Embracing Change Through Strategic Innovation

Marshall Breeding Webinar, Part 4 of 4


The library world may seem relatively small to an outsider looking in. But the truth is that within the library ecosystem is a whole host of people and processes that are needed for library operations to run smoothly. In fact, there is more that goes on behind the scenes of a library than any patron may ever know.

In this final segment from Marshall Breeding’s webinar entitled “The Future of Library Software and What To Do About It,” he goes to great lengths to instruct listeners as to where they should focus their attention when it comes to library change and adaptation. It is important that libraries focus on strategic technology—that is things libraries invest their funds in, base their operations on, manage their collections with, etc.  

Adapting to Change

Libraries benefit greatly from keeping their ear to the ground. By monitoring emerging trends—whether they play out over a month or a decade—libraries already put themselves ahead of the technology curve. 

It is in this realm that Breeding emphasizes the need to seek innovation, while still remaining strategic. One way to do this is to “utilize the sandbox of experimentation.” Within this sandbox environment, librarians can then devise ways to learn and experiment with technology, avoid institutional risk, and identify innovative technologies that can be implemented while they are still innovative.

“I encourage libraries to be a little bit more willing to move forward with systems and services that will help them advance.”

-Marshall Breeding

According to Breeding, libraries too often play “wait and see” and they avoid being on the cutting edge. It can be tempting to sit back and see what others are doing before jumping in. But there are benefits to taking calculated risks. “The more libraries can exert leadership with the right level of risk and not always be the follower, is good for libraries as a whole and is good for librarians as a profession so that we don’t become stagnant and conservative,” says Breeding.

Setting a Path Forward

How then can libraries avoid stagnancy and move forward? Breeding believes that library staff should make software decisions based on the current software state, but also on the future vision of the vendor. Libraries use their automation systems for at least a decade. At the time of procurement, any system is but a snapshot in time. Libraries must think about the future development trajectory and be sure that the vendor will be there to develop and support the system into the distant future.

Libraries can influence the development cycle of the library software. It’s important to ensure that your software is viable for the future and that it has a clear path going forward that is going to anticipate what your library is going to need.

Though the vendor must provide a roadmap, Breeding ultimately believes that “it is the library’s job to educate those who build software for libraries about what they need going forward.”

Developing Partnerships

When libraries adopt new library software, it can be easy to think that the heavy lifting is over. Breeding advises libraries to see this not as an ending point but rather a launch pad. These major technology systems are not simply a purchase or a license, but more of a partnership—when a library buys software, it is not the end of the deal. It’s the beginning.

Providing High-level Service

The caliber of service that libraries offer can hopefully change the current perception of library staff as simply “book stampers.” Breeding gives specific ways that libraries can provide high-level service:

  • Position the library as a place that offers “information experts”

“It’s important that we work with our communities—that we position ourselves to those communities that we do so much more than that [stamp books]. Libraries are institutions about content and learning and services…,” says Breeding.

  • Be engaged with the customers: fulfilling this role maintains your relevance and the relevance of the library for its community
  • Continue to offer ever-improving services such research support, information literacy, and programs that provide impact and benefits to their communities

Being Entrepreneurial

In the same way that successful businesses must operate strategically and respond to their changing environment, so must libraries be able to embrace changes essential to stay in tune with the needs of their communities. It is up to libraries to “experiment and innovate in ways that will ultimately turn into strategy,” Breeding advises. When libraries and staff are intuitive, they allow for forward progress. As Breeding so eloquently said, “libraries are not stagnant institutions.”


It is important that libraries aren’t so tied to practices and technologies that may have been adequate in the past that they hinder the library from moving aggressively forward to meet the community’s current needs.

“If you don’t like change, you’ll like irrelevance less.” -General Eric Shinseki, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army

Ultimately, avoiding change is the quickest way to become irrelevant. 


To watch the entire Marshall Breeding webinar, click here

To read part 1 of the webinar report, click here.

To read part 2 of the webinar report, click here.

To read part 3 of the webinar report, click here.  


Bethany Cummings
Associate Marketing Writer