THE ART OF PROBLEM DISCOVERY: Adaptive Thinking for Innovation and Growth

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL)


What challenges do students face in the classroom? What issues do faculty encounter when applying for grants? How does the Writing Center plan to help students abroad? What keeps senior administrators up at night?

We invest a lot of time and effort discussing library issues, but how well do we know the issues of our constituents? What are the problems, priorities, and possibilities of the people we serve? Higher education is poised to undergo a historic evolution with the introduction of new pedagogies, publishing models, and user preferences. Libraries will not only be asked to adapt, but to help lead monumental changes. This paper presents an innovation strategy designed around growth. By adopting a discovery-oriented problem-seeking outlook and a holistic view of our institutions, librarians can develop an entrepreneurial mindset stretching beyond traditionally predefined boundaries. By advancing the objectives of others, we not only help our organizations succeed, but simultaneously reframe the role, value, and perception of libraries throughout the process.


Invited paper for ACRL 2013 Conference, Indianapolis, Indiana.


problem discovery, problems, innovation, growth, libraries, empathic thinking