Since its inception in February 2007, Designing Better Libraries has pretty much been a lone voice in the library blogosphere – or the profession itself -Â when it comes to discussing design thinking – and pretty much anything about design in any sense other than what it has traditionally been for librarians – designing buildings and interiors. As DBL readers know, our treatment of design explores it as a creative mental process that can be used to create better libraries and better user experiences for those who use libraries.
But I didn’t think that it would remain this way for long. There are more than a few ways to discover design, and I knew eventually I’d see someone else writing about it as well. That can be a good thing. Discussions of design is not the sole privilege of DBL, and it can certainly be helpful to have others sharing these ideas. So I was interested to come across an essay in Library Journal’s NetGen column that said “If we are going to look beyond librarianship for a professional model, we owe it to ourselves to study a discipline more akin to ours: design.” I think that’s just one theme we’ve been promoting here at DBL. In his essay “All Work and No Play” Terrence Fitzgerald advocates that what librarians can learn from designers is the value of play. He says that “Designers are taught to approach every problem with a sense of play.” I suppose there is some truth to that. If you’ve ever seen the Nightline segment called “The Deep Dive” you can see that there is a playful spirit at IDEO. There,Â toys litter the workspace.
While I agree that librarians do design things, such as instructional products, I would argue that there’s more to emulating the design profession than simply being playful. When I watch “The Deep Dive” I see some designers who are quite serious and even a bit competitive. I’m not suggesting that Fitzgerald’s take on the design profession is shallow. It may be that in the short essay he needed to dwell on just one element of the design approach, and thought that encouraging librarians to be more playful would be the best message to share about design work that would make for a sticky message. I certainly agree that we can potentially accomplish more through creativity and play, than simply following the “business as usual” methods that have been in use for…well, too long.