Creativity & (academic) libraries


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Presentation for Library 2.012 - an online conference run by the School of Library and Information Science at SJSU. The presentation includes a lot of presenter's notes in PDF form, so please read them. I think you are best to download (save) the file and then view/read it in a PDF reader.

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Creativity & (academic) libraries

  1. 1. Creativity & (academic) libraries @malbooth UTS: LIBRARYThis is a presentation I gave on 3 October as part of the Library 2.012 online conference that was run by the School of Library andInformation Science at San Jose State University.I was the second part, a practitioner’s view, in a tandem presentation with Kathryn Greenhill who comes from where the sun goesdown: the West.I am grateful to the following colleagues and collaborators from the UTS Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building, UTS:Galleryand UTS:Library who shared their views about creativity with me recently: Kate Sweetapple, Zoë Sadokierski, Aaron Seymour,Adam Jasper, Holly Williams, Chris Gaul, Tom Fethers, Jemima McDonald, & Belinda Tiffen. They have inspired and encourage meto explore the largely untapped potential for original design and creativity in our library.I think it is a mistake to think that creativity is not a critical element in the day-to-day work of an academic library. Many fall intothe trap of thinking that we should just purchase, describe, arrange and provide collections of information (via shelves or terriblycluttered websites that only provide search interfaces). Encouraging true discovery and exploration requires a different perspective,more understanding of our users, collaboration and a better understanding of the creative process.
  2. 2. Creativity & (academic) libraries WHAT?I am dividing the presentation into What?, Why?, Who? & How?
  3. 3. Creativity & (academic) libraries events | competitions | exhibitions | films | collaborations | services | readings | spaces | media | sustainability | designs | collection-development | theft | cultureThese are the “Whats” as I see it so far. There are many more I could have shown or listed, but these were the first to spring to mindand the easiest to illustrate or explain briefly.It is all a bit of a work-in-progress but in each of these areas I think we have been creative. Although the following slides illustrateeach of these points it is important to remember they are all connected in some way and not isolated creative initiatives. Many ledon to others in this group and they also provide evidence of our creativity. Most are current or continuing, demonstrating bothongoing creative practice and continual engagement as these traits are critical too, at least for libraries.
  4. 4. Creativity & (academic) libraries2012 is the National Year of Reading (at least in Australia). You might think it odd that a tertiary institution is doing so much toencourage and facilitate reading of the English language, but it is a major need here and we in the Library are doing what we can toassit in interesting and stimulating ways. Hearing authors talk about there work right in the centre of our most popular learningcommons is a recent Library initiative to bring events to the clients, in the middle of their space.Hearing creators talk about their work and their creative process has also been very useful.
  5. 5. Creativity & (academic) librariesChirs Gaul was our inaugural Artist-in-Residence. This was his conceptual exhibition in the DAB Lab Research Gallery and itfeatured new ways of looking at and comparing different library collections and two very different ways of exploring and discoveringlibrary collections (via sound). We documented this exhibition via film with the beautiful work of cinematographer Dave Katague.You can view three short film clips here: has helped us to understand more about Discovery by not “knowing”. There are some more of my thoughts about how thisResidency has helped us later in this presentation.
  6. 6. Creativity & (academic) librariesNew and constantly changing visual displays to engage our users and to encourage reading and small but effective attempts to “putthe magic on display”.
  7. 7. Creativity & (academic) librariesPlay Days for first year students started a few years ago for us and we improve them each year. Each year the activities get crazierand crazier, but it provides a different way for the Library to engage with new students and shows us in a very different light. Aboveis an example of gaming in the Library: a murder mystery to solve with clues to be found all over the Library. This was found to be avery effective way to provide familiarisation tours of the Library.We also have paper plane throwing contests, face painting, a technology petting zoo, giant jenga, treasure hunts and Kinectactivities like dancing:
  8. 8. Creativity & (academic) librariesThis is from our central stairs. It has recently been redesigned: entirely by our own staff to be more welcoming to those entering theLibrary and climbing the stairs. The central screen has lived in this space for a few years now and hosts our Wallwisher feedbackinterface. There used to be a complaint book in the same location, but we’ve found this interface to be far more engaging and useful.It creates conversations between library staff and students and many are both useful and very amusing.
  9. 9. Map of Sydney by Dr Kate Sweetapple Creativity & (academic) librariesThis is one of three data maps of Sydney by Kate Sweetapple. It is an example of us collecting creative and research material fromUTS academics and staff as new inspiring special collections for the Library. So collection development itself becomes moreproactive, enjoyable and productive than simple purchasing whatever the academic publishers churn out. It engages our owncreative community, stimulates many and provides inspiration within the Library.Kate mapped out the locations of people in Sydney (from the phone book) by selecting those with avian, fish or constellationsurnames in three large data maps like the one shown above. See
  10. 10. Creativity & (academic) librariesThis is just one showcase from the creative work of a Doctor of Creative Arts. His multi-media work was displayed and examined inthe Library. See also & &
  11. 11. Creativity & (academic) librariesFor the National Year of Reading we have tried to engage our users in many different ways, including the showing of some popularand classic films. Most of these screenings have been well attended.
  12. 12. Creativity & (academic) librariesWe have our own You Tube channel and we’ve found this venture into the use of popular social media to have been a great learningexperience and a fantastic way to present and maintain re-usable material that can be quickly consumed by our target audience.Making these short clips has been an effective creative process for both staff and clients.
  13. 13. Creativity & (academic) libraries Keep Ya Crap Lug-A-Mug EcoboxesIn 2012 we have run three staff-initiated in-house projects to raise awareness of sustainability, by starting small and thinking big.These all have potential to reduce waste and to lead to further staff-led initiatives in the Library.Keep Ya Crap ran for a week and staff keep non-organic waste, targeting waste reduction. Waste was weighed and compared at theend of the week.Through Lug-A-Mug we hope to reduce the waste from discarded brew cups & containers, with discounts arranged at many popularlocal cafes and from suppliers of re-usable cups. A score-sheet is provided so we can keep track of actual savings over the remainderof 2012.Ecoboxes have been provided for staff to use in tea rooms when purchasing local take-away meals. Again, a score sheet is provided.Visibility of such programs is extremely important.
  14. 14. Creativity & (academic) librariesThis is our reading blog that many contribute to.
  15. 15. Creativity & (academic) librariesAnd this is our Research blog containing information specifically targeted at our research community.
  16. 16. Creativity & (academic) librariesShut up and Write is one of those ideas that we stole from someone else and then developed further for our own needs. It hasproved very popular with some HDR students struggling with the writing process. Again, I see this as a very creative initiative, runby our own staff who collaborated with other research support staff to deliver a much needed new service to our researchcommunity.
  17. 17. Creativity & (academic) librariesResearch Week is yet another thematic and targeted event created for a particular need: researchers. This is an event we’ve run forthe last couple of years and it too has proven popular with researchers and collaborators alike. Library as connector:
  18. 18. Creativity & (academic) libraries “A Book Spotter’s Guide to Avian Titled Literature” by Zoë Sadokierski and Kate SweetappleThis is a wonderful installation of the research interests of Zoë Sadokierski and Kate Sweetapple in our central stair well. The workwas entirely initiated, created and researcher by them for that space. It is an example to me of how libraries can benefit fromexpressing interest in the work of our community members. See also
  19. 19. Creativity & (academic) libraries “A Book Spotter’s Guide to Avian Titled Literature” by Zoë Sadokierski and Kate SweetappleDetail. I could not resist as I simply love this work and what it has done to improve our central stairs.
  20. 20. Creativity & (academic) librariesQuite a few of my colleagues in the Library participated in Bike Tank, a design thinking initiative in 2011 by U.lab See Bike Tank we learned more about the design thinking approach to creativity and innovation and we connected with many othersfrom wider Sydney.
  21. 21. Creativity & (academic) librariesThis is a space experiment we made a few years ago in a boring old law seminar room. We brightened it up with some whiteboardpaint and funky furniture and addressed a student demand for bigger whiteboards. It has proved pretty popular ever since.
  22. 22. Creativity & (academic) librariesThe following slides show the work of our Designer Tom Fethers and his collaborator on this new visual identity, Chris Gaul (our2012 Artist-in-Residence). They’ve developed a new identity for us based on the 12 nets of a cube. It is a dynamic identity based onthe pairing of colours that gives us more contemporary branding and hopefully helps us to engage with our student community. Ifyou step through the slides pretty quickly you’ll get the feel for the animation of the new logo and see how it might look on some ofour publications, way finding signage, on a smart phone app and other collateral.
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  30. 30. Creativity & (academic) libraries UTS: LIBRARY
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  36. 36. Creativity &(academic)libraries AXIS UTS: LIBRARY ISSUE 05 / 2012 > Open Reserve Upgrade > Insiders Guide To Getting Published > Pat Corrigan Bookplate Collection
  38. 38. Creativity & (academic) libraries WHY?So now, a little more on why creativity is important in academic libraries.Let me start here by saying that I do not think that creativity in libraries should always be applied simply as problem solving. Sure itcan also be applied as a better approach to a task or a challenge, but sometimes just being creative can make some problemsirrelevant.
  39. 39. Creativity & (academic) libraries UNDERSTANDING ENGAGING CULTURAL CHANGE ENVIRONMENT BRANDINGThese are the reasons I think we need to embrace creativity in academic libraries:to understand and fully appreciate the creative process itself (I don’t think we can even hope to stimulate or encourage creativity inlibraries if we don’t first attempt to understand it by trying to create, ourselves);to engage with creators and also to engage more effectively with our community by BEING more creative ourselves;because I think it assists in cultural change within organisations ands that makes them more flexible and willing to adapt in a worldof constant change;creative environments are productive and enjoyable to work in and more creative library environments are both welcomed andrequested by our patrons; andI think there is a lot of benefit in branding one’s institution as more creative in terms of reputation, collaboration, attractiveness (forstaff and patrons) and inspiration. Real creativity is almost magnetic.There’s even more on the next slide ...
  40. 40. Creativity & (academic) libraries FUN LEARNING BECAUSE WE CAN CREDIBILITY PERSPECTIVEBeing creative:because basically it is fun to do and fun to look back on;it is a rich learning process - trying, producing and sometimes failing and then trying again;because we can, and we should;it gives us more credibility with so many in our community who make or produce things; andit gives us a different perspective on things a bit like changing from “why we should not” (the default for so many in libraries) to “howwe can make this work”.
  41. 41. Creativity & (academic) librariesThis one is self explanatory.
  42. 42. Creativity & (academic) libraries How Our Artist In Residence Has HelpedThis one is self explanatory.
  43. 43. Creativity & (academic) libraries How Our Artist In Residence Has Helped Libraries Rational Efficient LogicalThis one is self explanatory.
  44. 44. Creativity & (academic) libraries How Our Artist In Residence Has Helped Libraries Artists Rational Emotive Efficient Intuitive Logical QuestioningThis one is self explanatory.
  45. 45. Creativity & (academic) libraries How Our Artist In Residence Has Helped > Understanding beyond what we know > Fresh Perspective > New & Original IdeasThis one is self explanatory.
  46. 46. Creativity & (academic) libraries Artists ask the questions that others are afraid to ask and that money cannot answer. John Maeda, President RISD, Wired Opinion, September 2012And so is this.
  47. 47. Creativity & (academic) libraries WHO & HOW?I combined these two because I was not sure I had the time or the ability to do them both justice.
  48. 48. Creativity & (academic) libraries STUDENTS ACADEMICS ALL STAFF MENTORS CO-CREATIONAs far as “Who?” goes it is basically everyone, but the last two are particularly important because everyone is telling me that thebest creativity for those in institutions like libraries is collaborative creativity. So that means mentors (and we have many creativementors including those I mentioned on the first slide) and we have some experience at co-creation. We do not, however, have asmuch experience at this as Brooklyn Museum: see probably does have the ability to be creative in their work, but for some the opportunity, permission, scope and trust islacking. I see a big part of my role here to be making sure that those who would like to be more creative can be in this workplace. Ithink we’ve also done some really creative things here from an IT perspective and I’ve failed to mention the amazing work of ourIT Services team, but it is evident in facilitating some of the services you saw above, particularly those with an online presence.
  49. 49. Creativity & (academic) libraries Mentors Sustainability Discovery (UX) Planning Service DesignWe have tried several different design mentorships (for want of a better expression):1. To understand both design thinking and being more sustainable at work, we asked Grant Young from Zumio to lead a team ofour supervisors and team leaders (the level beneath our layer of department managers) in a project to get all staff involved in somemeaningful sustainability initiatives. This project went in a very different direction to what I had in mind, but the initiatives theycame up with were successful, my ideas proved to be not be required and most participants learnt much from the process itself.2. We began a serious two-phased approach towards improving our collection discovery services and online interfaces in 2011. As afirst element of this we embarked on some ethnographic research to better understand our clients and that was led by DigitalEskimo professionals. This was our first real attempt at professional UX research on a significant scale and it also proved to be avaluable first step for this project.3. As I mentioned before, this year (2012) we used u.lab to facilitate our two half-day planning sessions. They helped us plan out theactivities and goals for each day and encouraged us to invite some external guest speakers to inspire us for each day. Both werebrilliant: Steve Baty from Meld on Day #1; and Alison Heller from Urban Affect on Day #2.4. We have three design challenges as we look at the challenge of imagining our future library: spatial, service and organisational
  50. 50. Creativity & (academic) libraries how to tell? participants | visits | views | likes | remarks | comments | interest-expressed | requests | surveys | momentum | partners | invitationsAs I said above I think some of the creative initiatives that I’ve highlighted already are proof that we are being more creative in ourapproach.I do not really think that creativity is easily or effectively measured or counted like a more tangible asset might be. Trying to explainit is sometimes a bit like analysing comedy: not funny and rather pointless. I do, however, think that it is a desirable and somethingthat is simply crushed out of people in far too many workplaces. Certainly I think that in cultural institutions like libraries weshould be encouraging more free play, valuing divergent thinking, imaginatively engaging with our community and providing anenvironment that is conducive to collaborative creativity.I’ve listed some of the easy to find indicators above in this slide, most are easy to understand so I won’t cover all of them here, but Ithink several are worthy of a note or two. For requests I was thinking about requests to do something creative within or with thelibrary. Momentum is something that I think can grow as a result of more creative activity. It creates a kind of infectious enthusiasmthat is obvious when you have it. Then others see it and want to partner with you on new ventures or they invite you to talk aboutwhat you do more and more. This list came straight out of my head after thinking about how I knew we were being more creative. Itisn’t exhaustive or prescriptive, just the indicators that came to mind.
  51. 51. Creativity & (academic) libraries REMEMBER: creative practice requires practice & in a library ... TRUSTCreators must produce something original and to keep the skills honed it requires ongoing practice. Fear can block creativeexperimentation, so a big part of management’s role is creating a climate of trust in which people are not too fearful to play, learnhow to trust their instincts and each other and feel trusted to try new things.