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November 19, 2015 / carlispina

The Design Thinking For Libraries Toolkit

While doing my course work for a master’s degree in education, I got to take a few classes that focused on design thinking. Though many people think of these concepts as relating specifically to product design or engineering, the concepts can be equally helpful in other settings. I found the idea of applying this process to developing educational tools and techniques very interesting, so I was intrigued when I discovered that IDEO had “partnered with the Chicago Public Library in the U.S. and Aarhus Public Libraries in Denmark, observed over forty librarians across ten countries, and synthesized learnings from their initial design experiments into this toolkit.” This new Design Thinking For Libraries Toolkit is aimed at libraries interested in making use of these techniques in their own projects and to achieve this end, the materials are written to make design thinking accessible to even those who do not have prior experience with these concepts.

Design Thinking Diagram

Funded by the Global Libraries program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Design Thinking For Libraries project provides three resources that can be downloaded for free on the website after you register using your name, email and location. The Toolkit Guide, the Toolkit Activities Workbook, and the At-A-Glance Guide form a complete package that introduces the design thinking process and demonstrates how it can be applied to “solve everyday challenges at the library.” The At-A-Glance Guide is intended for individuals or groups who have a limited timeframe in which to get a crash course in these topics. It can be completed in a single day and includes everything needed to get a taste of design thinking. Though I’m not convinced that this guide alone would be enough to really lead a librarian down the path to implementing design thinking effectively, in reality, it is meant to serve primarily as a teaser for the rest of the toolkit and I do think it could be a great tool for libraries trying to decide whether design thinking would work for them.

Libraries with more time, or those that have already worked through the At-A-Glance Guide and are hooked, can turn to the lengthier Toolkit Guide that provides more details, several case studies, and lots of illustrations. The Toolkit also includes a 60-page workbook of activities and exercises that can facilitate putting these techniques into practice. According to the website, “[o]n average, working through the entire toolkit can take 5-8 hours a week for the next six weeks, depending on how much time you have on a weekly basis with a team or on your own.” This is a pretty big commitment for most teams, so I think that it makes sense to check out the At-A-Glance Guide first to make sure these techniques will work for your institution. But, if you have been curious about design thinking, this toolkit is a great way to give it a try with minimal effort. Even better, they invite feedback, so check it out, see if it can help your library, and let them know what you think!

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