Taking the Lead shows what’s possible when smart people are given the freedom to move. — Freedom to move

Most organisations would take twice as long to achieve what the program’s design teams produce in six months.

Taking the Lead is sponsored and funded by the State Library of NSW. In 2014, 22 public librarians joined the program, which uses a project based learning framework and is now in its third iteration.

As I watched each of the four teams present their findings and ‘products’ to a packed audience in August, I reflected on what the success factors might be.

No hierarchy

There are no pre-existing hierarchical relationships. No rank to defer to; no silos to fence in the imagination.

Reasonable constraints

Juggling heavy workloads and busy lives; spread out geographically across New South Wales; with virtually no seed capital to play with; and no spare time to think – it could be a recipe for inaction. But it’s not. Why?

Passion for the puzzle

Each team coalesces around a problem or puzzle that has professional resonance, and the possibility of yielding new insights. Team members are passionate about their chosen theme. The energy generated tends to obviate against perceived and real constraints.

Creative collaboration

Collaboration is never easy. There are highs and lows. While we (Project Sisu) provide tools and frameworks, and encourage a mindset of experimentation, each team has to work out what to do with the variables at hand. Creative abrasion is inevitable; different personalities and skill sets provide the alchemy for genuine innovation.

Skilled mentors

Each team has a State Library mentor. These people are real professionals; their sole purpose is to steer the team towards a good outcome.

Big dreams

While Taking the Lead benefits individual participants and the libraries they work in, the ability to contribute to something bigger is a real stimulus for many.

The results speak for themselves.

Lost for Words

Literacy is at the heart of communication, employment, social engagement and self confidence. How can public libraries play a more active role in this sphere? Lost for Words shows you how.

Smash the desk

No more hiding behind the library’s circulation desk. The Kelpie App will nudge you onto the bustling library stage. And here’s why roving reference matters..

EMU Skillz

New times call for new skills. Re-thinking the future of public libraries? You can start here.


People who use public libraries know something big has changed (see video above). People who don’t use libraries tend to still perceive them as places for books. And what good are books in the digital age? This Advo-Kit is brilliant. Library advocacy has been given a boost. Use liberally – it’s free!


Project Sisu: Annie Talvé and Chia Moan
Client: State Library of New South Wales
Timeframe: March to August 2014