a lesson from puma

[Puma Anjan 2 by bobafred]puma close up

In my SirsiDynix Institute talk with the Librarian in Black this morning I mentioned that putting our users in control is a good idea. Sarah gave the concrete example of how power-enabled teen advisors can invigorate a YA department. We weren’t advocating letting the inmates run the asylum (or maybe a better phrase would be “vacationers steer the cruise ship” – let’s not compare our patrons with inmates – behave!), but rather being as user-centered as possible when appropriate.

Then I came upon this article from Fast Company: The Catalyst: How open-source design (and a big shot of fashion) saved Puma, and invented an industry . There are a few good ideas for libraries in the article that echo our sentiments from the morning.

Puma has since become the fourth-largest athletic apparel company in the world, a transformation that testifies to Zeitz’s vision and willingness to roll the dice. After spending several years kicking the company’s bad habits…he decided to put an unrestrained 21-year-old skateboarder named Antonio Bertone in charge of a new division.

When Bertone was put in charge he was probably more like the demographic that Puma was hoping to reach than a retail exec. I’m sure it took some trust for Zeitz to put him into place, just like it takes trust and for us to open up our institutions to contributions from patrons. As Puma did, libraries benefit from it.

6 thoughts on “a lesson from puma”

  1. Good presentation this morning!

    I especially liked the comment about NOT referring to the teens as “future taxpayers” as it devalues them right now. I hadn’t thought about that, and it seems we hear that phrase tossed around a lot in discussions about gaming in libraries, IM, and 2.0 types of services. Teens should be receiving quality service because they are people, period.

    It seems strange that so many library staff are so eager to help the cute kid find the book on duckies or dinosaurs, but as soon as they’re too old for story hour they’re treated differently. (Not all staff do this, but some do, and some is too many.) I even remember experiencing this as a kid, and I was one of those quiet, well-behaved types. I can’t imagine how some of the loud kids would have been treated. We knew how to use the card catalog, find books filed by dewey number and were pretty self-sufficient. My mom would actually drive us to a neighboring library to do our research. The other library wasn’t bigger or newer, it was in fact a little hole-in-the-wall of a library but the staff didn’t scowl the entire time we were there. What kind of message about our home library did that send to me & my brother? Do you think my parents would have voted for a referenda for our library?

    In high school, when we had to do group projects, we actually found a table in the youth dept, so we could talk quietly without getting kicked out! (We didn’t have a “teen area” at our library back then.) It is weird though, that if they had a Teen Advisory Board back then, the things we would have asked for 15-18 years ago would be a lot of the same things teens want now: group study space, more computer access, fewer rules, cool programs, and respect. (Ever try doing a collaborative paper when you all have different format PCs and word programs? Apple, Commodore, and more! We SO could have used Writely, except we didn’t have internet access!)

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