Tuesday, December 06, 2011

UnLibrary Service Model

Gene Tan is one those rare individuals that is making a difference in the profession of librarians, one innovation at a time. A creator of Ask Stupid Questions, Aspiration PathfinderTM and Bear FruitTM. Ask Stupid Questions is a reference inquiry gameshow that is based on a concoction of brainstorming, gameshow format, relays, music and play. The intention is to have staff get off their comfy seats, break out of their inhibitions and start rattling off "stupid questions" to develop creative ideas for key projects. So successful has the programme been that it caught the eye of the private sector -- Sun Microsystems became the first private sector organisation to include the workshop as part of its drive to generate new marketing ideas for the following year, and several more rounds in the private sector, including companies like SingTel, as well as non-profit bodies such as the Association of Diabetes Educators, and a core training programme for the Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC). Ask Stupid Question's popularity has grown almost exponentially, as it has been conducted at more than 50 organisations for over 2,000 participants. 

In addition to the Aspiration Pathfinder, an experience-driven subject discovery programme, experiments with combining the travel experience with library services and Bear Fruit do-good, a creativity programme conducted for the benefit of institutions such as the Institute of Mental Health, Tan also developed programmes, conferences and exhibitions to bring libraries into the mainstream of businesses, institutions and communities in Singapore. Tan also directed Singapore Memory, a national digital project to collect, preserve and access Singapore’s knowledge assets to tell the Singapore Story.

Certainly both pioneering and controversial, Tan calls this unconventional method the "UnLibrary Service." Arguing that the traditional model of library service has been bounded by time, place and transaction, the UnLibrary service model seeks to free library services from these constraints in order to deliver these services on the premise that time, place and transaction are not constrained or pre-determined. Instead, services are treated to a new platform for the delivery of these services: the human experience. Sounds nice, but what are the mechanisms for this? Tan coins this the "three experiences" - Experience by Straying; Experience by Mystery; and Experience by Subversion. Catchy, but does it work everywhere? It'll be interesting to replicate it.

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