Our first class meetings have explored the differences of innovation in the private vs. public sectors.
Innovations generally carries a positive connotation in culture, which can lead to over application of the term. In the Netherlands, we observed innovation in a number of ways. The layout of the city heavily favors cyclists, which stems from a cultural appreciation for that mode of transportation. Wind is harnessed and used in a number of ways, including pumping canals and generating energy. Houseboats often have planters, or are entirely covered with grasses to create a nice environment which extends living space, as well as acting as insulation for the home. Because of taxes based on the front of buildings, construction is generally narrow and high.
After sharing our observations, we identified innovations that haven’t gone as well as hoped. My considerations were rather more old-school, such as the blimp, but I was impressed with more current issues that were mentioned. Twitter designed an AI system to generate tweets based on what was posted to it’s board, but it quickly became a hate-sharing account due to the types of posts made on the account. E-Cigarettes were intended to curb the prevalence of smoking, and help those with the habit find a healthier alternative, but became more widespread than cigarette use do to the healthier connotations, customization, more discrete operation, and unconstrained marketability.
Tufekci’s article on Musk and his submarine ‘solution’ demonstrates the improper use of innovation, and the way in which the private sector has more freedom of creation, but is also less connected to user needs. As contrast to the Barbakoff article showcasing Ferry Tales, we can see how public sector is more responsive to the user, though it can also be more reluctant due to public perceptions.
Libraries have become a social ‘catch all’. With no clear bottom line, we are able to demonstrate flexibility in response to our populations. In the more connected world, we can see that silos aren’t advantageous or realistic for producing useful services. Fringe organizations in the States often step in and up to fill governmental service gaps, as seen in Morton’s Vancouver schools providing more social services to the students.
America has some particular difficulties, it’s a very large country with many diverse cultures and important things are often left to chance. More successful social programs are often seen in mono-cultures with established domains of service.
The States have a self-perception of rugged individualism, and libraries can be a low-risk community place for individuals. Innovation doesn’t require invention, often cross-pollination is a more successful way to innovate, drawing from user needs and a lived experience rather than the ‘cool idea’ that the private sector acts on. We progress incrementally, rather than revealing a big idea, providing answers rather than stories. Would we be able to share our services better, and change the public perspective of being ‘a place with things to use’ if we found an effective way to share our mission as a story? Directors reports have focused more on user in recent years, presenting them as evidence of the value of our institutions, but this doesn’t seem like a way of sharing that connects strongly to the communities. The Annual Report is more widely shared, through pamphlets at the library and a featured place on our web page slider, and also utilizes storytelling.
The flexibility libraries have in considering our population does tend to take time to implement. Urban public libraries in particular can face major challenges in meeting the needs of their populations, with librarians taking on heavy workloads that require efficient use of time and resources. This can restrict the ability to make quick adjustments. This efficiency can also limit the librarians ability to create spaces and programs that are authentic and sensitive to the needs and perspectives of the community, as connecting with and involving diverse perspectives can slow down the process. Still, this inclusion seems valuable, and gave the Ferry Tales program longevity and greater success than if Barbakoff had gone with her initial, personal opinions about how a book club for transistors would take shape.