Musings on Innovation: An introduction

Briefly, as Mary mentioned, I have been working with my Fellow, Karen Pickard-Four, at the Studio City Branch. Its been an excellent experience, as Studio City is an incredibly busy branch (22,650 items circulated just this past month!). With all that activity, including over 15 programs throughout the month, outreach done regularly by the librarians, and just the normal, daily duties to make sure the public is served, its sometimes hard to think about “innovation.” And sometimes, trying to wrap my head around the concept of innovation is tough; there are so many ideas, so much drive to do the innovative things, but then there is always the but…. the unnamed situations, fears, and so forth that may make us falter and fear the change.

Overall, with the end of this rotation I have several major questions surrounding innovation that I don’t expect to have answer to any time soon, but will definitely be in the forefront as I grow in this profession, and will definitely guide me as I work at LAPL and implement my programming.  I won’t go into all of them at this point, rather, I hope this to be a recurring theme, perhaps a series for my posts as I build upon my experiences over the coming months.

So far, the questions I have surrounding innovation fall into about three different categories. The first revolves around the idea of when an innovation is no longer such, and instead, the new standard. What constitutes “majority” in the world of library services, for instance, one library starts checking out digital equipment (camera’s, in particular) to the public for three weeks at a time, no questions asked. More and more libraries add the service of loaning at digital equipment, and before long it seems like it’s odd for a library not to do that. At that point, should a library make it a priority to implement the service because it is the standard across the system, and no long an innovation? Even if it is a new and seemingly innovative for the system?

Next, I am interested to learn more about what motivates people to innovate. For many, the satisfaction of creating something that helps make services more accessible, relevant and simply good is enough to encourage further innovation and reinforce a commitment to customer service. However, it is not uncommon for some individuals or systems to receive an incentive or reward for their innovation. For example, in California an act was passed in 2012 that provides companies that implement an innovative project to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with a certain number of credits. Could, or rather should, libraries have similar opportunities? Or, perhaps these are already in place with things like grant funding for dream projects, and so forth. But what can be done at the lowest levels (branch libraries) to the highest (administration of a system, or even a state library office) to encourage and support the act, or a culture of innovation?

I believe that innovation allows for individuals, organizations, etc. to create a flexible program or plan for service delivery that meets the needs of the profession and public, and will grow and change with advancement of the future. Additionally, it incorporates or builds on the core of the institution, and enhances all the things that are already done well, but makes them available to fit the needs of the present and future. However, my final question here has two parts: how do we support/maintain a culture of innovation, while at the same time, getting the work done? It seems simple that we should just do the work, but because innovation gets people thinking, stemming the flow of ideas, or finding the appropriate times and spaces to incorporate that innovation seems to be tricky.

Ultimately, as this rotation wraps up I feel like I have learned so much, yet have even more to go. But I am hopeful that these questions, along with the people, places, and the community, will be excellent guides as I start the next phase!

Jacquie Welsh

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