How participatory design can help transform libraries

One of our area of expertise focuses on how to design and fund innovation in public libraries.

Thanks to a long-lasting collaboration with Italian primary library network CSBNO, we gained a deep knowledge on the mission and the potentialities of public libraries in Italy and in Europe.

In 2017 Studio2di2 led an European project called “New challenges for public libraries” aimed at spreading the knowledge and use of the Design Thinking methodology, to design new services for the library patrons, together with them.

The project NewLib has been a great opportunity to get in touch with leading libraries in Europe and to observe from a very privileged point of view how they interact and cooperate with stakeholders and patrons and how they listen to their communities’ needs and engage with them.

During the last Bibliostar Conference (Milan, September 28th-30th) CSBNO hosted a meeting of another European project named “Newcomer” whose main goal is to define what a “community library” is and what skills are required in order to become “community librarians”.

In this occasion, Studio2di2 facilitated a Lego® Serious Play® workshop for the European librarians of the Newcomer consortium. The topics of the workshop were PURPOSES AND IMPACTS of a community library.

Often, when librarians think about “community library” they tend to focus more on generic goals, on the transformation of their services to better serve their communities and on how to realize a community library.

Instead they need to focus on two fundamental aspects: purposes and impacts.

The very reason they want to do something different, or to change their organization (purposes), and what they expect will happen (impacts).

Clarifying these two aspects is fundamental to monitor and evaluate the project results and to understand what to do after.

During the workshop we have emphasized the importance of these aspects of librarians’ job, when aimed at transforming libraries into community libraries.

Even if it’s been several years and we should be used to it by now, we’re still pleasantly surprised when we see how successful this methodology is. Lego® Serious Play® helped all participants select the ideas they consider more significant or important, and  visualize them clearly (by building a lego® models of each idea). This method facilitates communication inside the team: through the visual support (Lego® bricks) ideas can be easily shared and understood.

This exercise has led participants towards a common point, by sharing ideas and points of view in a fluid, smooth, empathetic and non conflictual discussion.

And, last but not least, we had fun!