Creativity and Innovation

One of the many things I learned on the Clore Short course was the power of giving your creative mind barriers or boundaries.

So for example, if I were to ask you to develop a digital project for libraries you might not get any immediate sparks of innovation. However if I were to ask you to consider how digital technology might improve how we communicate with our customers, or how we might save money on printing you might have more luck in generating a few ideas.

And before you think you’re not a creative type – think again! Everyone is born to be free thinking and creative. Sometimes we need to give ourselves the time and the permission to think up new ideas and new approaches, simply explore what other people are doing to find some inspiration. Find yourself a theme or some boundaries and then get creative.

I have two examples of how channeling imagination/creativity can lead to great ideas and projects. 

Creative Thinking Session

What? As part of the SCL Digital Leaders Pilot we were asked to go off in groups of five or six, with a 10p in hand – the task to return half an hour later with something bigger!

There were four groups and we all tackled the challenge quite differently. I  learned a lot about leadership and the need for different personalities on a team – I was very aware that people within the group played different roles and brought different attributes such as: ideas, analysis, doing, digital solutions, askers, momentum, confidence, seekers, presenters, inspiration – the list goes on.

Purpose? To make us think. To get us active after lunch. To have some fun.

Target audience? This could be done with any group.

How might it be used? To get a group to think creatively, to enable people to understand the role they naturally might play and the dynamics at work in a team.

What happened?

Group one – photocopied something bigger in denomination than a 10p

Group two – joined the library and borrowed some books about starting a business

Group three – ‘borrowed’ a card from the shop. The card had a  ‘Votes for women’ image – they had brought back democracy!


Group four – visited the Manchester Art Gallery over the road and got talking to two awesome visitor services officers. They were extremely helpful to this bunch of  ‘highly motivated and slightly erratic librarians’. For our 10p we were able to ‘purchase’ a clutch of goodies. But we also wanted to return with something digital, so the lovely Sam agreed to tell us why she loved Manchester in front of a Lowry painting!

Sharing the knowledge gained from the SCL Digital Leaders Pilot (facilitated by Ben Lee and Ethan Ohs from Shared Intelligence) with colleagues  – ideas, examples and inspiration.

Understanding the Digital World – Re Imagining Work (RSA)

This video from RSA is called Re Imagining Work. It includes Dave Coplin Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft speaking about how work works (workplace ICT, flexible work, our relationship to our work) for us and for the communities we serve.

Sharing the knowledge gained from the SCL Digital Leaders Pilot (facilitated by Ben Lee and Ethan Ohs from Shared Intelligence) with colleagues  – ideas, examples and inspiration.

Empathy in a Digital World

This video from RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) was part of our homework for SCL Digital Leaders Pilot and is very thought provoking, so well worth a watch.

After watching and loving this video I tweeted about it. I then had a conversation with Roman Krznaric and he signposted me to the Empathy Library –

“The Empathy Library is the world’s first online empathy collection and a treasure house for catapulting your imagination into other people’s lives. What might it be like to be a child growing up in Tehran, or to be born without sight, or to be a soldier fighting someone else’s war? The library takes you on these journeys into unknown worlds.

The library is full of recommended books to read (fiction, non-fiction and children’s books) and great films to watch (from feature films to documentaries and video shorts). Their common thread? The power to deepen our empathy – to help us step into the shoes of other people and look at the world through their eyes. The library offers a unique form of armchair travel that can give you a taste of a different culture, a different generation, a different life.”

Sharing the knowledge gained from the SCL Digital Leaders Pilot (facilitated by Ben Lee and Ethan Ohs from Shared Intelligence) with colleagues  – ideas, examples and inspiration.

Chattanooga Library – A Fresh Approach

I was completely inspired when I met Corinne Hill, Director at Chattanooga Public Library, in August 2014 at the Exeter Libraries Constant Evolution event.

So I was super excited at the chance to hear Corinne talk again at the SCL Digital Leaders Pilot, accompanied this time by her wingman, Deputy Director, Nate Hill.

The 4th Floor of Chattanooga library has been converted into a community workspace and innovation hub which includes:

  • Art Lab with a writer in residence and zines
  • Maker Lab with 3D Printer, loom and arduino night
  • Gig Lab with networking classes (public participation), 4K streaming and public projects
  • Civic Lab with mesh networking, map time and data portal

Whilst this development is pretty awesome, it is the leadership in Chattanooga that I believe we can learn from.

