CIL2009: Innovation, Services & Practices at the Darien Library

John Blyberg, Gretchen Hams, Sarah Ludwig, Kate Sheehan – all from


They think alot about the future. They decided that traditional library services needed to be completely blown apart and put back together in a different way

Innovate – doesn’t have to ONLY refer to technology. Yes.

Pursuing innovation gives you the ability to fail – and it’s ok. Sometimes things work, sometimes things don’t. EX – they figured CDs would be obsolete when new library opened, so they didn’t have CD shelf space. They were wrong! They fixed it and adapted

Being agile is one of their library’s biggest assets – they are a small library, and that allows them to quickly innovate.

Similar to TSCPL – they have buy-in from staff, management, community – so go for it when you have it!

Wash, rinse, repeat – when you build in a culture of change and innovation, everyone expects that – it becomes a way of doing things…

Darien Library UX:

Users=physical, digital users, and staff.


open-source catalog overlay thing…

real open source thing – invited other developers to be part of the community. Nice.

Gretchen (children’s librarian):

Kids – don’t come to the library by themselves – their parents come too!

Talking about how we force parents to use our call numbers, go to a big shelf… Not set up for browsing – set up for finding specific items by call number … NOT USER FRIENDLY!

Darien got rid of the picture book section – instead, they have a birth to five section that is color-coded in broad topic areas (celebrations, favorites, all about me, stories, etc)

They had to touch every book. Cool! Hard to circulate books are flying off the shelves because of their rearrangement.

They are focusing on the adults, and how the adults use the library for their kids. Interesting.

Microsoft Surface table – using it for kid interaction. Kids are figuring out how to share, take turns…

Creation Station: Apple laptop, camera, Edirol mp3 player in a briefcase.Kids can use them.

Sarah (teen librarian):

they have one room for teens to just hang out – no books, computers… but has games.

One room for computers, public service desk.

next is a tech center where they teach tech classes.

Some study rooms

There are 2 teen tech librarians. Sweet.


They have iMacs – teens think they’re cool. Using photobooth, doing video chat.

movable furniture – handles on back, wheels on bottom.

Erasable markers for windows and doors…


Duh – have to have it. If you’re serving teens, you have to have gaming.

They don’t program around gaming. Instead, they simply set it up and let them go.

Outreach: through facebook. Fan page, teen advisory board pages… the teen advisory page is created and ran by teens (very important).

Create a professional account, and use it for library stuff. She has a professional profile that looks friendly and inviting.

Don’t friend your colleagues! Only friend teens.

Teens and Tech:

Oral history project – the teens are going out into the community, videoing older Darien residents… the teens will edit the videos, mashing it all together, posting it to the library website.

Going to form a teen tech advisory group. Teens will guide the library in what they’re interested in.

Kate (Adult Services):

Reference is dead, long live reference.

Going towards research 1-on-1 projects … where staff invest time into patrons’ projects.

Meet people at their point of need – roam around the library.

How do they make it work? Tiny laptops, wireless phones (ie., asus, the tiny dell pcs, etc)

One big part – having amazing people.

Hard to roam without wireless phone…

They love walking around and engaging with patrons.

Most important tool? Nametags.

Growing pains:

IM reference through Meebo – it has skyrocketed… Meebo isn’t the best tool for those roaming tiny laptops (because of the rollover ads). They are moving to LibraryH3lp

What we’ve learned… this is a permanent work in progress, permanent beta. And it’s ok.

constant asking – “why is this here?”


we stand alot more. we’re all thinking more about the collection. signage has become more important.