Lake Superior Libraries Symposium Debrief Part 1: Innovation, change, and freedom to fail

Lake Superior Libraries Symposium Debrief Part 1: Innovation, change, and freedom to fail

FullSizeRenderInnovation in libraries Preconference

Last week I had the privilege of attending the Lake Superior Libraries Symposium held at the beautiful College of St. Scholastica campus in Duluth, Minnesota.   I arrived on Thursday to attend the Preconference workshop on innovation in libraries led by keynote speaker Jason Griffey. We had around a dozen or more participants and we spent the afternoon discussing innovation, its blockers, and how we can work to inspire change in our libraries.  We came away with some potential strategies on how to foster innovation for libraries, looking at organizational structures and potential changes that could be implemented.  After the Preconference there was a rousing round of trivia at Midi’s Restaurant at the Fitger’s Inn with wonderful appetizers (I enjoyed walleye cakes and a olive/cheese plate) for dinner.

Library data at risk?

Evernote Snapshot 20160520 085156

Friday started with an inspiring and I’ll admit somewhat scary presentation by Jason Griffey.  His keynote discussed the issue of privacy.  In his talk he stressed that nothing is really private, and that it is really very easy for hackers to get at information, especially passwords and login information.  He pointed out that while it hasn’t happened yet, libraries will become a target and our data is at risk.  He made a reference to Andromeda Yelton’s presentation at the Library Technology conference this year, where she used a rather simple program to read passwords and login information live.

Note: Photograph from Jason Griffey’s keynote.

Salted and Hashed 

Evernote Snapshot 20160520 085846

He stressed the importance that libraries need to step up and make sure our vendors are following proper security.  The only correct answer to the question of “how are you storing/encrypting passwords should be “Salted and Hashed”.   My understanding of how this works is minimal, but I think a lot of randomness gets added to passwords/data that gets salted and hashed.

Note: Photograph from Jason Griffey’s keynote.

Library as privacy spaces?

He ended the talk by looking into the near future, and came up with something very interesting: the library as a privacy space.  This came out of looking at two engineering laws, Moore’s and Kooney’s, which basically seem to state that the power and cost of technology decreases by half every 18 months.  So imagine several years from now a small microchip that has the power of an iPhone that costs 10 cents.  It could cost around 150 billion pounds (I think I have that number right, it’s really not that much money) to place these chips every few feet across the city of London.  An interesting, intimidating, scary thought in terms of surveillance.

But what if libraries were a guaranteed, protected privacy space?  If that were the case, libraries would be seen as highly integral and valuable.

Needless to say, this was an engaging keynote.

The Bleeding Edge

After the keynote my morning began with another inspiring talk by Valerie Horton, “Skating on the Bleeding Edge.”

She discussed the difficult times libraries are facing with cuts and falling usage rates, and the need for innovation: “Something different that pushes boundaries…at heart is the process of discovery.”

In her talk she described the term “disruptive innovation” and the importance to not over-react.  Instead, focus on improving customer service relationships, invest in your core product or service.  She also stressed the importance of the need to improve faster than disruptive technologies.

She gave us two key ways to innovate:

  1. Improve current service – make it really high quality
  2. Add new service or product

There is really a third, and that’s do both, which is what Minitex is doing.

She stressed that innovation requires experimentation and failure, and the need to know that failure is OK.  One thing I thought interesting was the that she brought up the need for psychological safety, the knowledge that it’s safe to fail.  Without this innovation is stifled.  The business world knows that failure is expected, why can’t libraries? Any major meltdown or failure is when true innovation happens.

A good way to experiment is with pilot projects.  This keeps the scope small.

Something to keep in mind: Fail fast, ditch perfection, and keep calm.

This was a major theme for the conference: Failure should be planned for, allowed, encouraged, and learned from.

To encourage innovation she gave the following strategies:

  • To counter Bureaucracy, increase professionalism of staff
  • Rotate people through assignments/do something completely different
  • Accept untidy organizational structure and messy collaborations
  • Is “Messy” becoming the next trend?
  • Allow people more flexibility wherever possible
  • Top down model: Managers must acknowledge mistakes
    • Set tone
  • What can we stop doing?
  • There is a lack of time to actually stop, think, research, breathe
  • Number one “killer of innovation” is lack of safety (to fail)
  • Celebrate innovation!

More details on the rest of the day will be forthcoming in a later post.








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