library, design thinking, user experience, library leadership

Document Type

Contribution to Book


Leadership Studies | Library and Information Science


Changing user needs have created new opportunities for libraries, requiring evolving leadership practices that support innovation and rapid change. Design thinking can provide leaders with a concrete process to move toward action. The authors – one an executive administrator at a large, multi-branch public library, the other an academic librarian who leads a small team – share how design thinking has positively influenced their leadership practices. The benefits of implementing this flexible process have included improved user experience, more creative solutions, wise investments, staff empowerment, increased transparency and trust, and employee learning and development. Both leaders experienced these benefits even though they are in different positions on their hierarchical organization charts. The authors propose that implementing design thinking as a leadership practice has a place in the evolving role of libraries and can shift organizational cultures to become more user-centered and embrace innovation. In addition to these benefits, the chapter discusses specific project examples, challenges, and tips for library leaders to successfully implement the process. Design thinking is translatable across library types and throughout private industry. Discussing design thinking as a leadership practice can benefit the profession and communities by giving leaders a common language to use when learning from and sharing with each other in conversations about innovation.