Becoming Design-Led: Exploring the role of (co)design in libraries

Over the last few years I have had the opportunity to gain insight into the exciting challenges and changes being navigated by libraries through a close relationship with UTS Library, and co-design projects with AUT and Hurstville Libraries. These three organisations, like others around the world, are doing fantastic work exploring and responding to the changing face and role of libraries by working collaboratively with their staff, stakeholders and communities to co-design the library of the future.

Working with our community to understand, rethink and co-design potential future libraries and library services

Working with our community to understand, rethink and co-design potential future libraries and library services

In late October Lianza13, the national conference for the Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa took place in Hamliton. My keynote presentation for the conference focused on how co-design strategies and tools offer us ways to work with our communities to explore and create the future we want, and the one where we have the greatest impact as an organisation. For libraries this may mean developing new perspectives on how libraries can and do generate value for their communities, and exploring the different roles libraries may play, the different forms they may and the new ways in which libraries may serve the community through different spaces and services. It was a real pleasure to be able to share some inspirational stories from the above three Libraries in the presentation. (Slides are above, a video of the keynote is also available from the Lianza website). 

Three levels at which organisations can engage with their communicaties

Three levels at which organisations can engage with their communities to co-design the organisation and its services.

As indicated in the image above, I suggested that one way to think about this is that Libraries can engage their communities on three levels: co-designing and defining the purpose of organisation, its service strategy, and the services and touchpoints themselves. AUT, UTS and Hurstville demonstrate how the changing nature of the landscape in which libraries operate is creating great scope and opportunity for working with our communities to rethink and redefine how libraries conceive of their purpose and role.

It was a real pleasure to attend the conference and to have the opportunity to gain a sense of what is happening across different kinds of libraries around Aotearoa. I found the stories from those working in Christchurch libraries particularly inspirational. They have had to adopt a very different approach to re-building and delivering library services since the tragic and traumatic events of February 2011. In many cases this has meant becoming much more agile, prototyping and testing out different ideas and evolving them in response to community needs or demands. Fostering an innovative culture and nurturing initiative and new ideas was a key message I heard in talks by Elaine Sides and Guy Field (Christchurch City Libraries). Inspirational examples of design-doing in action, even if those words and terms were not being used by those presenting. A big thanks to the organisers, and also to our amazing hosts at Tūrangawaewae Marae.


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