In a bid to look into the future we’ve come across a whole host of future vision/scenario planning tools. To get to grips with what we mean by a scenario we’ll quote from J.C Glenn;

“A scenario is a story with plausible cause and effect links that connects a future condition with the present, while illustrating key decisions, events, and consequences throughout the narrative”

As designers, we have a great ability for building cohesive narratives and visualising stories to bring them to life, depicting scenarios should be something we are good at.

Lifting from the foresight paper, they describe scenario planning in a quite militaristic way as,

“…a futures technique used for medium to long-term strategic analysis and planning.
It is used to develop policies and strategies that are robust, resilient, flexible and innovative.
Scenarios are stories (or narratives) set in the future, which describe how the world might look in,
say, 2015 or 2050. They explore how the world would change if certain trends were to strengthen
or diminish, or various events were to occur.”

Going to leave a list of some of many we have been reading/browsing;


Been checking out their toolkit and scenario planning material, led to some interesting links, and trying to figure out where we fit into future planning as designers, as foresight is about informing future policy.  They cover three methods with examples, borrowing from the Shell method and International Future Forums work;

• Two axes method
• Branch analysis method
• Cone of plausibility method

Shell’s method use the two axes method and use the strategy to work out a solution that would work for all possible future scenarios regardless of what happens in the future, and do list a clear set of guidelines in their explorer’s guide, which is worth a read.

I think the best step forward is to work out a way of co creatively allowing others to become involved in the process of future scenario planning to help us build plausible solutions for the future, that are based contextually in East Kilbride.  We’ll need to access some kind of local history group and to map the local area, looking at key demographics and changes from the past, so our solutions aren’t just ‘made up’ but constructively built from insights gathered.

Futurelabs linked to an interesting game called Vision Mapper, a site which hosts a whole range of tools to question the future of education and in one case, what sort of services should be provided in communities/schools and learning spaces to support pupils, parents and communities.  I like how they share the tools, although I did find some difficult to understand how to and what context to use them in, but other than that, great to be able to view and download them.

There are far too many sites and tools to mention that are available online, but I feel the way of conducting this project is really bringing to life a variety of planned visions for the future and visualising them so a mix of East Kilbride residents, service providers, historians, tech experts and town planning experts can come together and using design tools, constructively build ideas based around user needs which we have been researching .

In a tip off from Joe Lockwood, who works in our studio at the Design Innovation attic, he suggested looking into Porter’s five forces and PEST breakdowns to try and move our project along as we’ve found it pretty difficult to move along with first hand research due to restrictions on engaging with users.

Anyway next steps is planning who and how we will move forward with a future vision.


“A library”, said Henry Ward Beecher, “is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life”

A short excerpt from the think tank Demos caught my eye a while back.  Eugene Grant writes about the potential closure of libraries, as documented by an article in the Telegraph in February.

A necessity of life?  Perhaps it is, or perhaps it was… What stands out to me is that libraries must innovate or die.  This isn’t just about revamping the service, or even adding in a coffee facility and training librarians to become qualified baristas, this is about fundamentally changing the role of the library.

Yes, we need to archive books and information but what other roles can libraries take on the 21st century.  In terms of economic viability, I’m still edging on the partnership route, can libraries and other public services facing cuts club together to fight the recession and potential closure?

We have to question why people aren’t using them.  As Grant mentions, Richard Reeves and Phil Collins wrote in The Liberal Republic,

“there is no deprivation of capability as serious or debilitating as being unable to read”

It’s more a case of the ‘underclass’ not using them as the middle class, which even through observation excercises I’ve been doing can be backed up, or if you want the concrete evidence, just look at some of the visitor data.

Reading is an essential part of education, a human capability, which brings us back full circle to libraries as a necessity.  This idea of making them into wifi hubs, great, I’m one of the first to stand up and back a Digital Britain as long as everyone is included, but, lets promote a good use of it, lets find a reason why wifi should be enabled in libraries, and not just for the simple pleasure of dropping in and watching youtube videos of some guy driving at 150 mph along a country road.

