As adults, we might cover our ears with our hands at a loud blast or use headphones or earbuds to curate the sounds we want to enter our eardrums, but sticking our fingers in our ears and yelling, “I can’t hear you!” is usually frowned upon. I’m not proud to say that at a recent team meeting, I did just that. Of course, I did so in jest, but it got me thinking about how easy it is to dismiss ideas that I don’t want to hear.
Human-centered design, a highly creative approach to problem solving, is gaining popularity in libraries as they plan for what lies ahead. Also known as design thinking, it focuses on defining and then resolving concerns by paying attention to the needs, aspirations, and wishes of people—in the case of libraries, not only a library’s patrons but its staff, administration, and members of the community who may not be library customers…yet.
In a decision that could have reverberations for library employees across the country, the board of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County (PLCHC) announced at its June 14 meeting that the library will not add a rider to its health plan that would cover gender confirmation surgery for Rachel Dovel, who has worked at the library for more than a decade. The seven-member board cited the rider’s additional costs, which would be passed on to the library and its employees.
“We needed to change the conversation about libraries,” says Gina Millsap, CEO of Kansas’s Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library (TSCPL), the 2016 Gale/LJ Library of the Year. Millsap refers to her ongoing work with the Aspen Institute, an international leadership development nonprofit that has turned a lens toward public libraries. In October 2014, Aspen sparked a conversation about the future of libraries with its release of a report titled “Rising to the Challenge: Re-Envisioning Public Libraries.” TSCPL served as a case study. “The report gave us a framework and concepts to take out to the community,” Millsap tells LJ. As libraries engaged with the report, it became clear that many wanted more hands-on guidance about how to take recommendations from Rising to the Challenge and turn them into practical, achievable goals. In response, Aspen developed a new toolkit featuring 12 chapters of “ACTivities” covering topics such as “The Library as Civic Resource,” “The Library as Literacy Champion,” and “Jobs and Economic Development” to help libraries dig into the work of transformation, released in January as the “Action Guide for Re-Envisioning Your Public Library.”
A $600,000 budget cut will force Connecticut’s Hartford Public Library (HPL) to eliminate 10 jobs and curtail Saturday hours at most branches, but swift intervention by Mayor Luke Bronin prevented an even steeper reduction that would have left the system with no choice but to close three of its 10 branches.
Directors and library leaders from around Ohio and Pennsylvania met for a half-day workshop to share best practices and discuss ideas for impacting literacy and education throughout their communities. The interactive workshop was sponsored and attended by EnvisionWare and featured presentations by The Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County, Akron-Summit County Public Library and Stark County District Library.