Social Labs in Community Libraries

Author: Lindop, Hamish

Date: 2015

Type: Scholarly text

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Victoria University of Wellington


Research problem: Governments are looking for ways to empower communities to create desired change for themselves. Social Labs empower diverse groups to tackle complex social challenges effectively. Community libraries, as a central social space in the community, have the power to bridge gaps between people, and build social capital. The study explored how Social Labs might be effectively designed to operate in community libraries, in order to empower the communities that they serve. Methodology: Four different qualitative methodologies were employed: “The Art of Social Labs” online course was attended to gather data on Social Labs principles and practice, Semi-structured interviews were conducted with Labs practitioners and experts, a case study was conducted on Tamaki Mental Health and Wellbeing Lab, and the Design for Social Innovation Symposium was attended. Results: Two paths for community libraries wishing to implement Social Labs emerged: gradual ground-up development, and partnering with existing Lab teams. A number of useful approaches and considerations for Social Labs design for community libraries were also captured. Implications: Community Libraries wishing to empower their communities to tackle complex social challenges will find this a useful guide to principles and design considerations of Social Labs in community libraries. Other useful design tools and approaches to community empowerment are also discussed. Researchers and practitioners from other disciplines may also find the study useful, considering the current derth of literature on Social Labs.

Subjects: Social Labs, Community libraries, Social Innovation