IDEO Shares Design Thinking Toolkit for Libraries

After it’s groundbreaking work in bringing design thinking to the field of education, what was next for IDEO? Libraries!

While librarians across the different spheres of the profession have paid more attention to user experience, the virtues of design thinking as a method for identifying and then developing appropriate solutions for challenging problems is rarely discussed in the library literature. One exception – my 2008 article on design thinking that appeared in American Libraries. The new Design Thinking for Libraries: A Toolkit for Patron-Centered Design could change how librarians respond to design thinking as a method they can use to improve their libraries.

What may have been off-putting in the past about design thinking from the librarian perspective is the possible association with business. It was perhaps perceived as a business driven process. Librarians and business don’t always mix well. You know…libraries are not businesses and shouldn’t be run like they are…resisting the corporatization of libraries. Whatever your position on that observation, let’s agree that business can offer some potentially good ideas that librarians may want to adopt. While its true that many of the examples of what IDEO can do with design thinking have a business orientation to them (such as the shopping cart project), what IDEO is offering is unrelated to business. It’s about design. The Toolkit makes clear that what really matters is the value of design in developing thoughtful solutions regardless of the environment in which it is applied.

There are three components to the toolkit.

The first document is the core component that goes into depth about what design thinking is and provides details on each phase of a design thinking process. What’s presented here is slightly different than the key areas of design thinking one discovers in the video that covers the shopping cart project (empathize; information sharing; deep dive; prototype; evaluation). Rather, it is based on Tim Brown’s classic article on design thinking that appeared in Harvard Business Review. That breaks design thinking down into three components: inspiration; ideation; iteration.

For those new to design thinking this will be of little consequence. Over the course of the toolkit, the reader is introduced to all these component parts in one way or another. What’s great about the toolkit is the level of detail it provides on how to conduct the different parts of the design thinking process. Whether it’s a brainstorm session or creating prototypes, there’s practically a step-by-step approach to getting it done.

The second document is an activities workbook. This is chock full of resources that would be helpful to support a design thinking project. It’s got worksheets for everything from icebreakers to creating prototypes to obtaining evaluation feedback. I wish I had this workbook the first time I tried a staff retreat based on design thinking practices.

The third document is a “quick guide” for those constrained by time (who among us isn’t these days). It’s a condensed version of the full blown toolkit. This might be useful for introducing colleagues to the ideas behind design thinking, but to really get a design thinking project underway, it will require a more serious investment of time – using the toolkit and activities workbook.

No doubt, with the growing popularity of ethnographic studies in academic libraries, some of the toolkit content will be familiar to librarians, but this new IDEO toolkit will really enable librarians who want to establish design challenges for themselves and their patrons to finally make great use of the design thinking process. While it may take some time for design thinking to enter into the mainstream of librarians’ conversation, I think this guide will play a significant role in bringing more attention to the benefits of the design approach. I don’t doubt that come a year a two from now, librarian conferences will be featuring more than a few presentations on design challenge projects.

Creating a Better Library Experience…For the Birds

We like our feathered friends. Unfortunately, many of our library buildings have a notorious track record when it comes to giving birds a bad library experience. In fact, it’s the worst experience they can have. Our buildings, with their many over-sized windows, kill the birds. There’s an experience we need to improve.

An Internet search will yield quite a few articles about libraries and birds colliding with the windows. Here’s one about my library building. Paley Library is recognized as one of the most dangerous buildings on the Temple University campus for birds because of the trees surrounding the building and the extremely large main level windows. Many of the birds don’t stand a chance.

While plate glass is invisible to birds, they do see the reflections of trees, the sky and other elements that make them think they’ve got clear sailing ahead. They may even see interior plants through the glass. It’s not uncommon to find dead birds around our library perimeter. Even those birds that appear to just be stunned and fly off often die later from brain injuries.

Over the years the University has tried different strategies as deterrents. Unfortunately, attaching plastic hawk figures to the library’s exterior and putting a few bird decals on the windows has made minimal difference. In 2012, a new strategy was devised. Students at our Tyler School of Art participated in a competition to design a more effective solution. The result was a new type of stencil to apply to windows that proved more effective in repelling the birds before they made contact. The winning designs appeared to improve on past solutions, and they also added attractive window graphics to the building.

The good news is that we are finally beginning to install these decals on windows around the Paley Library. Installers added these bird-repelling decals to a small segment of the buildings windows. The photo below gives you an idea of what the window looks like after the decals are installed.

birddecal

I believe that representatives of the local Audubon Society occasionally do counts of dead birds found around campus buildings. This may help us to determine if the decals are reducing the bird fatalities. We still have many windows in our building that are a threat to the birds. I hope that we are just at the start of an initiative to install more window stencils in the library, and that we can decrease the number of deaths from bird-window collisions.

When we talk about the impact of library design on the quality of the experience, we typically think in terms of our human community members. Seeing the decals installed reminded me that our facilities and their design also affects the animal life in our community. This is just part of the larger challenge of creating sustainable, environmentally-friendly buildings. Let’s be thinking about how our buildings, and the experiences they deliver, can be designed to minimize collateral damage.

No solution has yet proven to be 100 percent effective in ending all fatal bird strikes, but perhaps this new style of window decal will help to decrease the numbers of birds that meet an untimely death because of our libraries.