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libraries + disruption
continuous innovation +
iSchool | University of Toronto
We’re now living in a networked
how we build relationships with those
we don't yet know to co-create value
—like the social capital that libraries
represent—may well determine the
future of our small blue planet
transformation: four things librarians need to know
1/ why shared community stories work (and what KPI*s
really matter: what shared values activate)
2/ why community networks form (power of the weak, not
strong: where the value lies)
3/ why culture eats strategy for lunch (a story that shows
how it all comes together: how cultural values drive
4/ understand the interface layer between you and your
community (like Facebook does—where relevancy lives)
*key performance indicators
transformation + innovation | it's the UX, stupid
transformation isn't a spaceshot
it's the result of serious, integrated thinking
about a constellation of problems libraries face
first principle: understand the biggest threat...and respond
digital disruption so hollows out libraries
and the library UX
libraries become irrelevant
...or are bled to death, like the horrorshow in the UK
what's the single most valuable asset libraries have?
...not millions of books
...not tens of thousands of librarians (it's not about you)
...not hundreds of databases
...not dozens of media labs
it's the library brand
the astonishingly resilient and powerful trust, respect
and sense of value people have
when they think about their library
LIBRARY RELEVANCY GAP
There are precious few measures of The New Library relevance:
in fact, the status quo in funding models is all about The Old Library.
Detailed view of accelerating disruption and rise of sharing economy
Internet + e-books
‘culture shift required’
a Niagara Falls of inferences about programming,
community interests, strategic partnerships
internal culture change
libraries should be strategizing across the entire UX
because your audience and your funders
live ever more deeply in the digital world
but on the other side of the ledger?
here's the headline: in all this tumult, libraries are still using proofs
of value from the analog age: patron transactions, library card
users, the usual datapoints...
most librarians think relevancy
feels like round hole/square peg
but relevancy as a test of the ROI on digital operations
redefines the square peg
interface success (example: share tweets live)
determines brand equity (the value of your UX)
…and that Niagara Falls thing goes nuts.
usecase: The Cambridge Butterfly
Conservatory began projecting
live tweets in the conservatory
space, patron interactivity and
creativity went through the roof.
The KPI here?
dirty little secret: library UX is a relevancy problem before it’s a management problem.
(You have to know what you’re doing before you try to manage it. No laughing, please.)
here's the paradox: libraries are moving heaven
and earth to evolve their service and knowledge
offerings to be more relevant digitally and
across networks—an entirely different
proposition from measuring the transactional
transformation + innovation | story as user experience
big internet question
what's transactional basis of the internet?
not social networks
We meet one another and get to
know one another and trust one
another by exchanging story
Why care about story?
• Stories relax people and focus their attention (not a data
• Stories start conversations (engagement)
• Stories spark emotions and make people do amazing,
human things (catalyze action)
• Stories don’t sell. The best don’t tell either—they lead us
to something new (teachable moments > inspire change)
story leads transformation (and defines it too)
stories are data…with soul. (Brené
• not a ‘data dump’
• win engagement
• catalyze action
• share ‘teachable moments’
• influence others
Here’s one way to be heard: it’s all about me.
But no one will listen.
Why? It’s not about you. It’s about them.
Libraries aren’t in the book business:
they’re in the business of growing the
culture around them…
…they’re in the Markham or LA or
Brampton or Toronto business.
what do libraries own?
unbiased knowledge, cultural context
and human meaning
if you want to speak to your community, do this
• we live in a culture, a society that’s highly secular, post-
• in all the changes, all the stresses of everyday life, there’s
one sure universal left...
• The art and discipline of great storytelling—from
investigative journalism to black comedy to screenwriting
to radio plays—hinges on meaning
• ...and meaning is the librarian’s stock-in-trade: librarians
give meaning away, every day, all the time
• so there’s no end of inspiration for you in telling your story,
your library’s story—abundance is happening
turning meaning + abundance into brand story
• To tell your story effectively, you need to know one killer
Simple. But not obvious.
(hint: engagement—the first step to networking)
• Values. People want to know what you stand for. And
why: that’s why you won their attention.
• Share. Teach. Demonstrate real value. Share again.
• Values build value: it’s all about trust (again).
• And librarians have sky-high ‘trustability’
the community-shared brand storytelling recipe
Share the why of the how of what you do.
(once more, with feeling)
Share the why of the how of what you do.
let’s break that down.
• why? shares ‘so what?’ > why should I care?
• how? shares ‘now what?’ > what’s gonna happen?
