I went to an exceptionally interesting meeting this morning at Bowdoin College. The speaker was Saul Kaplan who is the founder and Chief Catalyst (love that title!) of the Business Innovation Factory and author of The Business Model Innovation Factory (now being ordered for the library).
He put in words some thoughts I’ve had for some time but haven’t been able to articulate nearly as well as he did. His concept (and he certainly isn’t the first to say this but he says it very well) is that organizations facing the imperative for drastic change need to go through “transformation versus tweaks”. This means that we can find a million small, incremental ways to do our business better but that isn’t enough if the world is shifting drastically around you. Instead, you need to find a whole new way of doing what you do, essentially developing a new business model.
What does this mean for public libraries that are facing huge change in their environment? To me it means that if the library is no longer a book repository but instead is becoming a community center (as is the case with Curtis Library), I need to stop looking at the book as the center of the library’s world and start looking at people as the center.
For example, what’s the first thing you see when you walk in the door of most public libraries? The circulation desk. That’s the old model. What about if the first thing you saw was a comfortable space with a “guide” whose sole job was to help you at the library? I don’t know how to make that happen or even if it should happen – but thinking that way sure does tilt my assumptions on their head!
Transformation is scary. We talk about “baby steps” at Curtis because sometimes change is so difficult to implement. However, maybe what we need to do is plug our noses and jump into a totally new pond of water. Easy to say, hard to do. But it does sound like one more tool for getting that old elephant to dance! We’ll see what thoughts are floating around after I read Kaplan’s book. I’m looking forward to it.