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CHAPTER V - From Design to Practice

How can innovation become part of the library’s DNA?
The themes of library as people, place and platform continually resonated throughout the discussions, serving as touchpoints for exploring and developing a path to infusing innovation into the library’s DNA. This included discussing the library as a hub of the community, a physical and social space that fosters new relationships and strengthens the human capital of the community. These themes carried through discussions of service provision through mentoring (and reverse-mentoring), connecting, guiding and curating. And they applied to discussions of making the most of digital technology and creative media for learning, making and other activities, recognizing that people are not just consumers of information but creators and citizens as well.

John Bracken, Vice President of Media Innovation at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, focused attention on the interplay between human capital and technology, pushing the discussion to address more directly notions of agency that John Seely Brown discussed in his opening presentation and that are sometimes missing from terms like connector and platform, which can convey a certain level of passivity. “We talked about the library. We haven’t talked about the human capital that much. The corollary to that is technology. The real impact of technology and technology products is not the technology per se, but the social capital and the behavioral change,” said Bracken.

The remainder of this report addresses the human capital and technology issues surrounding the library’s role as an engine for innovation in the community. It explores ways in which libraries and their communities can attract, inspire and enable the talent needed to foster innovation. It considers new approaches to designing and managing the technical, knowledge and collaboration infrastructure of public libraries. Finally, it provides some perspective on the need for better measures of performance for libraries in these areas and their alignment with resources to support this work going forward.

Photo Credit: Cincinnati Public Library MakerSpace, courtesy of Flickr user 5chw4r7z, under Creative Commons License

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