My newest book is now officially available! The title is 100+ Ideas to Inspire Smart Spaces and Creative Places. This is the shortest book I’ve written but also the most fun. The chapters are meant to be quick reads, easily accessible, and there are a lot of ideas to help get your own creative energy going. There are even pictures! Also, w have tried many of the space concepts at Curtis Library so you know that they are feasible. I hope you will give the book a read. I will be doing an “author presentation” on Sunday, June 28 at 9:30am at the ALA Editions booth. Stop by and tell me what you think!
It is a new year and I have a new book being published by ALA. I’m pretty excited by this one. It is short, easy to read, and I think the information in it will be useful to libraries. I’ll leave the title and subject a secret until it is officially announced but hopefully it will be a hit. More information soon!
We just did this yesterday in the atrium between the old and new sections of the library. I love it. Color at this time of year is a wonderful thing! Sorry the picture isn’t great but you get the idea.
The March/April American Libraries Magazine is carrying an excerpt from my latest book New Routes to Library Success. You can read the except here. The article is taken from the chapter I wrote about what libraries can learn from Kickstarter, the crowdfunding site.
I’m thrilled the article is included in the “Libraries Transform” edition of the magazine since that was the focus of my book – seeking out real, transformational ideas for libraries from people outsidethe library world. I learned so much writing the book – I hope others get the same value from reading it!
Having spent most of my formative years in business, I learned to be a very careful financial manager. I can pinch a penny with the best and (like many librarians) I get something of a thrill from making a whole lot happen at the library with minimal spending.
However, this old dog is trying to teach herself a new trick. I’m trying not to be so careful with the library’s money that I end up sacrificing the library’s ability to “surprise and delight” its patrons when they walk in the door of our building. I’m learning that sometimes you have to throw caution to the winds and just go with a good idea when it shows up and scramble a bit to find the funding to make things happen.
Here’s what happened: one of the library staff came to me with an awesome idea for an art installation at the library. She saw a photo of a display on a street in Spain of umbrellas. We happen to have a space in our library where doing something like this would work perfectly and it would be an awesome way to make everyone feel upbeat and happy when they walk into the library at the end of a long winter.
At first I dithered – we didn’t have any funds for this. Then, I stopped and realized that the positive impact of doing a wonderful project like this would be worth every penny that would go into it in terms of the positive energy it would bring to the library and the community. So, I threw caution to the winds and said “go for it!” I’ll nip and tuck somewhere else to pay for this and I’ll be glad to do it. There is huge “value” in providing a happy, enjoyable, beautiful environment for library patrons. On April 1st we will be doing just that. It’s nice to know that I can still learn something new!
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how you encourage creativity in organizations in general and libraries in particular. One thing I’ve figured out that seems obvious but perhaps isn’t, is to give people as much space and latitude as you can to create, plan, and execute their ideas for projects and programs.
At Curtis Library we had a large room in the library become available for a new purpose. A group of the librarians saw a project called the The Idea Box at the Oak Park IL Public Library and decided that a variation of that would be a great idea for Curtis.
Without any input or help from me (other than providing a very small budget) The Curtis Collaboratory was developed. The Collaboratory has been defined as “part interactive mini-classroom, part think tank, part play space, part studio, part museum, part gallery and ALL PARTS LIBRARY — the Collaboratory is a dynamic participatory learning experience for people of all ages and interests in our community.”
Every month staff members develop a new display for the room. Some projects are very sophisticated and require a group of people to get the room built. Other concepts are very simple and are developed by one staff member. Staff members volunteer to develop a room idea, usually based on their own passion and interests.
In the past year you might have seen any of the following in the Collab: marble runs demonstrating the laws of movement and gravity; books that you could take “on a blind date”; five different types of family trees; or even a display of hand-made books. The consistent goal is to share information with people of all ages in the community, to create a space that draws people into the library, and to have fun in the process.
We are still feeling our way but it seems like the Collaboratory is becoming a real “thing” in the library. One staff member told me that participating in developing displays for the room has become a highlight of her job. A mom told me that her 10 year old son literally runs into the library on the 1st of each month to find out what the new theme for that month is. The shape and definition of the room changes a bit each month but that seems to be part of the fun.
My learning? Self-directed teams seem to be turbo-charged when it comes to creativity!
We just finished up a project at Curtis Library that might be of interest to other libraries. The project was called 10 Days, 100 Ideas. Each day for 10 days we asked our community a series of questions via Facebook, our website, and in the library. They responded to the questions with their thoughts, ideas, concerns, and input. Our goal was to end up with at least 100 ideas we could incorporate into our next strategic plan update.
The result was amazing. We ended up with over 1,500 comments, shared with us through multiple channels. And, the comments were not just short one sentence answers. They were long, carefully thought out responses.
While we felt slightly overwhelmed (it takes a long time to go through over 1,500 comments!) we were also excited and elated. Clearly the community had a lot to say and we were happy to listen. Now we are reading, thinking, and processing the answers and figuring out how to incorporate them into our planning. If you are interested in reading some of the questions and responses, you can see them here.
I’m excited. Yesterday I got a box with author copies of my third book “New Routes to Library Success“. I wrote this book during four month last year while I was on sabbatical. It was challenging because I was interviewing people for the book and then trying to distill what I learned during the interviews into ideas for libraries. However, the process was also great because I learned so much that I am already putting to use at the library where I am the director. I hope librarians find it useful – let me know what you think.
By the way, I apologize for not doing more writing here lately. I’ve been doing a weekly genealogy blog at my library that seems to be taking up a lot of my writing energy. If you have any interest in genealogy and would like to read it, you can find it here. Happy research!
The book that I started writing last year is done, edited and ready for publication in June. Here is a picture of the cover – now available for pre-order from the ALA store. I wanted to title the book “Learning from Others” because that was the focus of the writing but I got outvoted on that one!
The concept for the book was simple. I interviewed nine individuals who work in all different types of organizations – but not libraries. My goal was to explore whether people who do not work in libraries might have ideas that would help libraries address their very real need to redefine their role in their communities in order to stay useful and relevant to their constituents.
Did I succeed? I discovered some transformational ideas for my library. I interviewed some amazing, smart, helpful people from whom I learned a great deal. I came back to my job excited about where libraries are going and the possibilities that are out there. So, yes, I would say I succeeded! If you read the book, I hope you’ll feel the same way. I’ll look forward to hearing what you think.
P.S. Here is a list of my interviewees: Josh Davis, Gelato Fiasco; Walter Briggs, Briggs Advertising; Friz Grobe, EepyBird; Margot Atwell, Kickstarter; Chris Wilson, L.L.Bean; Vicki Loomis, Trendwatching.com; Brian Kevin and Ginny Wright, Down East Magazine; Meredith Jones, Maine Community Foundation; and Kate Cheney Chappell, Tom’s of Maine.