Book Review: New Routes to Library Success by Elisabeth Doucett

Elisabeth Doucett with her new bookI recently had the opportunity to read the new book by Elisabeth Doucett entitled New Routes to LIbrary Success: 100+ Ideas from outside the stacks published by ALA Editions.  Elisabeth is the Director of the Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick, Maine, and the author of the blog The irreverent librarian.  Even though the book is by a public librarian, I think it is well worth reviewing by librarians of all disciplines.

Elisabeth states in her preface, “As library professionals I think we miss out on opportunities because we do not often enough tap the ideas, innovations, and way of working of different professions,” (preface, p. x)  Bravo!  This belief really resonated with me and reflects a good deal of what we at have been trying to do since our inception. Needless to say, I was hooked.

Doucett arranges the chapters of her books around major themes: entrepreneurship, creativity, customer service, trend tracking, content curation, etc.  In each chapter, she found a business leader whose achievements personified the theme at hand and interviewed them to discover how they accomplished their success in their respective businesses.  Resonating with the feel of “A Day in the Life Of” type interview transcripts, Doucett presented their stories, and pointed us in the direction of how we might apply their wisdom to our own professional arenas.  The book’s organization made it ideal as an idea book that could be picked up, a chapter chosen and easily read in a short amount of time.  Sometimes I chose my chapter based on the chapter theme, other times, by the business professional interviewed (hey! let’s read what Chris Wilson from L.L. Bean has to say… they have great customer service!).

The first chapter I read was on content curation.  This was the real reason that I had first picked up the book: I am preparing for a presentation on content curation as an outreach tool for academic librarians and was eager to hear what another librarian had to say. What I found was another librarian who shared my view: “Content curation is useful to libraries because it can help them build relationships with new audiences in their communities.” (p 187).  I was so excited that I wrote Doucett what amounted to a fan letter. 🙂

After I finished the rest of my preparation of my presentation, I returned to read more of Doucett’s book.  Each chapter had nuggets that I could glean for later thought and inspiration. Chapter 2 on Entrepreneurship with Josh Davis of Gelato Fiasco, offered many ideas about how to create a “culture of controlled experimentation.” Chapter 3: Creavitity with Walter Briggs of Briggs Advertising, urged us to “foster resilience.”  I found out that Google gives employee’s 20% of their time to focus on creative development… can you imagine what we might create if librarians had the same opportunity?? I really loved the list of creative thinking/prompting tools that were included with this chapter.

I could go on and on… The Chapters are all set up with nice browsable sections, including action points, implications,big ideas, take-aways, summary of what Doucett learned, resources for further exploration and a list of questions that Doucett used when interviewing her experts.  Her hope is that librarians will use these questions to find their own inspiring experts in other realms to interview as well and add to the insights she has gleaned so far.

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