To me, to stop councils closing libraries, we need to question the role of libraries, not how they can be more accessible, not how we can stick wifi in them but fundamentally questioning what it’s role and function is in the 21st century.

“Libraries all around the world are finding themselves frantically searching for a renewed sense of purpose. As information self-services rapidly grow all around us a fundamental question takes center stage: How can libraries connect with the deepest aspirations of their service communities?

This article describes a new library philosophy called “lifecycle librarianship”. This is a new vision of libraries. A vision where learning needs are met during your whole lifetime, where your reading is supported throughout your whole life. We believe this notion reinforces the key foundations of a library.

In order to sustain librarians and libraries, we must discard the “information illusion”. To develop library services necessary to help solve critical social problems ( such as? ) we must address reading and learning, including electronic learning. Public, academic, and school librarians should adopt the service philosophy of lifecycle librarianship. Ideally, they would plan together at town, city, or county levels to identify and meet human learning needs from “lapsit to nursing home.”

Bill Crowley (Ph.D)’s paper, Don’t let Google and the Pennypinchers Get you down, Defending (or redefining) Libraries and Librarianship in the Age of Technology makes an interesting read.

Crowley questions the function of libraries,looking at how they should be designed to support life long learning in a more holistic way. He reinforces the importance of  meeting the needs of town, city or county and incorporating aspects of electronic learning, schooling and literacy.

This shouts “partnerships” loud and clear. My brain has spiraled into hyper speed about how we can add partnerships to enhance the library whilst making it more economically viable.  The work I do at Mypolice echoes this ethos ; crime is everybody’s problem. This reality requires partnerships to enable communities to feel safe, protected and proud of where they live.

In the same way I believe lifelong learning will only succeed through better and more functional partnerships with other educational services.  This brings us to a whole host of different aspects to the redesign of libraries.  Crowley says,

“…Realize that the learning model of the public library requires facilities designed or renovated to emphasize such learning spaces as small and large learning rooms, computer labs, art galleries, and performance spaces/meeting rooms with portable stages.”

When Crowley discusses libraries he asks for a redefining of the library function.  Now becoming outdated and less relevant to younger generations, they need to seriously rethink their function and place in our society.

And so he introduces the concept of Lifelong librarianship.  Making reference to the term Relationship Marketing,

“…first defined as a form of marketing developed from direct response marketing campaigns which emphasizes customer retention and satisfaction, rather than a dominant focus on sales transactions.”

I think the term brings clearer understanding to the term ROEI, return on emotional investment rather than ROI, return on investment and that our transactions and experience with libraries should be less about function and the ‘sales’ transaction, but more about an emotional connection with the service.

Libraries should be about building relationships, becoming social hubs (perhaps not physical bricks and mortar), and need to move from the archaic ideals of the past if they are to survive the changes which run across the factors of PEST, “Political, Economic, Social, and Technological analysis” or taking it even further to STEEPLE and STEEPLED, adding in ‘Education and Demographics’ which we will be making relevant to East Kilbride.

Further to the technological advancements, which in turn moves the social, political and economic tiers, libraries are crying out for access to the web.  It seems like a natural step:  With the push from Martha Lane Fox and digital race online and recent updates on Digital Britain from Gordon Brown this week it seems more pertinent than ever to provide wifi access that is easy to use and accessible to everyone.  Speaking on enabling a digital country he says,

“This will help place the UK at the cutting edge of research on the semantic web and other emerging web and internet technologies, and ensure that government is taking the right funding decisions to position the UK as a world leader.

And we will invite universities and private sector web developers and companies to join this collaborative project.”

Brown makes an interesting point around private sector and web developers being invited to collaborate on the inititiative.  What if libraries did the same?  What if libraries operated more like the Hub and borrowed from some of their ideals?  What if we could make books easier to borrow, find, share references, could we even move to archiving material and information by people, and not trained librarians?

This asks fundamental questions, which are echoed in Crowley’s discussion and Coates sentiments, and ask very uneasy questions about the future of libraries, and the future of the professional librarian. (More to follow on social libraries and people led archiving).