Both Corinne and Nate are open and generous. Here are some of the things discussed on the SCL Digital Leaders Pilot, but also take a look at my previous blog:  Innovation – through the eyes of a mercenary librarian

“Best collaborators in town”

It was clear that Nate had really gone outside of the library building to reach out to local groups and to work with the community to grow what they wanted. They set out to be ‘the best collaborators in town’.

The type of events they concentrated on initially were small business pitch nights with business accelerators, 3D maker day with business accelerator, events with hobbyists and University students.

They also highlighted the importance of solid strategic partners as a key to turning around the storytelling and reputation of their organisation.

Staff as community figures – Open, accessible and “exposed”

Corinne talked about the library team base being ‘exposed’ in the public space on 4th floor – this includes the web developer and LMS team. Everyone who works in this space are now community figures. They participate with the community and they all go out to events.

As the Director, Corinne had to rethink what librarians are allowed to – not questioning whether the events they attended are ‘relevant’.  This empowered staff to take on a community organising role , which in turn reached different audiences by being involved in a variety of community groups and events.

Attitude – Recruit the right people and then trust them

Corinne places the right attitude high of her attributes list when recruiting, saying “you have to fit in to the workplace culture”. Other skills and attributes that are key for the role of ‘smart person’ include:

  • a natural interest in technology
  • excellent customer service skills
  • need to be curious enough to learn as technology to changes
  • set an example for how other people could use the space.

To recruit the right people they initially changed the job advert and retained the job description, but they have subsequently changed the job description now they know it works.

Hiring the right people is crucial, but then letting them try new things was equally as important. Corinne talked about how people learn by doing and as a learning and knowledge institution, it is critical to allow individuals and the team to have freedom to experiment .

Corinne and Nate want their organisation to keep the constant pace of innovation, where there is always something changing. To achieve this they encourage ‘passion projects’ to empower staff to do what they are good at. New staff help to drive projects forward and keeps innovation fresh so they are building in a sustainability to the cycle innovation.

Innovate – and then keep innovating!

So in an environment where they strive to keep innovating, where they are always asking “what’s next”, where they need to keep the wow – they inevitably have some new projects:

They recently relaunched one of their small branch libraries, which serves a low socioeconomic neighbourhood. In a bid to focus on the people who are really using the service they decided to turn it into a youth library, which resulted in a circulation increase of 40%.

Partnership with parks and recreation centres – librarians with youth focus – programmes in parks. People can learn anywhere within the community. Pushing services out to people and neighbourhoods that need them.

Appreciate a good crisis

Corinne is extremely pragmatic when it comes to hard times. She talks about appreciating a good crisis to enable you to rethink business model. The question she poses “What are you going to do with the money you have?”

They also suggest that people want to help you when you’re successful, so do something that is successful, demonstrate that  success effectively and build community support  – this will win over the politicians.

Chattanooga Library now has an ‘Innovation district’ being developed around it. Nate talked about the massive opportunities this will bring.

Find out more: When I first met Corinnne : Innovation – through the eyes of a mercenary librarianMaking it on the 4th Floor

Sharing the knowledge gained from the SCL Digital Leaders Pilot (facilitated by Ben Lee and Ethan Ohs from Shared Intelligence) with colleagues  – ideas, examples and inspiration.


The SCL Digital Leaders Pilot covered a whole range of areas about leadership. For starters I’d like to highlight two videos.

The first shows how we all need to find people who will back us up when we are starting out with new ideas. It is often the first follower you helps you create a movement. Could you be a first follower for others in the team?

First Follower: Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy

The second is a TED Talk.

What? 30, 000+ videos from speakers cover topics from sanitation to technological wizadry to deep policy issues to, well, designing boots for beetles

Purpose? TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less)

Target audience? Anyone

How might it be used? To broaden horizons, to understand topics, to get lost in other people’s thoughts and perspectives.

How to find out more? TEDTalks, Most popular TEDTalks of all time

This talk by Simon Sinek is the third most popular of all time

Start with “Why?” – why do some people achieve things others don’t…

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”



Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

What? Computerised cognitive behaviour therapy – or CCBT for short –the cognitive behaviour therapy is delivered using a computer.

Programmes such as Beating the Blues and FearFighter can be made available on the public computers and patients referred from their GP or health care professional.

