Fail Early and Often to Succeed: The Case for Rapid Prototyping in Libraries

John J. Meier, Rebecca K. Miller


At Penn State University Libraries, we are endeavoring to support a library and user community in a state of flux by moving from a culture of rigidity to one of flexibility. Changes to Penn State University Libraries’ organizational structures and strategic priorities have been swift and ongoing. In some contexts, we are using rapid prototyping practices to respond with agility to these changes, as well as to the changing needs of our faculty, staff, student, and community users. This article describes the general rapid prototyping approach, showcases the concept in use by a library’s teaching and learning department, and uses a case study to illustrate how these practices can be applied to a specific learning object. We also suggest applications in other, more systemic, areas of organizational work. Key takeaways include encouraging a culture of experimentation, being open to failure, and keeping lines of communication open to strengthen collaboration.


rapid prototyping, instructional design, information literacy, organizational change, leadership

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American library Association Texas Digital Library