Design thinking education for public librarians
Most of us probably think of libraries as a place to borrow and return books. For much of their modern history that has been the way libraries and librarians interacted with the broader public.
In recent years this has changed dramatically as technological and other changes reshape how libraries interact with members and citizens. This means new skills, mindsets and tools are needed by library staff to meet these emerging challenges and ensure that our libraries retain their importance as a critical part of our social fabric.
Public Libraries Victoria (PLV) is the peak body that governs 47 public library services across the State. The Our Future, Our Skills (2014) audit report identified several skills needed for staff to adapt and deliver future services. These capabilities include being able to: identify future global and community trends; explore alternative futures and respond to them; develop capacity in strategic thinking; deliver an excellent customer experience; and design collaborative partnerships and solutions.
The PLV’s goal was for all library staff to be equipped with these skills in order to deliver a wide range of meaningful and engaging projects to their community. Design thinking was identified as a methodology that could deliver on these skills for library staff, as well as develop creative and flexible thinking. PLV needed the training to be tailored to the library context, be highly engaging, and instil confidence in staff so that they would be able to use design thinking in their work immediately.
ThinkPlace was engaged to develop and deliver a series of day-long design thinking workshops across metropolitan and regional Victoria for more than 100 customer service specialists and senior staff in public libraries.
Included in the development of the training was a practical and bespoke Design Thinking toolkit and a slide-deck containing templates, design thinking theory, and step-by-step practical methods staff could apply in their day-to-day roles.
“I feel confident to go out and approach program planning with a different focus - really drilling down to the needs of the customer, not just what we think they need.” (participant)
HOW WE DID IT
Both the workshops and booklet followed an Inspire, Educate, Work, and Reflect structure.
For Library staff, this meant understanding what design thinking is, the benefits it provides, and the relevance of design thinking in the context of their work.
Participants were then taken through a series of experiential learning sessions which focused on different design thinking methods including identifying stakeholders, developing lines of enquiry, discovery interviews, mining for key insights, ideation, testing concepts, and prototyping.
Staff applied their learnings to real challenges they had identified, completing the training with practice in user research, ideation, and peer feedback on their ideas.
ThinkPlace’s approach was interactive, collaborative, and user-centred. Staff were engaged to be active participants in their learning and build a shared understanding of what design thinking means in their worksituation and in a broader library context.
I LOVE the book and the templates. Makes it so much easier to apply what we learned. (participant)
The program focused on learning the principles and practical implementation of service design theory. This included a showcase of the objectives and outcomes of Service Design, as well as providing an opportunity for staff to identify scenarios and work through a design-thinking process.
The bespoke 'Design Thinking for Libraries Toolkit' created for this project included: step-by-step instructions for carrying out design thinking activities; case studies; resource lists; and templates for design thinking activities.
Having engaged more than 100 library staff and gained their feedback, it was evident that we had educated and inspired many to apply design thinking in their day-to-day roles.
At an individual level, staff built on their current skills, engaged positively with new methods and materials, and applied design thinking approaches to creating solutions for real challenges in their libraries.
At a broader level, our work was able to inspire fresh thinking, provide mentorship, and equip many local leaders and change agents with tools to create a meaningful difference in their community.