This is the end…

Innovation Group1

One of the many line-ups of the ever-changing Innovation Group. Photograph by Jocelyn Wright.

During the five year period the group has existed, the Library has undergone a culture change programme to encourage a more empowered and innovative culture…as a result the Innovation Group will now be closed but all staff are encouraged to continue to bring (up) their new ideas and thinking…                                                                                 

 Lorraine Beard

After five years the Library Innovation group is being discontinued and as a result we’ll be no longer posting in this blog (although we were sadly often far too busy to write for it anyway!)

It’s been fun being part of both the Innovation Group and writing for the blog. We’ve been busy telling you about what we’ve been doing (with Eureka and photospheres and sleeping in the library) and what we think about Innovations that other people have thought up (like staffless libraries and  Google Cardboard and drones for loan.)

We’ve visited Innovative museums  in Norway and Dublin and closer to home and our posts been viewed by people all over the world.

World info

Image taken from WordPress Stats page

We’ve been to playful events  and been seasonally silly and talked about people and things which inspire us.

And, perhaps most importantly, we’ve discovered there are bacon flavoured Easter Eggs out there. 🙂

Thanks for reading. Keep Innovating.


Didn’t they do well

We recently held some pop up events for our staff to get views on ideas and innovation:


Here comes the rain…

When I was at University in Aberystwyth a story used to go round in September about the arrival of Freshers and a few being spotted nipping into a doorway during one of the frequent rain showers.

Fresher: “We’ll just wait here till it stops.”

Incredulous non-fresher: “You’re going to stay there till June?!?”

I’ve moved from one rainy place to another because I like the rain. Indeed, although many people seem to find it a nuisance, Manchester blossomed during the industrial revolution precisely because the high levels of rain made an excellent environment for the cotton mills.

They say that there is no such thing as bad weather, only poor choice in clothing. What can Innovation do to help protect against a rainy day?

The Innovation Group has already added a stand of umbrella bags for those coming in from the rain, and our library umbrellas were so popular they were gone almost as soon as they were put out.

Innovations against the weather in the wider world include Nubrella (the bubble you can bicycle in), Senz (an angled umbrella designed to avoid high winds turning it inside out) and there are numerous other additions to umbrellas such as GPS, anti-theft devices and lights.

There is also Dark Sky , an app that tells you if it is going to rain in the next ten minutes  and so can let you know if it’s safe to make a dash to the Library.

And in case it isn’t, maybe our next Innovation should be to offer towels.


Happy New Year- with added Extra

It’s that time  of year again; most people are trying to keep to their new resolutions and get their plans in gear for what they want to achieve in the next 12 months. Some are even aiding their plans with new apps and technologies they got over the holidays. It’s also when students are getting their heads down to study for the impending exams.

It’s going to be stressful, which is why it’s great to see so much support available for the students through Exam Extra, which have sessions involving calm and croissants, January de-stress with SPORT and the Muse headbands are back to help people get mindful. I asked Charlotte Evans, of Teaching, Learning and Students, how the first week had gone so far and she told me we’d had over 60 students in for a croissant, and over 175 dropping by the Lifecycle of Revision stand.

In addition to exam preparation this may also help students who have their own New Years Resolutions, since resolutions tend to revolve around fitness & health, mindfulness & well-being and becoming more organised. And for those who resolve to “learn something new” or “do something exciting” (two of the next most popular resolutions) there are two exciting Digilabs coming our way in February and March. And all of that makes for a very Happy New Year!


Digilab Carol

I recently went to another Digilab event at the Alan Gilbert Learning Commons. It was a fantastic event (as they all are) and here is a  special seasonal run down of what was happening.

On the 1st day of December, Digilab showed to me…*

* Numbers may be wildly inaccurate. 

12 people enthusing


11 Vochleas recording


10 Beasts a-balancing


9 Quadbots scuttling


8 Curiscopes a-scanning


7 Virtual bombs disposing


6 Robots dancing


5 hours of Vive


4 The FTR gloves


3 Onty friends


2 Virtuali-tees


and some brain research for a PhD!


