The Experimental Library: A Guide to Taking Risks, Failing Forward, and Creating Change

ALA Editions. Oct. 2023. 184p. ISBN 9780838939659. pap. $59.99. PRO MEDIA
Copper, the head of the University of Toronto’s Zeidler Library, combines her interest in leadership, design, and technology to offer a stimulating roadmap for libraries seeking to embrace innovation and risk-taking. She posits that libraries can move from reactive to proactive by creating a “culture of experimentation” modeled after strategies employed by startups and technology companies. Divided into three sections, the book delineates critical elements in a culture of experimentation, outlines the five-part IDEEA process (Ideate, Design, Experiment, Engage, Assess) for experimenting, and discusses the importance of failure. Copper argues that libraries are well-positioned to try new ideas, as information professionals are skilled at collecting and analyzing data, enabling them to obtain feedback and improve the prototyping process. Additionally, she stresses that any library, regardless of size or budget, can create a dynamic atmosphere so long as curiosity and a commitment to exploration remain at the forefront. While many of Copper’s arguments will be familiar to those versed in business and leadership literature, her knowledge of library issues makes this a solid choice for libraries looking to foster sustainable, flexible, and responsive environments.
VERDICT A user-friendly guide celebrating curiosity and experimentation, recommended for libraries hoping to embrace positive change.
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