Purpose? Enables management of mild and moderate depression or  anxiety. Reduces the need for medication and potentially reduces the cost of treatment.

Target audience? People with mild to moderate depression and anxiety.

How might it be used? Support health agenda, healthier communities

How to find out more? NICE information for patients

North Somerset trialled Beating the Blues with the PCT in 2007, but the subscription wasn’t renewed.

Other programmes for CBT are available.

Sharing the knowledge gained from the SCL Digital Leaders Pilot (facilitated by Ben Lee and Ethan Ohs from Shared Intelligence) with colleagues  – ideas, examples and inspiration.

FabLabs, 3D Printing and Maker Spaces

Fab Lab Devon

What? A small-scale workshop in Exeter Library offering digital fabrication. It’s an open access, not-for-profit, community resource where anybody can invent and make just about anything.

Devon libraries have a collaboration with the local university, with funding from the local economic partnership. 

Purpose? To prototype ideas, to support business start up, to build skills.

Target audience? Pre start up, people with ideas

How might it be used? To enable libraries to play a role in the creative economy. Gives libraries the Wow-factor. Provides people with skills and access to equipment to progress their business or idea. 

How to find out more? Fab Lab Devon

See how the FabLab supports local business:

Hear Economic Development Officer, Tom Dixon, explain the FabLab and its impact:

Sharing the knowledge gained from the SCL Digital Leaders Pilot (facilitated by Ben Lee and Ethan Ohs from Shared Intelligence) with colleagues  – ideas, examples and inspiration.

MOOCS – Massive Online Open Courses


What? FutureLearn works with universities to provide free online modular courses. There is a massive range of courses including:

  • Innovation and enterprise (with Loughborough University)
  • World War 1: History in 100 stories (with Monash University)
  • Dyslexia and Foreign Language Teaching (with Lancaster University)
  • Introduction to Cyber Security (with The Open University)
  • Start Writing Fiction (with The Open University)
  • Secret Power of Brands (with University of East Anglia) – I thoroughly recommend this one!
  • Childhood in a digital age (with The Open University)
  • and so so many more: Browse courses

Purpose? Future Learn believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so their courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.

Target audience? Anyone who would like to join. Courses run with 10,000 plus participants from across the world. 

How might it be used? To enrich our online offer

How to find out more? FutureLearn, OpenLearn – the home of free courses from The Open University


Treehouse Learning  


Sue Lawson, Service Development Coordinator at Manchester Libraries is running a project to trial a subscription to this package. 

What? Online courses Teaching digital skills –  ‘Learn the skills to land your dream job’

Purpose? To learn skills required by a workforce in the digital age. 

Target audience? Job seekers, job clubs, anyone wanting to up-skill, business startups. 

How might it be used? To enrich our online offer, to fit with the Universal Learning Offer

How to find out more? Treehouse

Sharing the knowledge gained from the SCL Digital Leaders Pilot (facilitated by Ben Lee and Ethan Ohs from Shared Intelligence) with colleagues  – ideas, examples and inspiration.

Code Clubs, Technoclubs and Raspberry Pi

Neath Port Talbot Libraries Technoclubs

What? Library run Computer-Coding and Robotics Club – learning to code, designing games

Purpose? Raised aspirations of children; greater
take-up of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects; and increased profile for libraries’ role in promoting STEM and computer science

Target audience? Primary and secondary school aged children

How might it be used? Increase use by children and young people, raise profile of libraries as community spaces delivering skills, 21st century libraries, links with SCL Universal Learning Offer

How to find out more? Enterprising Libraries: Neath Port Talbot Scratch programme 


Devon Libraries Raspberry Pi Jam and Code Club

What? Library run Computer-Coding and Rasperry Pi Jam – learning to code, designing games, basics in using Scratch and Python programmes on the Raspberry Pi computer

Purpose? Increased profile for libraries’ role in contributing to Digital Literacy

Target audience? Primary and secondary school aged children

How might it be used? Increase use by children, young people and families, increase digital literacy, develop new partnerships,  links with SCL Universal Learning Offer 

How to find out more? Code Club at Exeter LibraryYoung Coders and Gamers at Exeter, Code Club Volunteer Role Description, What is Raspberry Pi?

See also Treehouse

Sharing the knowledge gained from the SCL Digital Leaders Pilot (facilitated by Ben Lee and Ethan Ohs from Shared Intelligence) with colleagues  – ideas, examples and inspiration.