Innovation and Sustainability

The Innovation Group is currently planning how we re-engage with Library staff. We want to find out what Library staff need from us and we are also keen to raise awareness of what we can do to help Library teams to find creative solutions to known problems. We would like to encourage staff to attend our meetings and share what they are working on so we can suggest ideas to help them. Today we invited Mike Kelly the Library Space Project Manager to talk to us about the sustainability work he is doing – we did some brainstorming with the Innovation group members and will continue the conversation via Yammer. Interesting ideas from a paper free challenge month to raising awareness of devices for loan. Early next year we will be running some roadshows for staff at different Library sites and will welcome their suggestions on how we can work with them to address tricky challenges they are facing.

Below is a photo from Mike showing staff working in the Library courtyard to increase biodiversity


Do you feel the fear?

‘Tis the season to be scary! Halloween is a time for ghosties and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night. It’s also a time for taking on monsters and making them yours; for having fun with your fears.

Innovation is often faced by three main fears; fear of the unknown, fear of change and the fear of failure. So let’s have a look at these fears up close.


Fear of the Unknown

If you are innovating you are going to be stepping into new territory and this takes some people well out of their comfort zone. It’s not necessarily that these people especially like the current situation, but it takes a bit longer for them to adapt to a new one.

Other people are more comfortable with new things than others, so getting them on side can be really helpful in exploring the unknown. Another trick (or treat) is to sandwich any new material in between bits of familiar routine to help accustom people to new ideas faster.

Fear of change

Unlike those above who are just worried about the new and unknown, those who fear change (metathesiophobes) are also reluctant to let go of the old. If you’re introducing a new system or work practice it may be worth identifying what exactly about the old or current system appeals to the ‘phobes.

Starting working with new things can be terrifying, if only because you lose your sense of competence. You knew how the old ways worked, and the disorientation of starting anew can be daunting. It may help to remember how disorientating previous changes have been, and how soon you became accustomed to them.

Fear of failure

Innovation is built on a solid foundation of the failed ideas that went before. If you want innovation, you need to be willing to experiment and to fail. Failure is increasingly being recognised as vital to the processes of Innovation, and that it can be as important to celebrate failure as success. There is even an International Day for Failure (which also happens to be the International day for Natural Disaster Reduction.)

But just because we know it is important, doesn’t mean we are going to want to do it. We’ve all been taught to try to avoid failure, to minimise mistakes and to stick to the tried and tested rather than forge new paths. But these things are part of Innovation and many companies are trying to make risk a more acceptable option. After all, you won’t get anywhere if you are afraid to try.

Happy Halloween.

Sharing is caring; a Jolt from Lancaster

The Innovation Group recently had the pleasure of a visit by Masud Khokar (Head of Digital Innovation at Lancaster University Library) and Tim Leonard (Academic Liaison Librarian). Masud and Tim came to share their experiences of leading on innovation at Lancaster and of the student innovation competition Jolt the Library.

Lancaster University Library

Lancaster University Library

Tim covered Jolt the Library, Lancaster University Library’s  competition “to find an innovative idea to improve the student experience at the Library.” Sounds familiar? It should do as Tim alluded to the help Nick Campbell (Academic Engagement Librarian) and Lorraine Beard (Head of Digital Technologies and Services) where able to provide following the Eureka! Library Innovation Challenge events here at Manchester.

For Jolt, the Library teamed up with Lancaster’s Innovation Hub, a team of two from their Information System Services department (P.S. have a look the their projects for a ton of ideas). The winning Jolt idea resulted in Darma smart cushions being deployed across the Library. Interestingly submissions to Jolt had a similar theme to those we received to Eureka! with ideas on improving wayfinding, health and well being and methods to improve usage of space.

Lancaster too implemented a range of quick-win ideas; borrowable noise cancelling headphones, adjustable height desks and loanable laptop charging plugs. All told Lancaster found Jolt a powerful way to collaborating with students. I think the question for us and Lancaster is how to transpose the high engagement we get with these big-bang events, which take a lot of planning and resources to more agile, iterative and ongoing processes.

Darma smart cushion and app

Darma smart cushion and app

Masud then took us through the Library Journey’s Project. This was an ethnographic study, using a smartphone app and distributed smart beacons to map customer journeys around the newly refurbished Library. They used 110 Kontakt iBeacons (preferring them to the Estimote beacons we’ve played with). Next steps for the project could be to link up to the wifi and enable contextual information to be pushed to people through the app (“your friend is in the cafe nearby!”). As a recent study into using wifi data to understand Library space usage at the University of Sussex you will run into a data privacy and ethical minefield, but hopefully one through which we can smooth a furrow of benefit for Library users.

