I am very happy to introduce two new culture shifts at PSC. I think the first will help introduce innovation, but also shift our culture to one that embraces experimentation. The second will help staff better understand how space affects those in the library. I don’t understand how a director or dean or library leader can lead a library without actually using it. Here is part of the memo that I sent out to staff:
As you know, I am trying to push the culture of the library in new directions. I am very excited to introduce two new shifts:
- I would like us to shift some of our time. Google and 3M have a long and successful policy of giving staff time each week to work on technology projects that excite and interest them. To that end, please begin to take 2 hours per week (5% of your time) to explore and work on ideas of your own making. If you are interested in reading more please see http://www.wired.com/techbiz/media/news/1998/01/9858 or http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/21/jobs/21pre.html. This is time for you to work on and explore anything you want as long as it is somehow library related. It is best if the time is spent on a sustained project. You can and should feel free to work either on individual projects or collaborate with others. The purpose is to move us into a culture that is okay with experimenting with new ideas and risking failure. Really the sky is the limit.
- In order to better understand how our spaces influence and affect our students, I would like each one of us to spend some time each month working where the students work. This could mean checking work email on the students’ computers, reading professional literature on the lounge furniture, or working on a project at a table. The library also has two laptops which you can use to engage in work activities and see how wifi impacts our students. Please respect peak times for our students and avoid taking computers and space away when we are at or near capacity.
Both of these are voluntary but strongly encouraged. They are intentionally designed to be flexible but also remain vague. Please feel free to ask me to clarify anything.
I wrote about department silos a while ago. I have long felt that departmental silos dampen the innovation of libraries. In my new role I find myself examining space a LOT. A recent HBR post has confirmed my feelings. They state
Collaboration is the way we work now. In a 2008 BusinessWeek study of white-collar professionals, 82% reported they needed to partner with others throughout the day to get their work done. That means people don’t just work together in meeting and conference rooms anymore. Collaboration now occurs all the time at personal desks and in hallways, or virtually via internet or smart phones, and it’s often spontaneous and informal, rather than planned in advance.
Unfortunately our legacy work environments — dominated by offices or cubes — rarely match this new reality. To effectively do so, they need to adequately accommodate three types of work: “I work,” which requires expertise, concentration and focus; “You & I work,” which involves relatively simple collaboration among two people; and “We work,” which embodies the highest level of content and context complexity, from multi-disciplinary expertise to multi-location and multi-technology platforms.
The post also provides two pieces of workplace research from Steelcase and the Gensler Design Group. The research shows vast improvements in workplace productivity if collaborative spaces are provided for staff. Libraries have a long history of separating tasks into departments and keeping those departments apart from each other (often through wide spatial separation). I believe this leads to a decrease in library innovation and productivity. I have seen library’s create powerful spaces for patrons, but I have yet to see a library create appropriate spaces for 21st century librarians.
As the Gensler report states, workplaces in the 1980s were designed around processes (many libraries are still like this); the 1990s were designed around processes + technology (spaces focused more on the technology tools) but today’s space requires processes + technology + people. We need to move our workplace spaces to today’s requirements. Does your metadata specialist need to be physically removed from your children’s librarian? Does this type of space layout lead to echo chambers in your own organization? Are you willing to try something different just to see what possibilities exist?
Filed under silos, Spaces
I have, for some time, wanted to write a post on physical and digital spaces. Digital spaces were once designed on models imposed from physical spaces. Think about the first Yahoo Directory design. Things have changed a lot since then. With the recent focus on Chicago’s YOUmedia center, and the underlying research (Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out) we are finally seeing physical spaces being designed based on digital spaces and digital culture. The physical spaces mirror how people interact in digital spaces.
Nancy Kranich delivered part of the keynote note speech at the ILA Annual Conference this year. She added her thoughts when you discussed how libraries still often design websites similarly to how we have designed our physical buildings.
The directory style website are obsolete, as are much of the way in which we interact with our patrons in a digital space. We need to rethink how we present ourselves digitally. We need to rethink how we serve our patron’s needs remotely. We need to rethink how we design our physical spaces too. Just because we have always done it this way will not carry us into our future. We need to rethink our whole way of digital thinking.