Can service design help an organization prepare for change?

Planning a new library service with collaborative design workshops

Can service design help an organization prepare for change?


In 2015, the Vancouver Public Library was preparing to open the Inspiration Lab, a digital media lab that offers library users free access to sound and video studios, analog-to-digital conversion tools, and audio, video and graphic software (including Adobe Creative Suite.) The Lab was a brand new kind of service offering for VPL, and everything – including equipment, booking software, service model, staff training – needed to be figured out before the Lab opened in May 2015.


I became involved with the project in December of 2014, when I had noticed that there were a number of planning committees working on aspects of the Lab (such as the communications plan or the staffing model), but there wasn’t any group looking at what the service would look like as a whole. I identified this as a significant gap, and proposed a series of service blueprint workshops to fill this gap, and to get staff thinking concretely about what using the Inspiration Lab would be like from a user’s perspective.

Working within pretty tight time constraints, I designed and facilitated two workshops where staff could 1) identify the user scenarios that would mostly commonly occur and 2) map out the ones that most concerned them. I made sure that each workshop involved a mixture of staff from different departments and different job classifications to bring a variety of perspectives to the blueprinting table.

I took time at the beginning of each workshop to give staff a brief overview of service design principles, then I broke them into groups, gave them a persona and a task/goal-based user scenario, and asked them to plot the steps that persona would take in accomplishing their goals. Once the journey was mapped, I asked them to identify the different touchpoints where these steps would occur, and then determine what behind-the-scenes processes needed to take place to support these touchpoints.

example of a service blueprint - library user getting help with ebooks

Example of a service blueprint, created in Powerpoint, used to explain service design to staff. I chose to examine e-book help, a process most staff would be familiar with. While the blueprint isn’t as beautiful as it would have been had I made it in Illustrator, it provided an easy-to-use template for other staff to create their own blueprints.


Staff found the workshops to be a fun and valuable process. We were able to co-create blueprints for 16 scenarios and identified a number of gaps where micro-procedures needed to be designed. Perhaps more importantly, the sessions generated a great deal of discussion that was useful to both the staff who were relatively new to the Lab planning, and those who had been working on steering committees for months.

Shortly after the workshops, I was asked to move to a full-time position in a different department, so I handed over notes, draft blueprints, and templates to another staff member, who created digital versions of the blueprints and made a list of all the things to be done before the Lab’s opening. The process revealed gaps in current planning (e.g. “the Lab is open until 9, but the Systems staff who can troubleshoot computer problems have limited availability”) and allowed us to adjust the planning or develop staff training on ways to handle contingencies.