Capturing, Sharing and Acting on Ideas

Adam Shambaugh and Jill Luedke from Temple University gave the next talk I attended. They talked to us about the Capture and Idea project at Temple.

Adam introduced us to the term “Fuzzy Front End of Innovation” which means ideas in their infancy. This is the window of time before an idea becomes reality. Some of obstacles during this phase of innovation include:

  • Limited ‘buy in’
  • Ideas of ill-defined
  • Decisions are made on an adhoc basis

The Fuzzy Front End has three stages:

  1. Idea Generation
    Ideas can come from hunches, observations or even accidents. The importance here is to capture the ideas as they come about.
  2. Idea Screening
    This is when ideas of articulated to others in a public forum to allow others to evaluate the ideas
  3. Concept Development
    This is when ideas move from the abstract into reality. The idea ceases to be so fuzzy at this point.

Some tips for managing this stage of idea generation

  • Consider many possibilities for fuzzy ideas.
    Any idea a this this stage has the potential to be successful or unsuccessful. Don’t discount ideas at this stage.
  • Build an information system
    Establish a means of communication so that people can share their ideas with each other. This is a way to reduce resistance to change/innovation.
  • Attain internal cooperation and support
    This gives you a broader perspective on what innovation looks like and it reduces conflict. It leads to innovation that is smoother and less time consuming.

Up next was Jill to give us the practical way they’re using this in their library.

At Temple they were trying to improve the user experience at the library. They decided to star the ‘Capture an Idea Project’ as a way to gather ideas. They handed out an idea book to everyone where they could jot down their ideas for improving the library spaces.

One other way to gather and share ideas was the TU Experience Blog. They also had annual public services retreats where the staff could gather and capture and share and act on the ideas that were being shared.

One thing they learned was that even though the tech services people don’t sit out front in the library they had ideas to share so while they were invited to the first event, they were invited to the second. During the retreat they all put ideas up on boards and at the end of the day each person had 7 stars and they put their stars on the ideas they liked the most so that they could find the top 3 ideas and create an action plan to make those things happen.

One of these top ideas was to create a task force to “fix what’s broken”. This team was named the “Fix it team” and many of the staff actually volunteered to be on this task force. They were then able to create a mailing list for sharing things with the Fix It Team.

So .. why capture ideas?

#1 reason – so you don’t forget it! Mental notes don’t work, you need to capture the ideas and share them with others.

You also want to do this so that you can generate more ideas and allow them to percolate. You don’t have to know what to do with the idea, how to fix the problem, but by capturing it you can then come up with solutions.

What kind of things should we capture?

  • Problems you encounter
  • Behaviors you observe – especially those that are unexpected
  • Questions you have been asked repeatedly
  • Complaints you receive (there is a problem already in this case)
  • Cool stuff – this can be anything like if you see a cool display while out shopping

How to capture ideas?

  • Write it
  • Type it
  • Text it
  • Tweet it
  • Record it
  • Photograph it

Some tools to use to capture your ideas:

Keep your ideas separate from your to do list!

What did they learn at Temple?

  • Suggest various platforms for capturing ideas – not everyone likes using technology for this
  • Make capturing accessible – papers pinned up around the work area
  • Make sharing accessible – they have a blog, but not everyone knows how to use it
  • Give suggestions on what to capture – help to get people thinking about ideas
  • Give incentives – everyone has ideas, give them something for coming up with and sharing ideas
  • Be inclusive – make sure everyone is involved in capturing ideas! Don’t limit who can come in with ideas

The talk ended with the speakers asking us to answer a question about how we’re gathering idaes in our libraries using Poll Everywhere a tool I had never heard of before!

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Download Digital Content at Borders

This via USAToday:

When you walk through the doors of Borders’ (BGP) new concept store, the place feels familiar. As with any big-box bookstore, you’ll find a coffee shop over here and some strategically placed leather chairs over there. And, of course, lots of books.

But follow the table of books snaking off to the right, and you’ll come face-to-face with Borders’ newest retail strategy: a digital center where you can download music or books, burn CDs, research family histories, print pictures and order leather-bound books crammed with family photos — with help from clerks who know how to do those sorts of things and won’t embarrass you if you don’t.

Now – I don’t fault Borders for trying something new – but why am I going to go to Borders to download content when I can do it from home on my couch in my PJs? I guess it would be something for me to do on those occasions that my husband drags me out to the bookstore to look at the latest RPG release – but I’ll be interested to see how successful this really is.

