Serving Our Communities Through Inclusive Design


A Gallup poll conducted in the final days of 2019 found that Americans were visiting the library more often than attending the movies. Unfortunately for bibliophiles and film buffs alike, the onset of COVID-19 had a major impact on both industries’ footfall. Libraries across the globe were pressed to reexamine and retool their digital services to meet this new challenge. For Toni Minick, Vice President of Product Management, this self exploration created exciting opportunities for industry growth and innovation. 

“We see the library in a transformational state,” Minick said, “Through our extensive engagement with our development partners, we are creating and identifying solutions that will help them to operate and engage with their communities more effectively, in ways and methods their community members expect.” 

This optimism paired with Minick’s commitment to Design Thinking is at the core of every decision made by Minick and her team. At each step, librarians provide feedback, suggestions, and insight to product development through Innovative’s Vega Development Partner program.  

That immediate connection allows her team to take an iterative approach to development with their continuous deployment methods. This allows them to look for simpler solutions first—smaller tweaks or iterative improvement that help librarians meet patron needs more quickly. Then when more complex issues arise, Minick’s team is able to slow down to address it with the right methodology. 

“This lets us build the right solution instead of ‘just getting something out there’ or sticking to our original assumptions,” Minick said. 

Because of this approach, the product management team was able to make substantial improvements to Vega Discover’s roll-up design and automation rules, ability for staff to use the Discover interface to create and manage Showcases, and streamline implementation and onboarding steps. 

“Early on, we identified that direct patron input was incredibly important, and so we expanded our conversations accordingly,” Minick said. “Library patrons have changed, and their expectations are different than they were even five years ago. So, gathering input and testing solutions with patrons and community members is incredibly important to improving our products and services.” 

Thanks to patron testing, Minick’s team was inspired to expand the Bookshelf with account information and functions. Through usability testing, the design of the bookmarking and saved lists functionality was streamlined, making it easier for patrons to quickly mark and save resources that appeal to them. 

“In every way, the development partner program has met or exceeded our expectations,” Minick said. 

Minick adds that she’s proud to follow in the footsteps of tech industry giants like Google, Apple, Netflix, and Samsung—businesses that also utilize Design Thinking. 

“It’s really about deeply understanding the people you are building solutions for—developing empathy and a connection with them in order to solve their problems or address their needs,” Minick said. “Part of the process is to challenge assumptions and look outside to other industries or products for inspiration.” 

As necessity breeds innovation, Minick adds, “We are constantly asking ourselves, does it have to work the way it has for 20 years or is there a better alternative?”