Sophia McFadden-Keesling 

The Design Thinking Fellowship is all about collaboration, ideation, innovation, and iteration. I have two wonderful peer mentors: Jordan Gorzalski and Caroline Schuitema. We spend hours each week discussing the project we’re working on. A great deal of the work is discussion based as we’re working with a concept more than an end goal.

We have a fluctuating project. To some this may be upsetting, but our team loves it! I appreciate that our focus shifts from week to week. Part of Design Thinking is constant iteration — this means that the focus should be changing all the time if that’s what the project requires. The process is all about iterating and assessment. We may find that one idea doesn’t work in the beginning, change everything completely, and then after a few rounds of assessment end up with something similar to our original idea.

The two Fellows and I meet with our mentors, Meghan Sitar and Justin Schell, each week for an hour to discuss where we are in the project and where we want to be the following week. Meghan and Justin mentor through sharing their experiences in library-land and giving us advice about the project as we go. They help us identify our knowledge gaps and provide us with resources to help us better understand our project. They both listen to us and share their opinions. I appreciate the feeling that we’re working with them rather than for them.

Guests are frequently invited to our meetings to help us be more mindful about our ideations and iterations. Emily Pucket Rogers and Denise Leyton (Library Environments department) are very skilled in design thinking for services and spaces with a user-centered focus. They share their work experiences and provide helpful insights into our project. I feel lucky to be on a team with so many great mentors and resources.

Although the mentors for this project have lot of experience and insight into the library, we still consult additional resources. One of the best I’ve had on this team was testing our project with the Library’s DEIA Committee. Our project involves sensitive topics that we wanted to test with the DEIA to make sure we were handling them appropriately. Members of the committee responded very positively to our project. I was worried that our project was dealing with too many sensitive issues and I although I believe sometimes making people feel uncomfortable for a learning purpose is necessary, I wanted to make sure we didn’t go to far. They really liked our project though and suggested that we push the boundaries more and try to strive for a little more uncomfortability within our project. They thought our target audience for our project would be a good fit but also encouraged us to expanding it as a managerial training tool for library staff. This was extremely positive feedback. We have of course redesigned a number of aspects about the project since that interaction, but the core of it is the same.

As we move into usability testing for our project with non-DEIA experts we’re getting additional useful feedback. With each set of feedback we get we apply the design thinking process to continue to improve upon our work. I’ve enjoyed the process of actively improving the project as we go throughout this semester and look forward to seeing how it all evolves in the following term.

Sophia McFadden-Keesling obtained a B.A. in English and Mathematics from Kalamazoo College and is now pursuing a Master of Science in Information with a focus on Library Assessment at the University of Michigan School of Information (UMSI). She is a Graduate Student Research Assistant investigating makerspaces and a Design Thinking Fellow at UMSI.