Ethan Ohs 

Shared Intelligence

In late 2014 I joined a revolution of ideas. My induction to this revolution began with an introduction to the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) and Shared Intelligence (Si). Prior to working with SCL my vision of a library was – a place for books. I knew libraries had more to offer, but despite recent experiences and information my childhood image of a library persisted.

My view of libraries was stuck in the 20th century where the pursuit of knowledge was an individual endeavour. Libraries were a place where I could gain knowledge – through the study of books. It was a product of what Roman Krznaric calls the age of introspection. We had compartmentalised knowledge creation to self-study and books.

The digital age changed the way we think, work, and share information. It returned us to a time honoured tradition of creating knowledge through collaboration. Technology is unleashing the power of networks, the coffee shop of the 19th century is being reborn.

Knowledge creation and learning have become a collective practice. This return to a collaborative method has made many organisations and institutions rethink how they capture and share this knowledge. Organisations and institutions who have not adapted fast enough have become obsolete. Our public libraries are currently grappling to demonstrate how they are an essential part of the knowledge economy, where they fit as collaborative institutions.
Working with Si, SCL and librarians across England we are addressing how libraries can do this.

Earlier this year we started working with SCL to create a network for library workers who want to collaborate with their peers in other parts of the country to share and transfer innovation. I am honoured to play the role of helping them find ways to connect face to face and online as they reshape the face of information and knowledge sharing within the public library.

The Libraries Innovator Network, as it is called, is a community of individuals who are actively seeking opportunities to share their own new ways of working and to seek out ideas from others. This new community of ours is populated by true knowledge pioneers – people who are dedicated to ensure that everyone in our society is able to learn and develop new ways of knowing. We are driven by the knowledge that not everyone in our society has equal access to technology and as a result their ability to participate in this new collaborative space effectively is limited. Libraries in England are working to make this collaborative space open to everyone regardless of age, economic ability and technical ability.

The public library is reshaping itself to be a bridge to ensure no one is left behind in our society.
This network of librarians has created a community of practice to enable ideas to be exchanged online and in person and this community is helping to inspire innovation amongst library leaders while reshaping the services they provide to better serve UK communities.
About our community

Having started with just the small number of individuals who responded to our initial communications, the Libraries Innovator Network is now reaching out to other library workers across England, regardless of their role. Together we want to work to share new ideas and help people turn these ideas into action. Every member of the community is expected to play an important role in shaping how we work together and offers a valuable contribution to making the projects being actioned viable.

By modelling the behaviour of a knowledge economy we are building collective capacity to change the library sector in the UK and empowering our colleagues to offer new opportunities to the public to develop their knowledge and ability to participate in society as it continues to change.

Technology is one of the many topics we are exploring and sharing, it features heavily, because technology is fundamentally changing the way we obtain and use knowledge and information. Despite being new, we are creating an impact.

From a network member
“The Libraries Innovator Network is an invaluable opportunity for library professionals to share best practice, knowledge, experiences and lessons learned. As a community of practice it is open, supportive and knowledgeable and draws on the collective experiences of enthusiastic and innovative individuals who are generous with answering questions and queries.

With it having a shared online site it means that questions and answers are shared quickly and lively conversations have been generated about culture change, media monitoring for library news, digital editing skills and PokemonGO!

Being part of a community like this enthuses you to try new things and ask questions in an environment that is safe, supportive and knowledgeable”.
Luke Burton
Digital Transformation Manager: Newcastle City Council

Get involved
This community is still young. It will continue to adapt to the wider context and is working to grow leaders within it who will help ensure that our knowledge economy is open to everyone. If you want to hear more about the community, or you work in a library service and want to find out how you can be involved, contact Peter Gaw.