Building Academic Libraries of the Future: Planning library spaces and services using Lego Serious Play

Over the past year I have been a member of the North West Academic Libraries (NoWAL) Conference 2017 planning committee. For this I was asked to deliver a Lego Serious Play session as part of the conference from my experience delivering a similar workshop with my research group.

Considering the future needs of academic libraries requires planning and innovation. The constant evolution of technology and limitations on resources means that libraries need to be fully prepared in order to meet the changing needs of students and researchers.

Flexible and collaborative working spaces; the application of new and developing technologies; as well as building the skills of staff and students are just some of things that should be considered when planning the direction of academic libraries. It also requires innovation, teamwork and creativity to work around the limitations surrounding these areas.

This workshop introduced the concept of planning future library spaces and services using Lego Serious Play. I provided examples of innovative developments found across academic libraries for inspiration such as pop-up and bookless libraries, drones to retrieve books, and makerspaces. Participants then worked together in groups to build their vision of future libraries using Lego. For this I asked them to consider what services and spaces may be required to allow academic libraries to continue to thrive such as IT services, study spaces and managing collections/resources.

Working together to discuss how libraries can support the changing needs of students and researchers

The groups came up with a number of innovative ideas including library service robots, graffiti walls and arrows which help you find a book using your smart phone. It was interesting as there were a few participants who had led and been involved in the redevelopment of their own libraries and used this as an opportunity to share their experiences of this process. They discussed some of the difficulties associated with adapting existing buildings, spaces and resources while also highlighting the importance of maintaining other services such as cafes and toilets.

We used a projector to display models while participants presented their ideas to the whole group.

The purpose of this session wasn’t really to build working library spaces but was to encourage conversation about the direction of academic libraries and to bring together different ideas. Lego Serious Play offers an innovative method to inspire new ways of thinking, foster collaboration and promote discussion in developing areas. We received good feedback about this session and I hope that it allowed participants to consider new possibilities within the ever-developing library landscape.

More information about using Lego Serious Play to develop new ideas can be found in our paper Creatively Prototyping the Future High Street and slides from the NoWAL session can be found here.

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