Big QuestionsOur work related to complex challenges.

The Challenge

Help librarians adapt to more flexible and future-forward uses of the library.


The Design Thinking Toolkit for Libraries, reading and workshop materials for library staffers that change the perception of the typical library.

What’s the future of libraries? As information goes digital and reading rooms become a thing of the past, what’s the best use and function of libraries going forward?

Chicago Public Library and Denmark’s Aarhus Public Libraries, together with IDEO, wanted to find out. With a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, they created the Design Thinking Toolkit for Libraries: reading and workshop materials that can be used by any front-line library staffer to adapt to library users’ changing needs.

Using the Toolkit, library staffers engaged with patrons to test out brave new ideas that change our perception of the typical library: an anything-but-quiet teen expression lab with music- and art-making tools, a “tech spa” for users looking for how-to information, and a series of narrative storytelling workshops for kids that use play as a springboard for learning. In Chicago, these experiments spurred the implementation of a new play space in the children’s library section of the Albany Park branch, and the creation of new roles for librarians that focus specifically on teens’ needs.

You can download the toolkit, and find more resources, at

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