K-12 Spaces

Bringing Design Thinking to the School Library

"Step 1: Organize a design team

Invite a small group of stakeholders (teachers, administrators, librarians, students, and parents) to work together for a year. A good size is a group of four to eight people who are curious and committed to the challenge of re-imagining the library.

Step 2: Learn the basics.

As a group, research and understand as much as you can about the design thinking process. If you have professional development funds, seek out opportunities to learn design thinking by actually doing it.

Step 3: Exercise empathy.

In order to learn about the needs you are trying to solve, interview library users. Go ask your community students, teachers, and librarians. Visit other schools and observe who is using the library, and what they’re using it for. Learn as much as you can from whomever you can. If you’re interested in creating a space people fall in love with, look at places where people are hanging out. What spaces and places invite curiosity, discovery, creativity, collaboration, learning? What about them is so inviting?

Step 4: Define the problem

Once you’ve engaged your users, it’s time to unpack the data and figure out what needs you’ll seek to meet. For example: A teacher is eager to connect her students with community experts to aid in their research. You might define the problem this way: How can we curate outside expertise connected to/supporting our curriculum and student research?

Step 5: Brainstorm

In a spirit of collaboration, assume that other group members have ideas that are better than yours. Together, use sticky notes to get as many ideas -- without judgment -- up on a wall or whiteboard for consideration. In the example above, one idea might be surveying parents to find out where they work and what their interests/areas of expertise are.

Step 6. Prototype a solution

As quickly as possible, develop a demonstration of your solution (a rough sketch, a sample survey, etc.) that you can share with others.

Step 7. Test your prototype

It’s easy to fall in love with your ideas. To see if you’re on the right track, go back to your users and test your prototype. Describe it and get as much feedback as possible. If you’re off course, you’ll want to improve the prototype or use the feedback to consider another idea. Repeat until you’ve got enough feedback to execute a solution."

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