Adaptive Path's San Francisco studio library was originally set up by Chiara Ogan, and when she left last year, she entrusted it to me. Among Chiara's many talents, she's a trained and experienced librarian, and she set up a complete library system about which she blogged in December of 2010, when we were at our Brannan Street location.
I'm not a trained librarian, but I am a compulsive classifier and organizer*, so I jumped at the chance to run our library. In a nutshell, the SF library is a lending library with a traditional yet super simple self-checkout process that lets people borrow books pretty much indefinitely. We label and cover books just like real libraries do, and we use the Library of Congress system to organize the books on our shelves and in our electronic catalog. Want to check something out? Easy. Just write your name on the standard library card in the back of the book, add the date, and drop the card into the checkout box.
The AP Library in 2012
One thing that’s changed since we moved into our current studio along San Francisco’s waterfront is that we now enjoy a wonderfully open space for our library. Books line the built-in shelves, and a dedicated reading area provides a place to enjoy a book, flip through the pages of the latest periodicals, or pose for photographs.
Ad Hoc Curation
It’s probably no surprise that we’re voracious and diverse readers here at Adaptive Path. In the past we haven’t had a specific curation approach, and a formal one hasn’t been needed. So far there’s sufficient variety of interests and enough boundary pushing to keep things interesting. The collection reflects who we are and helps fuels our thinking for the strategy and design work we love to do with our clients.
In the last year and a half we’ve added about 150 titles to our collection — many acquired through purchases and others through staff donations. I’m working on filling that in with various classics (e.g., Christopher Alexander’s Notes of the Synthesis of Form) and reference books, and new and interesting titles when they come out. Our ever-growing collection comprises a healthy mix of books across a range of categories, including business, strategy, culture, psychology, science (yay, physics!), art, and technology.
Many newer books are available in electronic form, or as print books that include electronic versions, such as those we’ve purchased directly from publishers like Rosenfeld Media. Putting the book on the shelf is easy, of course, but we’re still trying to find the right approach to lending the digital versions.
When books come in, I enter them into our electronic catalog and send an email to staff to let them know what’s available. I include the call number, a link to the book site, and the description of the book, and then put the books on display.
And speaking of recent arrivals, I asked a few of our newest colleagues to share thoughts on what they’ve read from our latest batch of library additions. Here’s what they had to say about the books they picked.
Chris Wronski checked out Mike Monteiro’s Design is a Job:
Probably the most surprising thing about Design is a Job is the fact that it didn't already exist. It's one of those essential awareness books that help guide you around the inevitable perils that you would have experienced if you just winged it, namely all the activities you have to deal with to do design work that aren't actually design work. If you've already experienced those perils, the book helps reinforce what already took you years to figure out, but with the addition of enjoyable banter from Mr. Monteiro.
All in all, the premise of the book is simple: honest advice about how to approach designing as a job and how to maintain more fulfillment with less bullshit from someone that's been there in the trenches learning it the hard way.
It's especially relevant for those working in smaller shops or even solo, but Design is a Job should be helpful for anyone juggling a variety of roles at a design firm or anyone just curious to learn more about the inner workings of a design business that works.
Patrick Quattlebaum read Pervasive Information Architecture: Designing Cross-Channel User Experiences by Andrea Resmini and Luca Rosati:
We've needed a book worthy of sitting side by side with Information Architecture for the World Wide Web (a.k.a., the “Polar Bear Book”) for quite some time, and I'm happy to report Pervasive Information Architecture has taken that place (at least in own my library). Andrea Resmini and Luca Rosati do a fine job of charting the evolution from multi-channel to cross-channel user experience, and laying out a compelling manifesto for “designing artifacts from a structural, informational point of view as the complex open systems that they are becoming.” Yes, this isn't Kansas anymore, Toto, and there's no going back. Crafting pervasive information architectures, as the authors see it, requires new skills, new concepts, new tools, and (most importantly) a new perspective that designers must embrace complexity and enable organizations and users to “play.” Shifting one's focus from the internal consistency of one channel to the “connected possibilities” across channels and touch points is the new game. This is heady stuff at times, but stick with it.
That said, Pervasive Information Architecture isn’t a purely theoretical book. Its core is built around exploring five heuristics for pervasive architectures: place-making, consistency, correlation, resilience, and reduction. These provide useful concepts for our everyday work in cross-channel and service design. In addition, there are some valuable tools shared, as well as welcomed guest contributions from Peter Morville, Cennydd Bowles, Samantha Starmer, Andrew Hinton, and many others. The concepts and tools presented are crucial to understand and reflect upon for any designer moving from the flatland of interface design to the complex, three-dimensional world of service design.
Steve Kirsh (whose bio page will be up soon!) is reading Get Lucky: How to Put Planned Serendipity to Work for You and Your Business by Thor Muller and Adaptive Path co-founder Lane Becker:
Serendipity has been on my mind these days having recently cracked open the new book, Get Lucky, co-authored by Thor Muller and Lane Becker. (Full disclosure: Thor has been a dear friend, colleague, and mentor since we met back in 1998, and I’ve met Lane a few times.) The book is an extremely relevant page turner on a variety of levels. Thor and Lane explore the confluence of trusting that little voice inside (what Malcolm Gladwell so eloquently refers to as the “Blink” moment), doing your homework, and being prepared so when that when you find that four-leaf clover you’re able to use it with purpose while staying true to your passion and beliefs — whether you’re trying to validate a new business model or developing a fresh take on making a better burger. One thing I’ve learned is to always know your history and by exploring direct, tangential or even unrelated models, data, what’s worked and what’s failed, serendipitous discoveries are always waiting to be mined.
So there you have it: An updated peek into our SF studio library and how we use it. I’d love to hear from others who’ve started or run their own office libraries (big or small) on how having a library is working for your team or organization.
See It for Yourself!
If you're in the San Francisco area, you can see our library — and the rest of Adaptive Path’s SF studio — for yourself by attending the Open Studio Tours planned for the annual San Francisco Design Week celebration taking place June 11-17. Adaptive Path is participating on Tuesday, June 12, starting at 7 p.m. Check the SF Design Week Events page for the schedule, a map, and details on all of the great things happening that week.
* More about this particular affliction and its overlap with Information Architecture in a future post.