New research published by EIFL (Electronic Information for Libraries) provides useful recommendations for inspiring and encouraging service innovation in the public library sector.
The study, commissioned by the EIFL Public Library Innovation Programme (EIFL-PLIP) in 2014/15, aimed to find out how innovation travels, and what inspires public libraries in developing and transition countries to innovate.
Researchers surveyed 120 public librarians (mainly library directors or librarians in charge of innovative library services) from Africa, Europe and Latin America. They also conducted in-depth interviews with public library sector leadership (directors of library systems or networks; leaders of library associations).
HOW TO ENCOURAGE LIBRARIANS TO INNOVATE
The research findings suggest some useful tips for encouraging innovation in public libraries:
- Organize peer-to-peer learning activities for public librarians, such as visits to other libraries, training workshops, joint projects.
- Invite public library service innovators from other countries to share their experiences at national events, as public librarians usually do not have funds to travel to international gatherings.
- At national and international library conferences, include inspirational examples and case studies of service innovation in public libraries.
- Create space for networking at conferences.
- Communicate about innovation through websites and social media, but also seek opportunities for face-to-face meetings to share ideas and experiences.
- Communicate about public library service innovations in local languages to reach public librarians for whom foreign languages may be a barrier.
‘PERSONAL SATISFACTION OF BEING USEFUL TO THE COMMUNITY’
The study found that ‘willingness to make the library more relevant to the community’, and the ‘personal satisfaction’ that public librarians derive from being useful to the community are the two main factors motivating public librarians to innovate.
The third most important factor was ‘additional funding and library infrastructure advancement’, suggesting that survey respondents see innovation as a means of generating resources.
EIFL-PLIP HAS INSPIRED INNOVATION IN PUBLIC LIBRARIES
The study also found that EIFL-PLIP has been a source of inspiration and information about innovation.
EIFL-PLIP grantee libraries had inspired other libraries to innovate, and had shared ideas in their countries. In addition, EIFL-PLIP grant calls had generated energy and sparked innovation: the study found that many public libraries whose grant applications were declined had nonetheless implemented their innovative ideas with support from other sources.
EIFL-PLIP advances community development by inspiring and supporting innovative services in which public libraries use digital technology to meet community needs.
Since 2010, EIFL-PLIP support has led to initiation of innovative public library services in 27 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. These services are now being offered by over 300 public and community libraries, increasing digital inclusion in communities and serving the needs of children and youth, farmers, women, health workers and their patients, the unemployed and socially excluded groups.