What a Novel Idea!
by Anastasia Tuckness
What do roleplaying games, flip-flops, and magnetic cup holders have in common? Not much, you might say, except this: they all became part of Ames Public Library as a result of our Novel Ideas program! Novel Ideas fosters innovation and creative thinking among Library staff. In the four years since its inception, it has done just that, prompting some unique and interesting initiatives. Any staff member can propose an idea to be considered by the Novel Ideas team. After approval, a cross-department team works together to implement it. Funding comes from a special fund from the Ames Public Library Friends Foundation.
Sometimes the goal of an idea is simply to make life a little bit better for those who work here, as with the magnetic cup holders. When staff or volunteers are shelving, they often need a drink to stay hydrated. But water bottles and books don’t mix very well! Enter the cup holder that magnetizes to the side of the cart, allowing for easy access for the staff and plenty of distance from the books.
Library visitors have needs, too, and sometimes they lack specific supplies that would help them use the Library for an extended period of time. To meet those needs, we stock supply kits at each service desk that contain items such as menstrual and incontinence pads, diapers, and the aforementioned flip-flops. (You need to wear footwear in the Library.) These kits were a joint effort—they meet a variety of needs identified separately by several staff members.
Novel Ideas gives staff members a chance to pursue an idea that’s unrelated to their regular job and bring it to the whole Library. One such idea is the Park Packs, which are theme-based backpacks encouraging families (or anyone!) to explore nature. They contain tools such as insect nets, collection jars, and magnifying glasses that will enhance any trip out into the wild. Although they are primarily used by families, they weren’t initiated by a youth staff person—they were suggested by a cataloguer who’s very interested in the outdoors.
Several staff members who loved roleplaying games dreamed that someday the Library could offer some for checkout, offering gaming groups the opportunity to try out a new game without the expensive investment into books, game boards, pieces, etc. A good idea, but was it a good idea for our Library? All proposals must connect to the objectives listed in the Library’s current Strategic Plan. One of those was “Be a heart of discovery and creativity,” and playing these games allows for a great deal of self-discovery and creativity as one builds one’s character and storyline. Fast forward, and the Library now has more than ten roleplaying game kits available for anyone to check out. Each contains all the pieces needed for group play, and with various age targets and themes, any gaming group or family will find something to try. Search the online catalog for “roleplaying game” to find all of them. Or stop into the Library and take a look at them! They’re stored in a repurposed cabinet in the lobby area near the holds. (Fun fact: the cabinet used to be the Mediabox; the adjoining one holds the Park Packs.)
Many other Novel Ideas have become a normal, expected part of everyday life at the library. Those orange tablets dedicated to kids’ games and videos are called Launchpads and the Library owns more than 40 of them! Try one out on your next visit, or place a hold in the online catalog by searching for “Launchpad.” Other Novel Ideas aren’t so visible at the Library, but rather encourage customers to explore other opportunities. The Adventure Pass is a great example! Customers who check out an Adventure Pass can use it for free admission to local participating museums and attractions, including the Science Center of Iowa, Reiman Gardens, Blank Park Zoo, the African American Museum of Iowa, and more. To see all the details and request your pass, go to the Library’s website, click Using the Library, then Other Services. In the meanwhile, rest assured that your Library staff are always cooking up some Novel Ideas!