Chicago Public Library Awarded $1 Million Grant to Pioneer Innovative Library Model

Partnering with Aarhus Public Libraries of Denmark and IDEO to Create Design Thinking Process for Worldwide Library Use

Mayor Emanuel today announced a $1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that will allow the Chicago Public Library and the Aarhus Public Libraries in Denmark to work together, with the assistance of leading design firm IDEO, on creating innovative library services and programs.

“I’ve encouraged all our City leaders to constantly look for better ways to serve our public and I’m thrilled that the Gates Foundation is offering CPL the opportunity and funding to take a fresh look at our library,” said Mayor Emanuel. “As Commissioner Bannon knows, I want to be sure we are offering Chicago families the best and most relevant services and programs.”

The Gates Foundation Global Libraries initiative believes that innovative leaders and well trained staff are vital to creating high-impact libraries that meet the changing needs of their communities. The grant was made to the Chicago Public Library Foundation and will fund the work with IDEO as well as the projects tackled by both Chicago Public Library and Aarhus Public Libraries. The goal of the partnership between Chicago Public Library and Aarhus Public Libraries is to create a new model for innovation, experimentation and decision-making within libraries.

“Over the past decade, libraries have begun re-thinking their traditional mix of services and programs, identifying fundamental questions about their roles in an evolving world,” said Library Commissioner Brian Bannon. “This grant gives us the opportunity to tap into the design thinking process that IDEO has used to help hundreds of organizations innovate and grow. Now more than ever, libraries and librarians need such tools to help them identify and address their users’ rapidly-evolving needs, through flexible, nimble and responsive decision-making and program design.”

“Working on innovation practices for public libraries with Chicago Public Libraries and IDEO is a dream come true for Aarhus Public Libraries and for the City of Aarhus,” says Alderman Marc Perera Christensen of Aarhus, Denmark. “It gives us the opportunity to learn and disseminate insights with the best in the trade.”

IDEO will guide the staff at both libraries, CPL and Aarhus, through a thoughtful process to evaluate challenges and create new responses in order to better serve their users and communities. This may be a reconfiguration of the physical space in the library, as Aarhus is evaluating as they examine the role of play in children’s learning, or creating a new program to address a specific need in the community. Both libraries will experiment with solutions to real, existing challenges through this process.

In June 2014, the two libraries will share what was learned through the process at an international conference of librarians in Chicago.