By Janine Schmidt
The Australian government is focusing on the development of an innovation culture to achieve economic transformation and future growth. ALIA is likewise emphasising the importance of innovation and associating it with leadership. Everyone can innovate, but not everyone does. How and where are good ideas for creating improved processes and fashioning new products discovered?
Some say the best ideas come from customers. OCLC’s Research arm has over many years examined customer behaviour and identified trends on which to base new products and services. A recent compilation by Lynn Silipigni Connaway The library in the life of the user: engaging with people where they live and learn summarises a decade of research exploring library user behaviour undertaken by OCLC in partnership with others. Beginning with Ranganathan’s directive of following the reader, the work provides an extremely useful overview of methods and data collection approaches to understanding user behaviour as well as a summary of findings. The behaviour of “screenagers”, millennials, school and university students, and baby boomers is explored. The studies make similar findings. Although libraries are seen as places to use Wi-Fi and access the internet, they are deemed to be print and book-based rather than digitally-oriented. Customers are not aware of the full range of services provided by libraries. Convenience is the major driver of information use. It is vital that libraries develop relationships and engage with their customers both to understand needs and provide appropriate services.
Libraries are no longer focused on information access and content. Innovative libraries must place users at the centre of service delivery and embrace new technologies. Some libraries are personalising their services and using social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Library Thing but there is a long way to go in connecting and engaging with customers. Some examples of innovation include doorstop libraries, delivery of items on demand directly digitally or in person to users, links to career preparation, makerspaces, printing of books in libraries, pop-up libraries in airports, convention centres and shopping centres, libraries staffed with volunteers, support programmes for entrepreneurs, links to legal advice, use of QR codes, embedded librarians, office spaces for independent workers, wikimedians, streaming video, e-book recommendations, birthday messages and digital exhibitions.
Innovation begins with asking questions. Long-time blogger Stephen Abrams poses some of the questions. What pain or gain is your service answering? What resources are needed? Innovation continues when some answers are found and the activities of others explored. Follow users using techniques like the Sales Funnel. Innovation is realised when each library experiments and takes action. Creative, fearless, imaginative, passionate, visionary and reflective leaders are required to deliver the future destiny of libraries.
This is preprint version of the article published in Incite, Jan/Feb 2016 for the Research Column.