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Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners Resource Guide Collection

Design Thinking: Ideation & Prototyping

for Small Libraries Create Smart Spaces

Let's get creative

"Ideation is about generating ideas and making them tangible."
- IDEO, Design Thinking for Libraries
super sticky post-it packaging


You have already done a lot of work on engaging your community to answer the question of what they want or need in an active learning space in the library. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to sort out all that information and focus in on one discrete issue that you want to tackle. So let’s start by sharing your experiences.

  1. Assemble your team and sticky notes and sharpies for everyone. 3" square "super sticky" post-its are recommended.
  2. Each team member takes some time to think about all the interactions you've had during your research. Pick out two or three of the most memorable ones and write down a few words about each on a sticky note. Aim to spend less than 15-20 minutes on this.
  3. DRAW the person or the idea you talked about or something about the interaction that was memorable. 30 seconds max for the sketch -- remember, no judgment! This is not art and will not be graded. It's important to draw pictures because it activates a different part of your brain.


Share your stories

Stick your words and pictures on the wall to help you tell the story. Make it quick -- one minute per story maximum. Each team member gets a turn for one or two of their best ones.

As a team, talk about the stories you heard and pick out three or four you want to explore further.



post it note drawings of partners from the interview exercise

post it note drawings of journeys from the interview exercise

Grouping and voting

random sticky notes
Ungrouped sticky notes

  • Put all the sticky notes (words and drawings) from all of the chosen ideas on the wall.
  • Add any of the relevant materials you have from your research - survey results, dot vote boards, etc.
  • Spend 5-10 minutes surveying the data.
  • Add new sticky note ideas as they are sparked by the wealth of information.
  • Rearrange all the sticky notes (including any new ones) to a different part of the wall, grouping them into categories, everyone working at once. This can be chaotic because every note could probably fit into several categories (think about subject headings vs. call numbers); a single note might move around or become a link between one group of notes and another. That’s ok. Keep going. Eventually you’ll reach a kind of equilibrium where MOST people are happy with the arrangement.
grouped sticky notes
stickies with voting flags
  • Use dots or sticky flags to vote for your three favorite ideas/concepts in two different categories:
    1. Most innovative (in our example, pink)
    2. Most practical (blue)
  • Take down all the sticky notes that got less than two votes.
  • Talk about what’s left.

With your chosen stories in mind, come up with some ideas about who, specifically, will be using your planned space. The next step is to get inside the head of your target audience with empathy and personas.