three years, libraries risk losing their central place in the world of literature. That would be a great loss. [Emphasis added.]

Combine the threat to libraries from “e-book and digital media retailers” that Brantley addressed with the threat from Watson toward the reference role of libraries and it is obvious that libraries MUST reinvent themselves NOW! As I wrote last February; “This is by no means the first or even a new call to action, but … time is running out for libraries to find their place in the community they serve. I for one seriously wonder what it will take for library leaders to recognize the future challenges and adopt a vision to overcome them and save the library. Traditional librarianship is a relic of the past century. Creative and innovative thinking with visionary leadership and bold action is the only approach that will save libraries” in the 21st Century.

[Read: Reference Librarian vs. Computer! February 16, 2011

And The Winner Is….. “The information seeker in 2015.” February 17, 2011

Remember Watson? November 18, 2013

The Future of Librarians? June 28, 2010

Technology Game Changers for Libraries June 26, 2012]


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A New Perspective of Librarianship

What I’ve been trying to elaborate over the past many months and posts is that our profession needs a new perspective of librarianship.

A TV comedy show (of all things) sparked the following spot-on analogy. One of the new TV shows this season is “The Crazy Ones” starring Robin Williams and Sarah Michele Geller who play a father-daughter advertising team.


In the most recent episode Dad is trying to teach Daughter an object lesson about coming up with an ad campaign for a potential client.

thinker1 Dad says; “It’s kind of like viewing a sculpture. Rodin’s “The Thinker” for example when viewed from the front is contemplating life.
thinker2 When viewed from the back is a guy on the toilet.”

This Blog is essentially all about questioning how we view and practice “librarianship” in the 21st Century. Some librarians are still viewing and practicing it from the front which is how it’s been viewed and practiced for centuries.

Shouldn’t we be viewing it from a different perspective, a new perspective so that we get a different understanding and new way of practicing it, a new vision, a new inspiration of what librarianship means, and what it can be in the 21st Century? ABSOLUTELY!

[Read: 21st Century Librarians Look Like: Game-changing Creativity]

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21st Century Librarians Look Like: Game-changing Creativity

60 Minutes” recently aired a segment on a young man named Jack Andraka who is the Intel International Science Fair Grand Prize winner for his project to find a reliable, cost effective diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer.

Not only did this 15 year old beat out 1,500 other really smart young people, he has presented a TED Talk, which is seriously impressive.

Jack Andraka was so passionate about his desire to accomplish something worthwhile that he petitioned 200 biotechnology science labs to allow him to pursue his research, but only one accepted his proposal. It only takes one.

Being interviewed by “60 Minutes” reporter Morley Safer, Andraka says of his genius idea;

But really I don’t think it’s that I’m really smart. I mean, I know people that are way smarter than me. You can be a genius, but if you don’t have the creativity to put that knowledge to use, then you just have a bunch of knowledge and nothing else. I mean, like, then you’re just as good as my smartphone. [Emphasis added.]

Another impressive part of the interview came when Safer told about Andraka speaking to “the renowned Royal Society of Medicine about his test and the problems with current cancer diagnostics.” The video showed a large room full of doctors and researchers totally engaged in their young speaker’s ideas.

THAT is where the game-changing creativity comes into play, not only by Andraka, but by the adults open to listening to a new idea about how to approach an old challenge. The fact that the idea came from a teenager may have been incidental, or maybe not. But, the point is we all must be open to new ideas, new perspectives, new approaches to old challenges in our libraries.

Librarians have been pounding away at “librarianship” for decades in the same way it has always been done. The reason the old way doesn’t work is because the environment has changed drastically, conditions have changed drastically and library user’s expectations of libraries have changed drastically. (Read 21st Century Librarianship – Revisited)

21st Century Librarianship does the unexpected!

21st Century Libraries Look Like: Something Unexpected)

Library’s ‘Hatch’ space appeals to visitors’ creativity

Open-mic night encourages creativity, benefits library

Augmented reality. What is augmented reality?

The Maker Movement Finds Its Way Into Urban Classrooms

Free lending libraries sprouting on front lawns in D.C. area help create neighborhood bonds

Miami Public Library provides videoconferencing equipment

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21st Century Libraries Look Like: Something Unexpected

Here are some images from numerous resources that typify something unexpected in a library. They draw attention to libraries and open up the idea of “library” to new understanding and new customers.

Johnson County (KS) Library System


From the “Get London Reading” campaign.



From the British Libraries Pinterest site.


Tara Robertson blog about activating the library space, featuring “Koja” by Anna-Karin Johansson.
Koja by Anna-Karin Johansson

Gilpin County (CO) Library

Kansas City (MO) Library System

School library interior in Medellin, Columbia.

Colbern Road Branch, Mid-Continent (MO) Public Library

Sachse (TX) Public Library

Malibu (CA) Public Library Grand Opening

Lauren Smedley’s 3D printer, Fayetteville (NY) Free Library.

The Fab Lab, Fayetteville (NY) Free Library.

Fairfield-Nichols Branch, Trumbull (CT) Library System

The Creative Cat

Use your library’s space to tell stories.

Use your library’s space to inspire.

Use your library’s space to delight.

Use your library’s space to educate.

Use your library’s space to attract.


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