Volume 27, Number 4, Winter 2005

ASCLA President's Message: Innovation, ASCLA Style

by Diana Paque, Univeristy Librarian, John F. Kennedy University

In my day-to-day work life, I find that I am focused on what is on my desk now and how I can get from here to tomorrow without creating or running into a crisis. Under these conditions, I find that I have little energy to think about innovation and what sorts of opportunities I have to make changes that make positive change in people’s lives. I found that I had to make time to meet with my co-workers to dream, to challenge ourselves, and to plan for making our bright ideas a reality.

With that as a starting place, I began reading what others thought about the process and activity of innovation. In their Spring 2005 article, Liisa Valikangas and Michael Gibbert use the term innovation "to denote explorative ties in an organization that are novel and/or nonconformist from the point of view of existing operating procedures and/or dominant business strategiesï¿Ã‚½ activities that do not fall within the current set of existing business activities, but require broader accommodation on the part of the company’s management.” 1 In her book on creating an innovation culture, Frances Horibe sets out a number of points about what constitutes innovation and how dissent and discomfort play roles either for or against success. 2

From their comments, the following thoughts emerged:

  • Most organizations make changes incrementally. The question is: Do incremental changes constitute innovation or must they be totally outside the realm of normal activity and workflow?
  • Organizations that are in crisis mode have difficulty innovating as they are focused on retrenching, cost-cutting, and looking for short term relief rather than opportunities for major change and growth.
  • Bright ideas on their own do not constitute innovation. Ideas become innovations when they are successfully implemented.
  • What constitutes innovation in one organization may not be seen as such in another. Definition is dependent on factors such as the environment, culture, resources available, staffing, and need.
  • Organizations that promote and encourage innovation create and support a culture that allows for risk. Thus failure or less-than-optimal outcomes are seen as learning opportunities rather than punishable offenses.
In this issue, Kathryn Deiss describes services to promote innovation in library agencies. Rose Nelson considers the future of library service and trends in technology. Jerry Krois and Jeannette Smithee report on two innovative projects with which they have been involved.


1. Valikangas, Liisa, and Michael Gibbert, "Boundary-Setting Strategies for Escaping Innovation Traps," MIT Sloan Management Review 46, no. 3 (Spring 2005): 58-65.
2. Horibe, Frances, Creating the Innovation Culture: Leveraging Visionaries, Dissenters And Other Useful Troublemakers In Your Organization (New York: Wiley, 2001).