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Woa – what an amazing idea!

From a post by Joseph Lucia at Villanova on the ngc4lib mailing list:

If we look beyond money to personnel, the option looks even better. Let me suggest some numbers. What if, in the U.S., 50 ARL libraries, 20 large public libraries, 20 medium-sized academic libraries, and 20 Oberlin group libraries anted up one full-time technology position for collaborative open source development. That’s 110 developers working on library applications with robust, quickly-implemented current Web technology — not legacy stuff. There is not a company in the industry that I know of which has put that much technical effort into product development. With such a cohort of developers working in libraries on library technology needs — and in light of the creativity and thoughtfulness evident on forums like this one — I think we would quickly see radical change in the library technology arena. Instead of being technology followers, I venture to say that libraries might once again become leaders. Let’s add to the pool some talent from beyond the U.S. — say ! 20 libraries in Canada, 10 in Australia, and 10 in the U.K. put staff into the pool. We’ve now got 150 developers in this little start-up. Then we begin pouring our current software support funds into regional collaboratives. Within a year or two, we could be re-directing 10s of millions of dollars into regional technology development partnerships sponsored by and housed within the regional consortia, supporting and extending the work of libraries. The potential for innovation and rapid deployment of new tools boggles the mind. The resources at our disposal in this scenario dwarf what any software vendor in our small application space is ever going to support. And, as is implicit in all I’ve said, the NGC is just the tip of the iceberg.

Now this is a list I subscribed to back when it started, but I was totally overwhelmed by the emails – but I think I should re-subscribe and keep an eye on what people are saying – because this one idea is just awesome and so simple if you think about it.

Now, that’s innovative

In an article in The Ann Arbor News (pointed out by Ken Varnum), Dave Gershman questions whether allowing wireless Internet access in classrooms is productive. While I see both sides of the argument (students should pay attention and we are paying attention, we just need to do more than one thing at once), the best thing to take away from this article (in my opinion) is this:

Ben van der Pluijm, a professor of geology and the environment, said he can’t worry whether his students are surfing the Web. “I only tell them not to be obnoxious about it,” he said. Van der Pluijm said the key is to use the technology to engage students, and he believes it enhances his lectures.

He co-wrote software called Lecture Tools that allows him to send lecture slides of charts and data directly to students’ computers. Students can take notes online and constantly update them.

Most of his students bring their laptop computers to class. In a recent class, van der Pluijm stood on stage in front of a big projection screen. Most of his students followed along, switching between watching him and their computer screens, where they flipped among the slides of his electronic presentation.

Instead of complaining about “kids these days” he developed an application that would meet everyone’s needs! How awesome is that?? This would have totally stopped me from day dreaming when I was in class (back when the Internet required wires).

Anger Drives Innovation

I’m catching up on my podcasts (mostly because I had to take the train into the city today) and I got to listen to a great IT Conversation with Jeff Bonforte from Yahoo!.

Jeff starts out by telling us that anger is the most untapped emotion in start ups and innovation – and that’s unfortunate because he feels that it’s the most important emotion. How does this apply to libraries? Well I think that in our case the anger is coming from inside – librarians are becoming angry (look at the ILS market) and are trying to push innovation internally.

Jeff thinks that rather than think about the application or features or cool technology aspects – we should be thinking about emotion. He goes on to list 4 types of people:

  1. The Lovers – these are the dorks, nerds and geeks – the technology lovers who see something new and say “ooo cool!” – a reaction that Jeff thinks is the wrong one to base a new innovation on
  2. The Irrational – these are the angry, the insecure, the people who are looking for another alternative no matter what the cost. The example of this is Skype. Skype came along when everyone was out there screaming that they were pissed at their phone companies – so instead of yelling at the support people we’re yelling at our computer screens so people on the other end can hear us.
  3. The Efficient – these are the money crunchers, the people who think rationally in terms of money and time.
  4. The Comfortable – these are the people who will use the old way because it’s the way they know. Jeff gave a great example of an aunt of his who is paying $800 for her trip through a travel agent even though it costs $173 online because it’s the way she’s most comfortable with. These are the people who won’t change until we remove the old way.

I’m not sure where I fall in this spectrum – I’m sure we all have a bit of the comfortable in us – there are some things that we just love to do the way we do them. I’m certainly among the angry (as I’ve made clear here many of times) but I’m also among the lovers. I guess that this is a good thing for me because I can see things from different angles – or maybe I have blinders on when it comes to the things that make me comfortable – or angry.

