Volume 27, Number 4, Winter 2005

Provoking Innovation

by Kathryn J. Deiss, Director, MLS Strategic Learning Center, and Team Leader, Zephyr Innovation Incubator Program

How do libraries find the time to innovate? How can library employees learn to find their creative powers? What are the politics of innovation and how can libraries capitalize on understanding these? How can libraries learn to create prototypes of services in order to learn and thus create the best possible permanent iteration of a new service?

The Metropolitan Library System in Chicago and south suburban Chicago has established the Zephyr Innovation Incubator Program to help libraries with just such questions. The Zephyr Innovation Incubator Program (Zephyr) is a compendium of services geared to the questions of innovation and creativity in libraries.

Among the services provided are:

  • Innovation guides and spaces – people to help facilitate the innovation and creativity process with library staff and uniquely created spaces in which to do innovative thinking.
  • An innovation and creativity curriculum – classes and series designed to provide library staff with the critical skills necessary for innovative or break-through thinking.
  • Future scanning and trend spotting – information gathering to help libraries see the emerging issues more quickly.
  • Innovation technologies – introductions to new technologies or new uses of known technologies that can create innovation in services and products that libraries provide
The MLS Strategic Learning team has itself learned some new skills in order to better assist member library staff. The services named above are currently being introduced to the MLS membership and have been met with enthusiasm and a confirmation that innovation is, indeed, difficult to find time for and yet – ironically – it is the most needed of abilities in the current environment. Some member library directors have said that even as their budgets shrink, their need for innovative services, solutions to problems, and new ways of doing things increases exponentially.

You can read more about the MLS Zephyr Innovation Incubator Program by visiting the Web site or by contacting Kathryn Deiss, Zephyr Innovation Incubator Program.