Even further on the partnershipping route, and away from education, what about mygov being merged with libraries.  On Monday, Brown talked of mygov, a one stop, personalised portal for public services.

It’s difficult to move through this project, there’s a lot to think about, will there even be books anymore?  We’re moving away from 2025 to stop ourselves from becoming too sci-fi about this project, but still looking at what next in the coming years.

Watch this space.

In the Guardian today (thanks to redjotter for sending this our way) were two letters stating why libraries are vital community hubs.  It would be interesting to know the age of the letter writers, especially if these were letters and not emails.

My point is, that just about every library I have been to houses some kind of archaic database and typically, difficult to use internet that loosely feels like an intranet most of the time, banning content.  I’m not saying all libraries are the same, and there are some fantastic ones, but I have been privy to being told I’m not allowed to use the plugs to charge my laptop, or that I’m only allowed 30 minutes on one computer at a time, and if it’s not the librarian telling me to move, it’s my card, it’s not working.

It takes support to keep libraries open, but without engaging the younger generations, who is going to champion libraries in the future?  I like this idea of the hub, it’s similar to a project I did last year with the post office.  But hub suggests to me multiple use.

Within the shopping complex of East Kilbride, there are multiple public service offerings, like the job centre and careers advice, I’m wondering if there is a change of further partnerships to be made, with more emphasis on them?  Here’s the two letters form the Guardian today;

Libraries are not about borrowing books (Off the books, Society, 17 March). Libraries are not about housing books. Libraries are one of the vehicles for local councils to deliver community cohesion, social inclusion, community engagement and equality and diversity. Libraries are a place where you can access the internet. Libraries are venues for homework clubs, mother and toddler groups, rock concerts, councillors’ surgeries, and benefit advice sessions. Libraries work with schools to promote reading, with adult learning to promote life skills, with the Prison Service to promote numeracy and literacy, and with social services to promote safeguarding children and adults.

Libraries are local, they are community centres. The best attract all ages and all sections of the community. If we didn’t have local libraries then people like me would be inventing them.

Blair McPherson

Director of community services, Lancashire county council

•  Your article warns that many branch libraries are threatened by council cuts. We have had the recent closures of local post offices round the country. Local shops are routinely squeezed out by new supermarkets. Local newspapers are under threat. Adult education funds for “unproductive” activities like arts and crafts are being diverted to remedial classes for those who are failing the school system. As the population moves into cyberspace, all the focal points for the sustaining of true community are vanishing. Not good. “Ill fares the land, to hast’ning ills a prey, where wealth accumulates, and men decay.”

Jim McCluskey

Twickenham, Middlesex

This has got me thinking about a wee installation I’d like to run.  I’d like to get members of the community to request what they would like from a library, and present this back to those in the library and the council who make the decisions.  It would be interesting to gather this kind of open response, and see whether the government are right in their choice of making libraries cultural heritage centres, or are we moving in another direction?  Is this even about the physical space anymore?

As mentioned in the last post, perhaps library is too constricting a word.  We came up with different scenarios and statements around libraries and created a ‘questionnaire’ or perhaps ‘probe’ is a better word to understand the movements of library users and what they thought about the future of libraries.  We kept these relatively open to not restrict answers.

The probe is about reaching out to users to think beyond bricks, mortar, and books.  We made them into small books so they can be fitted on the shelf and intrigue users a little more to want to fill them out.  At the moment, we are still not allowed to interact with customers, so we’re finding it difficult to make headway on any constructive research.

Watch this space

We are attempting to have a look at trends; looking at past ones, possible future ones, etc.  I discovered some interesting videos covering just that.

This video shows the public opinion about consumerism and how that will evolve in the future.

Consumerism is one thing to consider when looking to the future, however, perhaps it is more valuable to look at what brings happiness to people.

While interviewing the public and we ask, “What would you like to see in a library?” The replies have been very traditional, more books, DVDs, etc.  It is almost as if by saying “library” there is instantly a limitation, perhaps we need to look at the wider picture of happiness, find out what makes people happy and then include that in libraries. Here is a video that attempts to discover what makes people happy.

