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Where Do New Ideas Come From?

Last night I chatted with local entrepreneur/designer/marketer Brian Swichkow. This came about because he posted a “secret code” to Twitter and I got a free beer out of the deal. Our conversation ranged from ebooks and iPads to sociology and organizational culture. He had a very different perspective than someone who works in libraries or academia, and it was refreshing. It made me start thinking in a different way.

There needs to be more original thinking in libraries, not simply rehashing the same things over and over. To do this we need to be able to see the library with fresh eyes and also start using our imagination and branching out from just the  library world. How can we do this?

  • Read and have conversations outside the profession – I subscribe to marketing blogs, science blogs, social media blogs in addition to just library stuff. Often, some of the best ideas are just stolen from somewhere else where it is commonplace.
  • Imagine alternate possibilities – In my conversation with Brian, he mentioned sometimes he lets his mind wander, thinking about things like why cars have four wheels and could it be any different or better. Imagination is sorely needed in libraries. Simply thinking of different ways in which libraries could work is useful. ┬áLibraries could be inside out, with our collections and people on the outside. That’s probably a terrible idea, but maybe there is something useful there. Imagination is the breeding ground for great ideas.
  • Ask why – Kate Sheehan wrote a good post about asking why as a tool for change. Questioning why things are done a certain way can tell you a lot and sometimes make you reevaluate what you’re doing. Why do we have anILS? Why do we provide reference? Why do students come to the library? Why do we have weekly meetings? “Why” is a great place to start.
  • Look to examples on the cutting edge – Aaron Schmidt mentions some Scandinavian libraries who are placing significant emphasis on creating and connecting as opposed to content. They are getting budget increases to do this. They likely are doing something right. Examples of original thinking can inspire you to come up with your own ideas.

There are plenty of good ideas out there but perhaps they are just in different professions, or not quite gelled, or the right questions haven’t yet been asked.