“Devout Irreverence” – A summary of the Library Innovations Forum @ SLQ Part 1

iStock_000054419822_Large_web-300x200.jpgIn late March 2015, the State Library of QLD hosted its Library Innovations Forum – an annual forum for exploring the latest innovations, ideas and trends for the Library and Information Services (LIS) sector.

Three expert speakers delivered their ideas, visions and passion, inspiring us with their thought leadership, and showing us that exciting and dynamic things can be done today, with what we have, delivering a future that is relevant, fit-for-purpose to the community it serves, and more than anything, is inspiring as it is engaging!

Due to the volume of information, the first speaker session will be outlined here in this article while the second and third speaker sessions will be outlined in subsequent newsletters.

The first speaker was Annie Talve from Project Sisu – a consultancy specialising in library arts research, strategy and leadership development.

Annie introduced innovation in a LIS context, by discussing the importance of creating innovation ecosystems that can foster a dynamic relationship between knowledge, enterprise and ideas. Annie expressed innovation through a number of different frames, and said that we can find innovation everywhere – the people and organisations doing new things, big and small, but not appearing as case studies in the latest text books or business journals.

She used the example of unconventional, shock-designer, John Paul Gaultier, who used the dichotomy “Devout Irreverence” to describe his creative process,  In this context, devout is a commitment to and respect of the past, tradition, and history; and irreverence, what is needed to create the new, an antidote to tradition, history, and convention. He is a master at using narrative through his work, and representing the old in the form of the new.

Who do you think of when you think of innovation?

Annie discussed LIS futures as being in the vanguard of new forms of participatory creativity and enterprise. Moving forward, libraries are becoming more and more enterprise and learning centres, where the community can:

  • Connect with information
  • Connect with mentors
  • Access knowledge
  • Incubate ideas
  • Have inspired conversations.

The above can and are being delivered through initiatives such as young entrepreneurs clubs, maker spaces, networking opportunities and business or business support.  She discussed the dis-ease that often occurs between organisations that elevate innovation as a goal, but whose values and behaviours continuously reinforce old hierarchies and thinking. Innovation can take many forms, but it is continuously evolving, a transition, adaptation, collaboration, a vibrant multifunction that depends on access to knowledge, trial and error, and openness to the world around us.

Libraries are vital nodes in creative communities

Talve and Gray (2014) wrote that the work libraries do in this sphere can be viewed through six cultural lenses:

  1. Libraries as public spaces of cultural meaning and significance: Creating focal points for local identity, security and sustainability; local, regional and urban place-making and precinct building;
  2. The culture of library spaces: Experimenting and innovating with library space; optimising space in a material, psychological and creative sense;
  3. Libraries incubating creativity: Facilitating the production of creative content; supporting, disseminating and showcasing multi-faceted creative endeavour;
  4. Libraries as cultural connectors: Linking up; sharing resources; seeding community-driven cultural activities; undertaking various forms of outreach;
  5. Libraries supporting Australia’s complex cultural mosaic: Interweaving different cultural groups; celebrating and nurturing diversity; stimulating cross-cultural conversation and understanding;
  6. Libraries nurturing the culture of the written and spoken word: Reading, literacy, storytelling, writing, critiquing and discussing ideas in written and spoken form.

To read more about this concept, the paper “Creative Communities: The Cultural Benefits of Victoria’s Public Libraries” can be viewed here.

Annie discussed the importance of public things in a period of history where they are being demeaned. Giving language to new ideas and framing the value of public things in a way that justifies investment (the importance of articulatingvalue), is an important innovation exercise in itself. Often as a public owned enterprise, we take public things for granted. We need to continuously be reminded of their value. New value and relevance can be created from interpreting collections and engaging with communities in new ways.

Can you think of any way that you can interpret and present your collection in a new way?

In their paper “A new model for the public library in the knowledge and experience society” (2012), Jochumsen, Rasmussen and Skot-Hansen identified the following lenses through which this work can be done:

  • Experience
  • Involvement
  • Empowerment
  • Innovation

The paper elaborates on these goals, and also identifies a vision for the library of the future that consists of four overlapping ‘spaces’:

  • The inspiration space
  • The learning space
  • The meeting space
  • The performance space.

These spaces are possibilities that can be fulfilled in both the physical library and in cyberspace. Read more about this concept here.

Innovation should be a conscious strategy, decision and operating paradigm

Annie discussed the following strategies to improve innovation in simple, low cost ways:

  1. Fresh eyes: use the fresh of eyes of new people vs. indoctrinating them through their induction. Utilise their fresh thinking and ideas. Invite library patrons to map their library experience and use this for insights into how things can be changed. Some ideas of previous ‘mapping’ exercises included: WIFI cold-spots, electric campfires, and using space for performance artists.
  2. Use transitions as a way of reframing the old ways into new ideas:  New buildings, new spaces, cut-downs, redundancies etc. Turn them into positive opportunities for change, development and innovation. Annie suggested that these events stir up complex feelings, which can be unsettling. But they also unfreeze things and can generate the space and energy for innovative thinking.
  3. Language: 95% of thinking is unconscious. Naming helps give language and meaning to unconscious ideas. E.g. a library recently changed the name “Volunteer” to “Sidekick”.
  4. Moments of “M” – Magic and Misery:  Plot the moments of magic and misery. Flip and reframe moments of misery into moments of magic. Use liberating language – shift  dead language to something alive and accessible.
  5. Right here, right now! Start with what you have, where you are right now.

Finally, Annie identified the importance of collaboration with, and focus on the community. Innovation must be done as a collaboration. Change isn’t easy, but staying the same is not an option. As Annie closed on, “It’s messy, it’s awesome, and it’s about devout irreverence”.

By Natalia Huber

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