Some reflections about design thinking in Latvian libraries

In recent years design thinking has spread as one of the new approaches in the improvement of existing services and / or in the development of new services in various fields: in public service, in business, in the education and cultural institutions and even in personal life (for example book by Ayse Birsel. Design the life you love).

Design thinking is usually characterized as a mindset and a process of iterative stages with different tools for boosting creativity and analytical thinking. It includes methods and tools for empathy and understanding the problem of users, for generation of ideas to solve the problem, for making and testing prototypes with users to understand if the idea is good enough, i.e., for development of human-centered service or product.

The toolkit Design Thinking for Libraries[1] was published after the project realization funded by the Global Libraries program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (2013-2014). Gradually design thinking started to acquire and practice in more libraries. And there is a forecast about future needs of design thinking for librarians, for example, as noted in the article about smart libraries and smart librarians[2] – design thinking is listed among the necessary skills to be possessed by librarians. Clarke et all. mentioned that “librarianship is fundamentally aligned with design, since librarians create tools and services to help solve information problems” [3]  and design thinking methods were implicit in new service and library space development, wayfinding, and signage improvement even long time ago.

Research shows that Latvian librarians’ attitude and understanding of design thinking is generally positive but lacks sufficient experience and knowledge. There are several possibilities for Latvian librarians to learn more about design thinking. Educational materials about design thinking for librarians were developed and published online in the ERASMUS+ project “Daily innovators and daily educators in the libraries”[4] (2018). The BIBLIO project offers design thinking module for both job profiles: community engagement and communication officer and digital transformation facilitator as entrepreneurial and transversal competences[5]. Course about design thinking for librarians is accessible also from the University of Latvia.

Seems that most librarians of Latvia are still getting to know design thinking and its possibilities, and as with any new way of thinking, learning it takes time and practice. In some ways, the design thinking mindset differs from that of a librarian, who is trained to find a rational and logically based “order of things.”

Vita Juraga, who works in the Competence Development Centre of the National Library of Latvia, and took part both in the training of design thinking as well as practical use of design thinking in the project about new curriculum development for academic libraries share her opinion about design thinking importance in the library work: “the greatest value of design thinking for a librarian is placing oneself on the client’s side to improve the service; producing varietyand allowing creation of creative chaos, in order then create already organized ideas from it, which are viable in the usual, sometimes “stiff” work schedule of librarians. Usually, a librarian works more with organizing “inanimate” information, systematizing it according to an order known to him / her, paying the most attention to organizing information and “ordering things”. In turn, design thinking forces libraries, which are not commercial institutions and where the service is the process itself, to remember that “the customer is always right”– also the reader or representatives of the library’s target audience”.

[1] Design Thinking for Libraries –

[2] Igwe, K. N., & Sulyman, A. S. (2022). Smart libraries: Changing the paradigms of library services. Business Information Review, 0(0).

[3] Clarke, R. I., Amonkar, S., & Rosenblad, A. (2020). Design thinking and methods in library practice and graduate library education. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 52(3), 749–763.

[4] Daily innovators and daily educators in the libraries

[5] Biblio Educational Framework-