Startup Library: Day 2

Yesterday blew right by. Time flies when you’re having fun, kids!

Our homework last week was to prepare a “pitch“: Drawing from one of the “hot spots” identified in Week 1, figure out a product or service that can make the information problem better. Then, write a 60 second pitch that will illicit backing from other attendees, who will agree to work with you to develop the idea throughout the rest of the conference. 16 of us were up for the task of pitching to the group.

The pitches.

Everything from integrating gamification into student library use, to improved eBook access, to “bumping” information onto users’ mobile devices came up. Lots of AWESOME ideas can out of these pitches. Here was mine:

Reference is broken.
When I was a reference librarian in an academic library, I enjoyed working the reference desk, but always felt like something was missing. I always felt a niggling dissatisfaction with how reference was delivered. I felt like the traditional reference format was so incongruent with students’ research processes…And that was just the dwindling number of students who actually CAME to the desk.

I propose that we fix reference services, and that we leverage better, more sophisticated, and EASY web and mobile technologies to do it. There are heaps of opportunities to get into the spaces where students are… ‘cause we know they’re not coming to the desk like they used to.

What do I bring to the table? I have front-line reference experience, knowledge of leveraging eLearning tools for information literacy, and a passion for service delivery and improvements. [I also added that my boyfriend is a web/mobile developer whom we can exploit… hehe, love you honey!]

And here’s what I know about the problem: Reference numbers are dwindling. Rates of information literacy among students are embarrassingly low. More learning and research is done exclusively online, and students love their smartphones. Come fix reference with me!

From there, participants moved around the room, asking questions of each pitcher, and eventually settling on their team of choice. We sat in our groups, got to know each other, and hashed out the problem and it’s potential solutions in more depth. I got an awesome-smart team of mostly-academic librarians, plus one software developer (a bit of a coup for me, I say). Since the pitchers weren’t required to have the solution to their problem greatly developed (and only 60 seconds to pitch!), this is where lots of the specifics of the solution got discussed.  Those of us who have worked the reference desk shared their experiences, we discussed  the scope of the problem and ways to refine our solution, imagined possible ways forward, gave some thought to possible pitfalls, and generally just had a really fun time imagining how to make reference better through web and mobile technologies. Pretty dang fun.

From here, we have homework: we need to get inside our users heads a bit more: do an empathy map of our users, go and actually *talk* to some power users at the library about their needs and desires for library services and research (crazy!) and further refine our plan, in preparation for validation and prototyping of the idea. Eeeek! I’m excited. If you’d like to invest some venture capital in our brilliant idea, just lemme know.

My thoughts about Week 2:

  • Librar* people have awesome ideeeeeaaaas, like so awesome. Way awesomer than mine, to be honest. Wow.
  • There are so, so many problems in Library Land. We know this. But this workshop is starting to make me think that we might be able to actually solve some of them if we want.
  • 60 second pitches are pretty easy to come up with. But then being able to answer people’s really insightful questions about your pitch? Bit harder.
  • It’s easy to get attached to a really slick solution to a problem before you actually explore that problem in some depth and come to better understand your users. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket early in the product development. And don’t assume you know more about what the user wants than the users themselves. Process, people!

2 responses to “Startup Library: Day 2

  1. I would love to help out. I know some JS and jquery now 🙂

  2. Excellent! I’ll get the coder sweatshop set-up and you two can get to work!