Another great bit I picked up from Jeff’s talk is how to sell your innovation. Don’t go out and say it’s a “peer to peer blah blah blah”. Sell it the way you want your customers to tell their friends about it. And educate your consumer through experience with the product. I think we see a lot of this with 2.0 tools. The companies are clear on what they’re offering and they give you a way to demo the product.

This was a great (and short) podcast that was fun to listen to – so if you have 20 minutes, I recommend giving it a listen.

Inspire Innovation

Over at Designing Better Libraries, Steven Bell has a post listing a few innovation blogs to get your creative juices flowing:

Ideas 108 – This blog is dedicated to providing you with a steady stream of creative problem-solving tips and techniques.

The Innovator's Digest – Gerald Haman's new weblog, which appears to be focused on helping to promote his new Innovation Tool of the Month Club. But it also contains weekly "question banks" that can help you to come up with creative ideas to help solve the challenges you face, and various posts on the value of creative problem-solving tools and techniques. It's good to see you in the blogosphere, Gerald!

Think Differently – The catchphrase for this blog speaks volumes to me. It says "get ahead by doing something different "” not what everybody else is doing or what you'd always be doing." That seems like a great way to express what innovation is about, and to make things better this blog actually has a category for Design Thinking.

Innovation Weblog – a meta-index of the latest innovation trends, news, technology, resources and viewpoints. It covers topics including innovation research and best practices and strategies, innovation management, business use of Weblogs for ideation and collaboration, and much more!

I’m so far behind on blog reading that I won’t be adding these to my blogroll just yet – but I still wanted to share them with everyone who might have missed Steven’s post.

Shared Innovation

Today I had the pleasure of getting to hear Paul Miller from Talis talk again. You may remember my enthusiastic post from CIL last year. His talk was not titled Shared Innovation – but it was a lot about Shared Innovation (and the talk had the same title as at CIL so I didn’t want to title another post with the same name :) )

Paul reminds us that library 2.0 is not just technology, but a fundamental shift in the way that we reach our users. Library 2.0 is about opening the library up and pushing the library everywhere.

He mentioned that librarians like to say that the reason the user doesn’t find what they need in the catalog is that they aren’t searching right. Paul says – no they’re not! The OPAC is wrong. It’s the “customer is always right” philosophy – and while I don’t completely buy in to that – in this case I agree 100%. If the users can’t find what they need, than the system is broken!

He went on to remind us that these monolithic library systems are a hindrance on the way we work. We need to break them down into pieces and let the library plug in the bits they want and need. Modular systems are the way of the future, and if the ILS vendors don’t get a clue they’re going to be left behind – there’s only so much us users can take before we decide to move on!

We also need to open our catalogs up so that our data can be used by others (and this is not only on the librarians, but the vendors providing the locked down systems). There’s tons of useful info in there – why aren’t we sharing? This is what libraries need to get better at – opening up our catalogs and sharing, but sharing innovation as well.

This is one of the things I have a hard time with – not that I don’t want to share, but I never learned object-oriented PHP – and that means that my applications are all hard coded for my organization.

Talis has the innovation directory for this very purpose – sharing programs across library boundaries.

Library 2.0 – Why Now?

  1. Dramatically falling cost of storage
  2. Falling cost of computer power
  3. Growing connectivity
  4. …And more

Essence of Library 2.0

Paul used a phrase of Tim O’Reilly’s when he said that library 2.0 is “an architecture of participation”. It is about making it possible for people who wouldn’t normally meet to collaborate together with ease. For this to happen librarians have to come off of their high horses a bit and have some fun with the data – he used John Blyberg’s card catalog as an example.

Some examples Paul gave us were the Georgia PINES library catalog and Talis’ Keystone (a module that can be put on top of our catalogs – as a temporary solution).

Are the Vendors Participating?

Paul asks – are the vendors engaging us – the librarians? Do they have an open developer network? Are they engaging in the communication that is going around? The answer is no – and Paul thinks it’s because they all know that we’re going to buy the products (because there aren’t many choices out there – YET!) and don’t care what we have to say. On this note, I had lunch with Paul and we talked about Talis opening a US office – since they are the one vendor (that I’ve heard of) that are engaging the users and putting themselves out there with us – and sadly the answer is “no” :(

The current model is broken

Paul says the current model for sharing bibliographic data is broken. Why are we paying to share our information? This is something we should be able to do for free. The answer is because it’s difficult to share data because we’re all running different systems – well guess what? Talis has a solution for that as well. Silkworm is a directory of libraries that provides the necessary information for users to use web services to get at the data – I need to check this out more thoroughly – but it sounds amazing!


