Where are all the crazy ideas for libraries?

26 Oct

Picture of some stairs with 'insane' written on

I really like listening to Freakonomics Radio – it’s basically discussion of interesting ideas and how they apply to concepts. It’s quite seductive, because they’re generally left-field or crazy ideas, executed successfully by visionary people with a lot of capital behind them. I like to imagine how some of them might apply to libraries, and what I might do with limitless time and money to help the library cause…

A recent episode in particular really caught my ear. It’s worth listening to the whole thing, but here’s the bit that struck me. Peter Diamandis, of the X Prize Foundation, said: “If you want to cause a true break-through – the day before something is really a break-through, it’s a crazy idea. If it weren’t a crazy idea it wouldn’t be a break-through; it’d be an incremental improvement.”

So where are the crazy ideas for how to rescue libraries from their current plight? If you know of any, leave me a link in the comments. Or even better, if you HAVE a crazy idea you’d be happy sharing, tell us all about it here.

He goes on to say that at a really high level you can’t try crazy ideas because you end up being subject to a Congressional review or whatever, so it’s up to the small businesses and entrepreneurs to supply the real creativity because they’re the only ones who can. There are parallels with libraries here too – we can’t really expect the ALA, CILIP or the British Library to do something completely nuts just to try and ‘save’ libraries, they have too much responsibility. So maybe the ideas have to come from the little people, like us. Maybe if we have crazy ideas now, we’ll have the guts to try and implement some of them when we finally get our grubby mitts on some serious responsibility… who knows?

The host of the show, Stephen Dubner, goes on to say:

In the real world, there are real risks. You want winners? There’ll be losers too. You want a new solution, a new technology, a new education system? There’s going to be a whole lot of people – noisy, well-funded, entrenched people – whose only goal is to defend the status quo. So bring on the crazy ideas!

Makes you think, I reckon.

- thewikiman

p.s If you’re reading this in Google Reader or otherwise not on the original blog, click through and view the original! There are absolutely FABULOUS crazy ideas for libraries in the comments section, and that’s where the real value of this post lies.

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  • thewikiman November 8, 2010 at 11:44 AM

    Great to see this kind of thing is already happening..

  • Kate Peterson November 24, 2010 at 8:30 PM

    Where are all the crazy ideas for libraries? –

  • Megan Richardson November 24, 2010 at 8:38 PM

    RT @Kategreatmpls: Where are all the crazy ideas for libraries? –

  • Stu December 10, 2010 at 11:41 AM

    I love this! Maybe it’s just because I’ve gone straight from being a student to a member of staff in a University Library, but I’m full of ‘crazy ideas’ that I’d love to see come into play. I’m going to outline a few here, I’d absolutely love to get a bit of feedback on any of them.

    - ‘Library Sessions’; with these, I’m thinking of things similar to Radio 1′s Live Lounge sessions. How better to get rid of the ‘shhh!’ stereotype than by allowing musicians to come in and record themselves playing in a Library. There’s even the option for users to make this particularly viral by recording ‘without permission’ and see how long they can last before getting kicked out…!

    - ‘Speed Mates’; if we’re trying to define libraries as social spaces, how better than have a similar setup to speed dating where people sit down and chat for five minutes about their favourite books, journals, magazines, what subject they’re studying etc etc, until a buzzer goes and they move on to the next person.

    - Facebook Places/Foursquare collaboration; the (literally) overnight success of FitFinder – a project by a UK University student that used a setup similar to Twitter to anonymously notify users of ‘beautiful people’ in libraries – proves that there is a demand to get social in the Library. Wouldn’t it be great to encourage as many users as possible to ‘check in’ on their iPhones and Blackberries and get talking to people – ‘User A – English Lit student seeks 20th century war poets who mention Futurism, HELP!’ ‘User B – Oh, I wrote my dissertation on that, I’ll come help, where are you?’ Next thing you know, User B is an advocate for the Library, showing User A a journal he didn’t know how to access and pieces in special collections by a relevant author.

    - ‘The library can help with anything’; perhaps an aspiration rather than a ‘crazy idea’, but something I’m certainly striving to embed in my marketing & comms strategy. Yesterday I met with a member of staff to discuss new ideas, and we ended up talking about advertising and chinese liquers. Me and the head librarian were chatting in the staff room, only for me to discover he’d seen Sonic Youth, Nirvana and Joy Division (three of my favourite bands) live in Manchester. If only we could get students to feel this comfortable with us – while checking out a book, wouldn’t it be great if a user felt able to say ‘oh, while I’m here, I just can’t figure out how to do X, Y on this journal, am I being really stupid?’, cue us ‘oh not at all, I know it can be confusing, you have to sign in with this password.’ ‘oh great, thanks, say, do you know a nice quiet restaurant round here for a date?’ ‘hey, why not try Santini’s, it’s cheap and pretty romantic, good luck!’

    Am I trying too hard? Do I want to turn the Library into Cheers, ‘where everybody knows your name?’ Personally, I’d love it! And given that last week a student asked one of our staff how to cook spaghetti, well…maybe we’re not too far away from my dream.

    Good lord, that was a long reply. Congratulations to anyone who got all the way through, it’s Friday and I’m obviously a bit hyper. I might polish this up and post it on our staff blog, see if I can get them excited as I am…As I said above, any replies/thoughts/comments always welcome!

    Always remember, ‘crazy ideas’ are just tomorrow’s ‘why didn’t I think of that?!’


  • thewikiman December 10, 2010 at 1:32 PM

    Hey Stu, thanks for the comment!

    I think there is already something akin to your first idea happening across the country, known as Get it Loud. Lots of interesting bands and artists have performed, it’s a great scheme…

    I think the library / location based social media collaboration thing could be brilliant! It sort of overlaps with this idea from ShelfCheck – would be great to somehow integrate them both.

    I like the idea of the library can help with anything too – certainly every librarian has a tale of a ridiculously obscure request (quite often recipe based as it happens!) so we have to field all sorts of queires as it is; might as well encourage them. Libraries should be as welcoming and inclusive as possible.

  • Michael Wiebrands June 15, 2011 at 8:00 AM

    Thanks, nice post! @myleejoseph: In case you missed it RT @theREALwikiman: Where are all the crazy ideas for libraries?

  • Constance Wiebrands June 15, 2011 at 8:11 AM

    RT: @morfaine: Thanks, nice post! RT: @myleejoseph RT @theREALwikiman: Where are all the crazy ideas for libraries?

  • Emily C. Rushing July 5, 2011 at 7:21 PM

    Where are all the crazy ideas for libraries? – from @theREALwikiman

  • Jo Davis August 15, 2011 at 6:15 PM

    So, I have just studied your How to Make a Great Prezi prezi. I would like to know how to use the graphic — like your computer, or a book, or whatever.

  • thewikiman August 16, 2011 at 9:42 AM

    Hey Jo, I think this may be the wrong post for the comment but I’ll answer it anyway – you just insert an image in the way described in the guide, drag it into position and expand it to the right size, and then write on top of it. It’s that simple.

  • Bobbi Newman February 15, 2012 at 12:32 PM

    "In the real world, there are real risks. You want winners? There’ll be losers too."

  • Dave Pattern February 15, 2012 at 1:42 PM

    At the last two Mashed Library events at Huddersfield, we gathered in ideas from attendees, so I’ll throw them into the melting pot:

  • thewikiman February 16, 2012 at 10:18 AM

    Cheers Mr P!

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