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The premise of the Aspen Institute Leadership Roundtable on Library Innovation is that the transformation of public libraries is driven by three key factors:

(1) new narratives about the library’s role in society
(2) a culture of innovation and adaptation that promotes new relationships and embraces new forms of knowledge, technology and participation
(3) committed, transformative leadership both within the library profession but also from other community partners including government, media and civic groups.

The Leadership Roundtable will bring together thought leaders and decision makers from government, technology, business, civil society and academia who are rethinking the roles of libraries.  Our aim for the gathering is to identify practical strategies for strengthening the role of libraries in American society.

Monday, August 10, 2015
8:45 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.     Welcome by Amy Garmer and Opening Remarks by

Alberto Ibargüen, President, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Charlie Firestone, Executive Director, Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program

9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.     Session I. From Edge to Core: Understanding Innovation
Innovation provides a competitive edge in a knowledge-based economy. Libraries have the potential to be platforms for innovation and entrepreneurial activity in the community. However, like the community itself, libraries must foster a culture of innovation and look to ways to bring new thinking, new practice and new leadership that often are developed at the edges of institutions into the center. This session will focus on understanding how innovation happens in institutions generally and libraries specifically, and identify the requirements for promoting a sustainable culture of innovation.

Questions to be addressed include:

  • What is known about how and why “innovation” occurs in enterprises and institutions?
  • Where is innovation occurring in institutions generally, and libraries specifically?
  • What kinds of innovations are desirable in public libraries? That is, what library innovations will have the greatest benefit for communities?

11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.    Session II. Library Innovation by Design

Can institutional innovation occur by design? In this session, participants will begin to visualize the innovative library of tomorrow, how it will function and how to structure it. Like other professions, libraries have developed a culture with a distinct set of values, approaches and behaviors. Library practices have traditionally been centered on the work of building and maintaining collections, and interactions with users and other institutions have been largely transactional. As the role of the library shifts beyond simply being an access and lending institution to providing a venue and platform for learning, innovation and creativity,  libraries need to think in dramatically different ways and develop new approaches to their work in line with their changing role in the community.
Questions to be addressed include:

  • In what ways can stakeholders infuse library institutions with principles and approaches that will develop and sustain a culture of innovation? One method to be explored in this session is design thinking and its user-centered approach.
  • How can libraries move from a focus on the transactional to a focus on building networks and relationships, including those that “connect the edges” of institutions where innovation is more likely to occur?

2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.      Session III. Working Group Session: From Design to Practice
One of the unique characteristics of the modern public library is how it is bringing the human and the virtual, and the physical and the virtual, together in new ways. Working groups will explore innovations in library practice in the following three areas where the library serves a critical role in communities:

Working Group I. Access and Inclusion
Working Group II. Learning and Creativity
Working Group III. Public Forum & Citizenship

Brainstorming exercise: Create a map of “best in class” and leading/bleeding edge examples of innovations in this area, whether in the library or other sectors and institutions, U.S. or global.

Discussion questions:

  • What are the opportunities to learn from or connect libraries to the innovators on your map?
  • How can libraries and their communities attract, inspire and enable the talent needed to foster innovation in this area?
  • How can libraries and their communities advance work to restructure spaces and develop new infrastructure (i.e., new access infrastructure, new learning infrastructure, new civic infrastructure)? Who needs to be involved and what needs to happen?
  • What are the measures and levers of performance for libraries in this area going forward? What are the barriers?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

8:45 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.      Session IV. Reports of the Working Groups and Feedback
10:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.    Session V. Working Groups: From Practice to New Models
The second break-out session will build from the innovative practices identified earlier to identify key recommendations for library ecosystems that more effectively mobilize institutions and individuals, foster a culture of innovation and establish pathways for moving new ideas and techniques more rapidly from the edges of the field into the center of practice. Building from previous sessions participants will begin to structure a narrative of how the library creates, delivers and captures value for the community.

Discussion Questions:

  • What are the opportunities to form partnerships and alliances that can strengthen cultures of innovation?
  • How can libraries create networks that are truly multi-directional?
  • How can successful institutions scale their networks (e.g., by using social media, crowd sourcing or other models for collaboration)?
  • How do we make innovative library models sustainable?

2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.      Session VI. Internet & Technology in Libraries

This session will begin with a series of brief presentations on the challenges and opportunities of providing broadband access to communities through the public library, and how this library role may evolve in the future. Included in the discussion will be updates on library wi-fi hotspot lending programs in New York and Chicago, and progress on tapping the new federal e-rate funding available.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

8:45 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.      Session VII. Reports of the Working Groups
Working groups will each have half an hour to present and discuss their recommendations for sustaining a culture and practice of innovation in libraries over the long term. (We will synthesize the reports as we go along.) What factors will slow or speed progress? What new policies are needed? What actions should libraries and other stakeholders be taking today so that they can create more value in the future?
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.     Session VIII. Next Steps
Returning to the goal of building healthy, resilient, livable communities: what can leaders from the different stakeholder groups do to ensure that innovations occurring around the edges of libraries and their communities find pathways to and a receptivity at the center of the institution?