If you’re interested in learning more about trends, and watching more videos go to:

Today we worked on pulling together ‘labs’ and a question set that we can use as a vehicle to push the project forward.  Ideally we want to develop five future scenarios and build a vision from these co-creatively with library staff, users, non users and local stakeholders and authority figures.

We have summed up our ‘labs’ into 5 key areas for investigation that will help to identify what future scenarios might play out:

Technology | Academia | User | Future Trend | Contextual

We’ll be tagging our work under this framework to remain focused and pragmatic in our footsteps forward.

We spent a bit of time in a slightly busier East Kilbride Library on Tuesday, a huge influx of high school students ‘studying’ and ‘older’ generations.  We’re planning on some more observation time and giving the staff some capture tools so we can get a good idea of the types of people visiting the library .

We’re finding it tough because of bureaucracy to get to talk to ‘customers’.  So we’re having to spend quite a bit of time jumping hoops and figuring out ways to engage with library goers.  Tricky, but do-able, we’ve got some novel (excuse the pun) ideas about putting bookmark questionnaires inside books, like miniature cultural probes.

We spent the majority of the day vox popping around the shopping centre, here are a few snippets of what we found;

“The library is too far away from my home”

“The library is something I used to use at uni”

“I use the library for books and audio tapes, I enjoy taking my kids”

“The library is necessary and useful, although I use the databases from my University”

“I use the internet to browse the internet whilst on my lunch breaks”

“I use the library to search for information and read books for entertainment”

“I stopped using the library but I’m off on a trip up the West Highland way and it’s been great to use and plan my journey with all the maps and books they have on it”

So in an attempt to find a clearer focus for the project we made the decision to choose one location to work from.  We’ve agreed that this project is about future visioning, but we want to be grounded, so have chosen East Kilbride library to allow us to place a context to our proposals.

East Kilbride is an interesting place, the library’s location even more so.  It sits above an Ice Rink in the middle of a shopping centre, not attracting passing customers, as it’s tucked away on the second floor beside the cinema.

When Laura and I visited it was pretty empty, we did a bit of observation and basically planned our next moves for how we want to undertake the project.

We’re taking an approach of finding out who uses it, what for, but importantly who doesn’t, and why?  We also want to find out and map the relationships of all relevant stakeholders in the area, to see if there are any way in which future partnerships can be made to boost the use of the library.

The biggest thing we came across was that people don’t use the library because they have the internet at home.  With cheaper connections than ever before and information at our fingertips, most people don’t see the need for us to visit the library, it is very much still associated with books, we want to change that.

We did a little bit of vox popping with visitors to the shopping mall, and are heading out to do more next week to get an idea of what people think about the library.  We’ ll leave you with a couple of thoughts put forward by the public, all very conflicting:

“The library is vastly underused and outdated”

“The library is a place to relax and take the grandchildren”

The getgoglasgow team started a new project at the beginning of February, look into libraries.  We’re going to be working right up until May on this, and are catching our tails a little on our documentation of work so far.

We’re working in smaller groups this time, this team consists of Laura Franzini, Sara Patekari and Sarah Drummond.  Back right at the end of January we took a trip out to Rutherglen to meet with John Barr from the local council, who gave us a brief history of libraries and the history of the library in Rutherglen.  Situated in South Lanarkshire, we are undertaking an open project in the area, choosing to create our own brief and look at the possibilities of new partnerships, the future of libraries and how this might tie in contextually with recent regeneration plans in certain areas.

We’re working with John Wood who has given us much to read and think about, we believe this is going to be a difficult project as using a people-led design approach is difficult with alot of bureaucracy to jump through to allow us to undertake effective research, however, we do like a challenge.

“Apart from the Executive, the other major delivery sector for culture in Scotland is, of course, the local authorities.  The contribution they make to cultural provision within their areas is vital and cannot be overstated.”

A bit of light reading for you is the Scottish Exec’s response to the Cultural Review.  Another route to take with this project is blending libraries with ‘culture’ an ambiguous term but this report might steer you in the direction of the government’s feelings.

It’s a bit of a watch this space, we are getting to grips with the area.

Tweets from getgo

Flickr Photos