Kontakt smart beacon

Kontakt smart beacon

The Innovation Hub have built their own gamification platform called BackPack, not too dissimilar an idea to BookedIn. BackPack has an open API meaning other University systems can hook in and integrate with the badges and rewards system. With plans to integrate with their VLE and beyond and to award a physical certificate if you earn enough badges, this is one to watch.

Tacking towards staff engagement with innovation, Masud covered his lead on ‘Embedding Innovation – transformation from within’. Lancaster have the innovation group as a cross departmental, safe place for staff to voice opinion. Initially the group will focus on problem solving but the plan is to take a broader view on innovation as the group develops.

Overall it was fantastic that the Lancaster University Library took the time to share their experiences so openly. It gave us a lot to think about:

  • What can we do at Manchester to embed innovation and horizon scanning across the whole Library?
  • How can we build in collaboration with customers to more of our ongoing activity (usability testing and human centered design, for example?)
  • What other methods (tech and non) can we employ to understand how people use the Library spaces and how they feel when in the Library?
  • How do we get a good balance of outward collaboration (other Universities, JISC, NoWAL or wider) and focusing on driving efficiencies and innovation internally, with the resource we have?

Much to think about. Oh and also, they’ve built their campus in Minecraft.

Innovation from the cradle

I recently visited our Collection Care department over at John Rylands Library and got interested in the Innovation Process behind Project Cradle- using technology we were already using elsewhere to refine a long standing process. I asked Elaine Sheldon, the Conservator behind the project about how the Project came to be.

Project Cradle

What kicked off the Innovation process that led to Project Cradle?

I studied at the Royal College of Art, and worked as a designer prior to working in Conservation. Designing a flat, adhesive free cradle struck me as a great opportunity to use my skills. I put the idea forward at an away day organised by the Collection Care manager (at the time) Caroline Checkley- Scott. Caroline supported the idea which allowed us to progress it. 

The idea was developed in collaboration with my colleague Mark Furness. Mark had received  training  on writing parametrics for the library’s ‘Kasemake’ box making machine. Mark has developed the parametric that we are currently using.


The box making machine used to make the new cradles

What sort of innovation processes did you use in Project Cradle- brainstorming, horizon scanning etc? Did you get any input from outside the Library?

 I applied the design process I always use – I wrote a brief, I did some research which included looking at other cradles and I made some models.  I also created a mini  presentation to explain the idea to colleagues and a set of instructions so that other people can draw book profiles which can be sent to us. This has allowed us to work on a pilot project with the Wellcome Trust creating cradles for one of their current exhibitions.


How much time do you save using the new cradles? Any other major benefits?

A cradle can take a few hours to make by hand, cradles made using the new system take much less time (approximately thirty minutes). The cradles can be laid out together on a sheet of museum board, this keeps material waste to a minimum. 

The cradles pack flat allowing them to be transported Internationally when books go out on loan. No glue is used in the cradles assembly so there is no drying time, cradles can be put together and put straight into the display case with the book.

Are there any difficulties with the new cradles?

Designing a flat cradle was my initial brief. I don’t like angled cradles for a variety of reasons – mainly because books are generally better supported flat. We do have some older display cases at the library (in the Rylands gallery) that require angled cradles/mounts. The mounts that are used in these cases are currently still made by hand.

Did you have to “go back to the drawing board” at any point and if so why?

The design process produced lots of ideas, one of the reasons we decided to use the box making machine was because Marks parametric knowledge.

Other ideas  included using air drying materials and 3d printing. I also wanted to explore the potential of  making a cradle from an uploaded photograph of an open book profile. The direction the  project eventually took was based on the resources and equipment we had in the department.

What do you want?


That is the question- Beatnik Photos 

The first post of this blog was written on the 17th October 2013. With nearly three years of musing about Innovations, events and ideas under our belt, a trip through the archives covers lots of subjects: from Eureka! to Easter eggs; Digilab to Dan Lyons; way-finding to wearable technology.

Our blog posts are inspired by what is inspiring us- by what we see and hear about as well as what we are doing as an Innovation Group. But what do you want to hear about? What would you like to see (or see more of) from this blog?