Is DBL Just A Fad

Just as we were preparing to debut DBL I came across an article that suggests that we were too late arriving on the scene with our emphasis on design. “Beware the Backlash” appeared in Core77, and its main theme is that a backlash against design is on the rise. It seems that real designers are growing tired of the rest of the world using design themes to generate “useless stuff.” The author states that “design has lost its magic now that everyone has an opinion on it. It was clearly much more special when only a select group of designers swooned over the latest Apple product.” Is the world of design experiencing a bandwagon effect? Is it now just faddish to talk about the importance of design? And most importantly, is DBL just being superficial when we talk of the influence design can have on librarianship?

I prefer to think that design has not been “striped of much of its meaning” as the author contends it has. It is possible that design is being overused in the media which adds to the overexposure. So I’m not surprised that those who’ve been long-term design thinkers and practitioners might react by suggesting that those new to the concept are misusing it and are simply jumping on the bandwagon. Given that design principles and design thinking have seen little exploration in the world of librarianship, I think there is much room for the growth of this concept and the related practices in our profession. DBL is about more than just design hype. To my way of thinking, given that many of our libraries need to discover what’s broken and how design can help make things work better, there is much that we can explore and learn in the worlds of design thinking, instructional design, innovation and creativity.

A Focus On Design Thinking

So what am I going to contribute to Designing Better Libraries? You may know me from either one of two blogs. I’ve been maintaining Kept-Up Academic Librarian for 3-4 years now. I also contribute occasional posts to ACRLog. Since I needed something else to do I thought it might be time to get working on another blog. With the other members of the team I worked on developing this new blog, and after a few months – here we are. Some of the inspiration for DBL comes from the work I’ve been doing, with John Shank, at the Blended Librarians Online Learning Community where we’ve been exploring issues related to design (by way of instructional design) and its implications for libraries.

I also became interested in design while at Philadelphia University. It transformed from a legacy textiles college to an institution with multiple design programs, from industrial design to fashion design to instructional design. So I was getting exposure to lots of design activity, and it occurred to me that there was little talk or thinking about design within librarianship – outside of the design of buildings and their interiors – and quite possibly the design of interfaces. But there wasn’t much discussion about the design of a library experience that would be highly satisfying to those who use libraries. It seemed that libraries were the exact type of service organization that could benefit from design thinking.

So I’ll be focusing my blogging on design thinking. I also like to follow a number of innovation blogs and other sources, so I’ll be sharing some thoughts in those areas as well. For those who are new to design thinking I recommend two places to begin learning more. First, take a look at a video lecture delivered at MIT by Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO. IDEO is perhaps the leading design firm. The company has designed everything from the original Mac mouse to the Palm PDA. Brown gives some good insight into how design thinkers work. Also take a look at The Art of Innovation. The author, Tom Kelley, is also affiliated with IDEO, and it takes a deeper look into the process that IDEO uses in its design work (largely influenced by a design thinking process).

I expect that the concept of design thinking will be vague to those who are new to it. I will be working to share with DBL readers more ideas and resources to promote a better understanding of design thinking, particulary in the ways librarians can benefit from weaving it into their practice. One thing that design thinkers try to do is develop clear outcomes for their products or deliverables. In order to evaluate the quality of the experience and the achievement of that outcome, it is critical to know at the start what one is seeking to accomplish. If DBL inspires librarians to develop more passion for design thinking – and enables them to firmly grasp the concepts and integrate it into their practice of librarianship – then one of my priority outcomes will be achieved.

DBL’s Feed Experiencing A Glitch

The DBL blog team wishes to thank everyone who has visited the blog, and we appreciate the supportive and positive comments received so far. It sounds like we’ve set some high expectations and we’ll do our best to meet them. And thanks to all you bloggers who posted about DBL to help spread the word to the library community. Just this week over 150 folks have subscribed to our feed on Bloglines.

While we hoped our first week would be a smooth one it appears we are suffering from at least one significant technical glitch. We have discovered that our feed isn’t working in most of the major news aggregators like Bloglines. The subscription will work, but new posts are not being picked up. So for that time being you will not see new items for DBL in your aggregator. We are working to correct this and hope to have it working correctly soon. In the meantime, please try to stop by for our latest posts.

 

Welcome to Designing Better Libraries

Into the already crowded landscape of library-related blogs we introduce something new. A commonality among library blogs is a tendency to point to the weaknesses and faults of our profession and how it inadequately delivers services. Customer service – it’s terrible. Competiveness – we don’t understand the concept. Technology – we must better understand our users needs. Search – Google makes us look inferior and hopelessly complex. Libraries – the facilities need vast improvement. Innovation – there’s not enough or it’s mostly “bandwagon innovation“. To an extent, that library bloggers point out these problems is a good thing. It’s important to recognize these issues so that we can work on improving them. That’s what Designing Better Libraries is all about; adapting new ways of thinking and acting that will promote the development and implementation of ideas, strategies and services that will create a better library experience for the users.

When the words design and library appear in the same sentence it typically relates to either the interior or exterior of a library facility. Designing Better Libraries will take a different approach, and our way of thinking and acting about design is far less about adding cafes and more comfortable furniture as the path to a better library. Instead we’ll be exploring a new way of tackling the ongoing challenge of identifying strategies and methods to improve our libraries so that our community members will feel more compelled to use our services and resources – so that we will become more indispensable to them. Designing Better Libraries invites you to join us in learning about design thinking, and the ways we can apply it to improve our processes of innovation and implementation. For additional information about and insight to Designing Better Libraries, take a look at our DBL Philosophy page.

So while there is certainly some value in grousing about libraries and all those things we need to do better, this blog will focus its efforts on offering new ways of thinking and acting to provide librarians with better strategies for harnessing both human and technology resources in designing better libraries. Our DBL blog team hopes you will join us in this endeavor by being a regular reader, and in time being part of our effort to share ideas about how we can use design to be better innovators who are able to  identify the right problems and use a thoughtful process to identify and implement the right solutions.