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Hatching Innovation

Free Library of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Innovation Summary

To cultivate and ideate forward leaning programming and services, the Free Library of Philadelphia launched an internal granting and project development initiative, "Hatching Innovation," which supports new and creative ideas generated from staff at every level of our organization.

Problem Statement

With nearly 1,100 employees across 54 locations, Free Library of Philadelphia staff traditionally had few channels, and fewer supports, to experiment with new programs, services or professional development opportunities. To overcome these barriers and to activate the library’s strategic objective to encourage staff to experiment, explore and challenge the status quo, we launched the "Hatching" program to mine the creative assets of our staff, resource pilot initiatives and develop these staff as project managers.


Since 2016, the library’s Strategic Initiatives Department has announced quarterly calls for proposals inviting ideas that challenge the boundaries of traditional library programming and advance the goals of the library’s strategic plan. Projects launch on a pilot basis, are assessed and considered for expansion and funding support via the library’s general operating costs. Every innovation funded through these programs bakes in evaluation goals and measures, which promotes a culture of assessment and quality improvement.


To date, we have cultivated over 100 ideas from staff and supported implementing: a musical instrument lending collection, a grassroots staff mentoring program, convening a social justice symposium for teens, pop-up STEM and culinary literacy programs for children, lending custom family literacy packs and library-wide programming for Pride month, among others. The initiative has also served to develop program management skills among originating staff and introduced data collection and assessment practices within each discrete project.