In Brief: We’re creating a nonprofit, Library Pipeline, that will operate independently from In the Library with the Lead Pipe, but will have similar and complementary aims: increasing and diversifying professional development; improving strategies and collaboration; fostering more innovation and start-ups, and encouraging LIS-related publishing and publications. In the Library with the Lead Pipe is a platform for ideas; Library Pipeline is a platform for projects.
At In the Library with the Lead Pipe, our goal has been to change libraries, and the world, for the better. It’s on our About page: We improve libraries, professional organizations, and their communities of practice by exploring new ideas, starting conversations, documenting our concerns, and arguing for solutions. Those ideas, conversations, concerns, and solutions are meant to extend beyond libraries and into the societies that libraries serve.
What we want to see is innovation–new ideas and new projects and collaborations. Innovative libraries create better educated citizens and communities with stronger social ties.
Unfortunately, libraries’ current funding structures and the limited professional development options available to librarians make it difficult to introduce innovation at scale. As we started talking about a couple of years ago, in our reader survey and in a subsequent editorial marking our fourth anniversary, we need to extend into other areas, besides publication, in order to achieve our goals. So we’re creating a nonprofit, Library Pipeline, that will operate independently from In the Library with the Lead Pipe, but will have similar and complementary aims.
Library Pipeline is dedicated to supporting structural changes by providing opportunities, funding, and services that improve the library as an institution and librarianship as a profession. In the Library with the Lead Pipe, the journal we started in 2008, is a platform for ideas; Library Pipeline is a platform for projects. Although our mission is provisional until our founding advisory board completes its planning process, we have identified four areas in which modest funding, paired with guidance and collaboration, should lead to significant improvements.
A few initiatives, notably the American Library Association’s Emerging Leaders and Spectrum Scholars programs, increase diversity and provide development opportunities for younger librarians. We intend to expand on these programs by offering scholarships, fellowships, and travel assistance that enable librarians to participate in projects that shift the trajectory of their careers and the libraries where they work.
Organized, diverse groups can solve problems that appear intractable if participants have insufficient time, resources, perspective, or influence. We would support collaborations that last a day, following the hack or camp model, or a year or two, like task forces or working groups.
We are inspired by incubators and accelerators, primarily YCombinator and SXSW’s Accelerator. The library and information market, though mostly dormant, could support several dozen for-profit and nonprofit start-ups. The catalyst will be mitigating founders’ downside risk by funding six months of development, getting them quick feedback from representative users, and helping them gain customers or donors.
Librarianship will be stronger when its practitioners have as much interest in documenting and serving our own field as we have in supporting the other disciplines and communities we serve. For that to happen, our professional literature must become more compelling, substantive, and easier to access. We would support existing open access journals as well as restricted journals that wish to become open access, and help promising writers and editors create new publications.
These four areas overlap by design. For example, we envision an incubator for for-profit and nonprofit companies that want to serve libraries. In this example, we would provide funding for a diverse group of library students, professionals, and their partners who want to incorporate, and bring this cohort to a site where they can meet with seasoned librarians and entrepreneurs. After a period of time, perhaps six months, the start-ups would reconvene for a demo day attended by potential investors, partners, donors, and customers.
Founding Advisory Board
We were inspired by the Constellation Model for our formation process, as adapted by the Digital Public Library of America and the National Digital Preservation Alliance (see: “Using Emergence to Take Social Innovation to Scale”). Our first step was identifying a founding advisory board, whose members have agreed to serve a two-year term (July 2014-June 2016). At the end of which the Board will be dissolved and replaced with a permanent governing board. During this period, the advisory board will formalize and ratify Library Pipeline’s governance and structure, establish its culture and business model, promote its mission, and define the organizational units that will succeed the advisory board, such as a permanent board of trustees and paid staff.
The members of our founding advisory board are:
- Brett Bonfield (co-chair), Director, Collingswood (NJ) Public Library;
- Lauren Pressley (co-chair), Director of Learning Environments at Virginia Tech University Libraries;
- Mary Abler, Innovation Leadership Resident, Los Angeles Public Library;
- Nicole Cooke, Assistant Professor at GSLIS, The University of Illinois;
- Emily Ford, Urban & Public Affairs Librarian, Portland State University;
- Rachel Frick, Director of Business Development at DPLA;
- Jim Neal, Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian at Columbia;
- Kim Leeder Reed, Director of Library Services, College of Western Idaho;
- Pam Smith, Director, Anythink (CO) Libraries;
- Jessamyn West, Librarian (VT).
The board will coordinate activity among, and serve as liaisons to, the volunteers on what we anticipate will eventually be six subcommittees (similar to DPLA’s workstreams). This is going to be a shared effort; the job is too big for ten people. Those six subcommittees and their provisional charges are:
- Professional Development within LIS (corresponding to our “Professional Development” area). Provide professional development funding, in the form of scholarships, fellowships, or travel assistance, for librarians or others who are working in behalf of libraries or library organizations, with an emphasis on participation in cross-disciplinary projects or conferences that extend the field of librarianship in new directions and contribute to increased diversity among practitioners and the population we serve.
- Strategies for LIS (corresponding to “Collaboration”). Bring together librarians and others who are committed to supporting libraries or library-focused organizations. These gatherings could be in-person or online, could last a day or could take a year, and could be as basic as brainstorming solutions to a timely, significant issue or as directed as developing solutions to a specific problem.
- Innovation within LIS (corresponding to “Start-Ups”). Fund and advise library-related for-profit or nonprofit startups that have the potential to help libraries better serve their communities and constituents. We believe this area will be our primary focus, at least initially.
- LIS Publications (corresponding with “Publishing”). Fund and advise LIS publications, including In the Library with the Lead Pipe. We could support existing open access journals or restricted journals that wish to become open access, and help promising writers and editors create new publications.
- Governance. This may not need to be a permanent subcommittee, though in our formative stages it would be useful to work with people who understand how to create governance structures that provide a foundation that promotes stability and growth.
- Sustainability. This would include fundraising, but it also seems to be the logical committee for creating the assessment metrics we need to have in place to ensure that we are fulfilling our commitment to libraries and the people who depend on them.