During the next few weeks, I will be discussing the technique “brainstorming” and how it can be used in a library environment.

The approach to brainstorming was developed by Alex Osborn in 1958 with his book Applied Imagination. [1] Many people are familiar with the term “brainstorming” and it is widely used. However, it is vital to fully understand brainstorming and how to use it effectively.  The process of brainstorming, is informal, that is meant to share ideas from a range of ideas, reaching all the way from the conventional to the outrageous. It’s important during this process for participants not to judge, criticize or analyze ideas.

How to Brainstorm: [2]

1.  Present the problem or question. This can be orally or through writing (on a whiteboard, chart paper, etc.)

2. Encourage participation from every group member, in no particular order. Have participants suggest as many ideas as possible, keeping wording to single words or short phrases.

3. Until the brainstorming session is over, no one may comment or elaborate on previously said ideas.

4. Record ideas; sometimes the most creative and outrageous ideas provide the most interesting responses.

5. Once the session is complete, prioritize, analyze, problem solve or discuss possible ideas.

Some important tips while brainstorming: Don’t follow one train thought for too long, encourage practical and impractical ideas to allow for creative flow of thought, and make sure to engage all people involved.

What’s important to note, is that brainstorming is not just a group of individuals discussing ideas, it is not group decision making, there should be no group leader, and it should be a free flow of ideas.

Brainstorming can be an important strategy as it allows for all students to participate and overthrows the “group dynamic”. Since students are not able to elaborate or criticize in these initial stages, all students may feel free to share an idea without feeling criticized and those who dominate group work, need to only share in a short phrase, to allow others to participate.

In recent years, there has been controversy if brainstorming is really effective. I will be addressing this controversy and sharing ideas of how to incorporate successful brainstorming in the library in upcoming posts.

Works Cited:

[1]. Mind Tools. (2014). Brainstorming: generating many radical, creative ideas. Retrieved from:

[2]. Human Rights Resource Center, University of Minnesota. (2000). The human rights education handbook: effective practices for learning, action, and change. Retrieved from:


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