Paul closed with 2 conclusions that stuck with me. 1) Liberate the Data & 2) Open, Open, Open – open up everything – there is no reason for it to be so hard for us to share and work together!!

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State of our ILS

This was posted on our Intranet by our head of Technical Services:

This year during the ILUG @ AALL (July 2006). There will be discussion on the State of the Innovative System. I would like to get your thoughts and present them during this discussion. Things that will be discussed are:

How has Millennium worked in your institution? What has it helped? What problems has it raised? Where does the Innovative system fit into the IT environment of your institution? … From the standpoint of you and your institution, where do you see library system software heading? Are there any implications for the overall business model?

So I of course had to answer – and since it was such a long answer and the kind of thing I’d usually post here I have decided to share my answer with you all.

First I’d like to state that I can only speak from the point of view as a programmer and web designer -I have no idea how this package works for the people at circulation, cataloging or acquisitions.

How has it worked? This is a question for the people I mentioned above. How has it adapted to the times? This is a better question for me – and the answer is poorly. The interface is clunky at best and the customizability requires more work that it’s worth. There is poor HTML and CSS hidden from the people who can make a difference. A year ago there was an extra tag – I had to wait for a new release to fix this problem when I could have easily gone in and deleted it if I had the control. I frequently have to tell people in my workplace that I can’t change or fix something because it is out of my realm – nothing should be out of my realm – we pay for this product and should be able to alter anything and everything we choose.

What has it helped? Once again I don’t think this really applies to someone in my position.

What problems has it raised? It has raised several design issues – with more open code, or an API I’d be able to go in and make things look the way we’d like – instead of having to explain to people that the catalog design has nothing to do with me – the web designer. It has also caused issues with the way we store data. We have a separate customer database and we have to import data into the III on a nightly basis – if we were allowed to run simple “select” queries and edit the coding behind the scenes, we could have access to more up to the second data by pulling it directly from our database. The same goes for information we’d like to get out of the system. The statistics provided to us are spotty at best, there are missing pieces that, given the rights, we could be getting for ourselves out of the database.

Where does III fit? I’d say it’s a like the crazy cousin you have to deal with because he’s family! It doesn’t fit, we are a very open IT environment, we have applications all over that need to talk to each other nicely and the III system is a brick wall preventing us from getting the information we need and sending the information we’d like.

Where do I see it heading? No where – I haven’t seen any changes that have been advantageous to my work or my department. Where would I like to see it headed? I’d like III to look at Talis (, I’d like them to see how this company is communicating with it’s users on the user level. I want to see III join forces with Talis and the other vendors to implement the idea of the Platform ( by visiting the Shared Innovation site ( and working together. We pay for these applications and should have the ability to model them around our own business model and company mission.

I’m not sure I understand the last question – but I read it like this, “What’s wrong with the current business model and how can we change it?” Right now libraries are required to buy the same main package and then have the option to add on additional features/packages. A quote from my blog:

“Library 2.0 is about opening the library up and delivering content to our users where they are when they want it. We need to engage our users – which we are doing, but we need to do even more. Paul called for us to “disaggregate our monolithic library systems”. He explained this to us like this: Imagine a great big black box which a vendor sells you and instead of taking everything the vendor offers you take only the bits you need. Plugging in bits of other applications – maybe from other vendors – or that you have written yourself. Which is what I have the hardest time with – we have this ILS that was written for primarily academic libraries and we’re forced to buy the whole package and use only 1/3 of this – then out comes an add on that makes more sense for us – but we have to pay extra to get it – why not let us pay for the core and then pick and choose the other pieces we’ll need – customizing our catalogs to our specific institution? Paul says library systems should be like Lego, you can build the picture on the box or you can build something new and different.” (

Let us make our own packages – why should we be paying for a user database when we already have one – why not let us write a bridge script to get the information to and from our database instead of having to rely on the limits imposed by the current system?

It’s a new world and building onto a system that is more than 15 years old isn’t going to cut it anymore – there needs to be a new system, one that allows for more freedom, and it has to come soon, because more and more libraries are going to turn to open-source. I know that I’m ready to go out and lend a hand on one of the open-source LIS projects out there – especially if it means I get to have a system that will do what I want, how I want – and let me make changes when I want.

Additional Reading: