Design Thinking for Libraries Toolkit Reaches Librarians Around the World

September 2018

Today Aarhus Public Libraries and Chicago Public Library (CPL) are announcing a new version of their website, Design Thinking For Libraries, where library professionals can access tools to build innovative design thinking practices into their library operations and program design. Design Thinking For Libraries globalizes design thinking and increases access to the free Design Thinking for Libraries toolkit, created in 2015 with IDEO, Aarhus Public Libraries and CPL with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Written for librarians, the toolkit offers resources for understanding processes and methods of innovation. Due to its success, the toolkit has been translated into 13 different languages, from Thai to Portuguese. The new Design Thinking for Libraries website continues to increase access to design thinking tools and builds a community forum for librarians to learn from each other. The website will house all of the toolkit translations, and a growing resource of tools and examples of design thinking.

“We are so grateful to the Gates Foundation for funding our collaboration with Aarhus Public Libraries and having the vision to scale this work globally,” said CPL Commissioner Brian Bannon. “By increasing access to the Design Thinking toolkit, we are helping libraries adopt an innovation model tailored to the needs of our field.”

“By supporting this work the Global Libraries program at the Gates Foundation has provided libraries with an opportunity to stay strong with tools and methods to innovate and to stay relevant to their communities” says Marie Oestergaard, Director of Aarhus Public Libraries. “We can see how the toolkit also strengthens the global network and builds capacity for design thinking on an international scale”.

The use of toolkit is spreading throughout the library field. New Design Thinking projects are being initiated globally, including a collaboration between Italy, Portugal and Romania called NewLib.

“The toolkit has been a great foundation for us (here in Italy) to see how to engage citizens and library users to promote innovation and and co-creation in libraries. Design Thinking has given the libraries of CSBNO network new methods and most of all it has shown the librarians new possibilities and opportunities to change libraries in a users' needs driven way,” says Gianni Stefanini, Director, Special Agency Culture, of the CSBNO Network.

The toolkit’s ideas have also influenced projects in the Czech Republic about social innovation in libraries using Design Thinking; a Nordic-Baltic collaboration where libraries in Vilnius, Aarhus, Malmö and Reykjavik will work together to solve design challenges; and several libraries in the US that have been inspired by the toolkit and initiated innovation work. Additionally, planning is underway for a series of Design Thinking camps to be held in Africa later this year and China in 2019.

According to Camelia Crisan, the Executive Director of the Progress Foundation in Romania, "No library is an island! Libraries are part of networks and the Toolkit supports their mission to position themselves at the core of people's information needs for wellbeing and development. The Toolkit also helps librarians build bridges, strengthen them and innovate, where that is the way forward.”

The Gates Foundation Global Libraries initiative has created an opportunity to strengthen libraries around the world by creating access to tools empowering librarians to innovate on their own and to build cultures of innovation. To continue this legacy, in 2019 the Chicago and Aarhus Public Libraries will host a convening of Design Thinkers from libraries all over the world to share learnings and to continue building a community of practice.

The new Design Thinking website can be accessed for free at www.designthinkingforlibraries.com.

Contact information

Chicago Public Library Press Office: press@chipublib.org

Aarhus Public Libraries, Sidsel Bech-Petersen: sibp@aarhus.dk