On Innovation & Popping Bubbles

Wired published a piece on innovation last week titled Good Idea: Reinventing Invention.
"Companies are finding that more and more innovation is coming not from in-house developers, but from users who do their own re-engineering."

For me the above statement mirrors what's also happening in libraries - that our users have become our biggest innovators and are continually popping the technology bubbles that we've in the past often kept ourselves within. I can point to myself here as an example... How often have I said "we can't do that yet, because XX (insert Library vendor here) doesn't support it" The truth is, it's been more often then I care to admit.

When one looks for user-developed Library innovations, there are several recent examples that can be pointed to - Library Elf and Library Thing come to my mind. Both were created by library users (NOT librarians and/or vendors) and both tools are brilliant in meeting users needs! One service offers the ability to catalog books and connect with users who have similar reading interests, the other to access and consolidate (optional) library accounts and send notifications via email, RSS and /or text messaging on a schedule that the user wants. If you haven't guessed by now, I'm a big fan of both. :)

Anyway, my point is this ... I think it's been easy for us as libraries to pigeonhole our users into meeting our business needs first with the services we offer (just think of how many times you've had to assist someone through your catalog and LOC subject headings) rather then allowing them the flexibility to meet their needs how they want to. (Can you guess, I love the idea of social tagging here.)

On a 2.0 note, I'm glad to see that a shift is happening and upcoming Library Camp; a Library 2.0 Unconference, (see SuperPatron Ed Vielmetti's post and AADL/John Blyberg's post for more info) takes this idea of user innovation to whole new level. What a great way to bring together library staff and users to talk about issues, emerging technology trends and ways that we (libraries & users) can work together to advance the shared vision of the Library as a community resource. If you're within driving distance of Ann Arbor, by all means go!!! but if you're not able to make the conference (Alas, I can't either) there's a conference wiki you can check out.

Finally, on an end note to this ramble of a post, I can say that personally I find myself challenging the "vendor doesn't support it yet" excuse more and more. And with projects in development like our Catalog Kiosk, website redesign, and a online credit/debit application for f&f payment, it feels good to be popping our own bubbles for a change rather them waiting for XX Vendor to get around to creating them. After all, our users aren't waiting, so why should we?

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