Monday, May 15, 2017

Design Thinking for Libraries: A Process Model for Putting Patron Needs First

Van Halsema, Pamela

Ideo. (2015). Design Thinking for Libraries: A Toolkit for Patron Centered Design. Retrieved May 1,        2017, from Design Thinking for Libraries website:

The Design Thinking for Libraries publication describes a process that libraries can use to approach the design of space and services based on the needs of their patrons first and foremost.  This publication is part of a series from Ideo, and offshoot of the Stanford D School, which has made a name for itself in developing a process model for human centered design.  The process is largely centered on three steps: Inspiration, Ideation, and Iteration.  The publication provides an overview of the process, with case studies and explanations, and a practical toolkit which guides the librarian through the process at their own site.

I've been a fan of Design Thinking as a strong model for rethinking and refashioning systems to make them better from a user's perspective.  There is clearly lots of room for reflection on that idea in the library space, as so many times our systems can become the boss of our work, instead of a more empathetic approach to redesign our policies, procedures, programs and spaces to make the patron experience great.

Just like our inquiry learning process we teach in our libraries, the design thinking process begins with a question: How might we......??  (eg. How might we create user friendly web experiences that are on par with the 21st century digital landscape? or How might we create a welcoming ambiance in the library environment that encourages users to linger and stay?) Simply the fact that these questions and search for answers are conducted in a collaborative process that involves many stakeholders and most importantly some patrons, this approach to problem solving can be a powerful opportunity to get to know how others view the library and learn how to make it better.

Several possible solutions emerge in the process and quick experimental implementations, help reveal whether they are effective approaches.  Research, communication, visualization, and iteration are all important elements to finding the best answers to the 'How might we' question.

Along with empathy for the patron, the process involved humility for the librarian, and a willingness to listen, look, and respond to the experiences of the people who use the library.  Perhaps such an approach is what we need to reinvent ourselves and remain relevant in this shifting information landscape that threatens the very existence of libraries today.

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