• what? shares ‘what it is’ > nuts/bolts
• these three story components are your library’s brand
• this is how you assemble, publish and share community
stories across your networks
why share your stories?
• four simple words: people will trust you
• share trust through shared story and something wonderful
• …the people you’ve shared your story with share your story
(that’s now their story: they’re telling it) with the people they
think the story will affect most
stories operate on two levels…so do networks.
• stories document and share experiences
• sharing those experiences yields emotional connection
• networks grow and share experiences
• sharing those experiences yields opportunity to co-
value networks are the information
architectures of our tribes, our 'people'—
they describe the dynamics of how that
tribe interrelates...the cultural triggers that
give birth to the stories the tribe tells to
itself and to others
tribes + your
last time I looked, there were 38
Brendan Howleys online
but I'd bet my alter ego—the human
being with the closest set of values to
mine—the person I'd like most to rally to
a cause with or start a project with...
...isn't any Brendan Howley I know.
I found my 'people'—you guys, my tribe
—librarians, technologists, activists and
storytellers—by a selection process that
took years, many dead ends, and lots of
• communities align into networks by
knowable rules and sustain in
• …there’s even a book on this
• A Pattern Language by Christopher
• must-read for anyone interested in
designing community systems
• you should have this in your library…
it’ll rarely be on the shelf (trust me)
if we can understand the patterns in the way
communities share story…
we’ll master relevance
libraries are ‘cultural
triggers’ that activate
(measuring community interactivities here
is critical library data intelligence)
how do human
why are networks critical to growing library
advocacy and community storytelling?
because networks share the values inherent
in library advocacy/storytelling
(and yes: these networks live and breathe
inside libraries as well!)
why we share stories
determines why a
sustains and influences
others to join
gentrification via the arts
(from grotty to great)
transformation + innovation | community shared story
what business are you
libraries are in the context business—
especially the cultural context business
because the future of libraries is pegged
to the cultural vibrancy—itself a measure
of prosperity—of the communities they
what fuels culture?
it’s story-in-context: influence
…which is why ‘influencers’ prime
Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat,
Pinterest and Instagram networks
with tips, reviews, insights and
intelligence you can’t get anywhere
people talk. and talk.
…they all want to be influencers!
and we’re back where
if you're beginning to see the
patterns of sharing measurable
cultural stories feel a lot like a
‘virtuous circle’…you’re dead right
transformation + innovation | the measurable library brand
high-relevancy brand storytelling
will make local culture part of
and libraries, because they knows
to measure that relevancy, will
become a repository of the
community data that’ll bubble up
HINT: target female entrepreneurs of
libraries will become a small business
development engine fuelled by
library-mediated sharing of local
business intelligence: more relevancy
(ex: mompreneurs represent serious
untapped economic growth potential)
… what's the desired outcome
of all this community
‘living city’ infographics
Big, interactive, context-rich city
maps that are never finished, never
complete, always growing more
useful via more incoming
community data—a city’s stories at
a glance—the ultimate relevancy
Establish libraries as thought leaders
where media meets community
shared intelligence needs
where community data meets
community culture (like Facebook
connects humans via data)
relevancy: going in
it's a great big hairy audacious
feedback loop of hyperlocal story,
community intelligence/data, local
culture, shared community
experiences and prosperity led by
participatory culture and high-
relevancy library brand media
Enter Mr. Drucker
‘Culture eats strategy for lunch’
crash + burn
No library relevancy strategy that
doesn't profoundly understand
culture and the 'why' of people
coming together (the 'cultural
triggers') will ever fly
blue sky transformation targeting community relevancy
relevancy: why not?
• why aren’t libraries (like post
offices in Ireland and Germany)
local financial services hubs? why
can’t libraries secure their future
by helping their communities
incubate better, smarter, more
relevancy: why not?
• why can't libraries become
publishers of local culture, local
fiction, local film, local music,
local dance—the high-relevancy
media layer that all these arts
communities need to grow
relevancy: why not?
• why aren't library archives and
image banks 'rented' as unique
media resources by local
businesses who want to share
their stories in a true local
relevancy: why not?
• why aren't library makerspaces
embracing community newsrooms
—media hubs which define and
explore what it means to live right
here, right now—and growing the
culture to boot?
even Vancouver and
Chattanooga and NYPL aren’t
asking these relevancy questions.
That doesn’t mean
your library shouldn’t
Now’s the best time to start mapping
and strategizing and identifying
cultural triggers that drive brand
…transformation in the name of