BKLYN Incubator - Toolkit

In 2015, Brooklyn Public Library launched BKLYN Incubator as a multifaceted, ongoing innovation initiative. As we continue to explore its potential, acquire or build new resources, and recognize new opportunities for professional development, we intend to share that information here.

This toolkit offers resources for other libraries or service-based, civic organizations interested in building an innovation program by empowering staff.


Creating a culture of innovation begins with education. At BPL, all staff are encouraged to attend the workshops offered for Incubator. The workshops currently offered center on patron-centered design, neighborhood analysis, establishing and prototyping an idea, community engagement, and project management.

Each workshop has particular learning outcomes in mind. As an assessment tool, we collect evaluation forms from each participant. A sample of a Workshop Evaluation can be found here.

All staff at BPL are eligible to submit proposals for BKLYN Incubator.

Here is an outline of the proposal requirements.

After initial proposals have been submitted, each team is paired with a mentor. Mentors are internal staff members who step up and volunteer to help each round.

Proposals are made available to the public for feedback and rating. During this period, a proposal review panel narrows the pool of proposals to a select group of finalists using the public feedback and their own assessments based on the proposal idea, the planning done, the feasibility of the idea, and its alignment with the Library’s core principles and Strategic Plan.

All finalists pitch their ideas to an audience of judges, invited guests, competing teams, and other BPL staff. Before they make their pitch, the finalists are offered a two-part pitch training with our resident public speaking coach Kelsey Crouch.

BKLYN Incubator programs that receive funding have continued access to their mentors and other support during the implementation stage. All programs work with a community partner to expand their capacity.

Funded BKLYN Incubator programs run as pilots to test new ideas. These programs cover an enormous range of service areas and interests, from a geek fandom book club for teens to artist-led cultural competency training for staff.

This link will take you to more information on the programs that have been funded in current or past rounds.

All BKLYN Incubator participants who receive funding are required to submit a final report. This is an opportunity to reflect on challenges, successes, and lessons learned. The collected feedback is folded into future rounds of BKLYN Incubator with an intention to continually evolve and better meet staff and patron needs.

Here are the questions we ask participants to compile their final report.

Though BKLYN Incubator’s funded programs run as pilot programs, many live on in one form or another. Some use the resources purchased during the pilot to run their programs again and again. Others continue on after attracting external funding. Additionally, BKLYN Incubator runs a Replication initiative to offer staff the opportunity to give a selection of past programs new life and expanded reach.

Check out the Programs page to learn more about Replication and other ways in which programs have continued beyond their pilot run.


For more resources and information, contact incubator@bklynlibrary.org or visit us online: bklynlibrary.org/incubator 

More Resources

BKLYN Incubator White Paper

  • This White Paper defines the problem, offers a high level solution, and gives an in depth look at the BKLYN Incubator process.  It also offers a look at the lessons learned to help others build from what we discovered along the way. 

ALA Conference Presentation from Round One

  • This presentation, From the Ground Up: Community-Based Project Competition for Staff at All Levels, was delivered at the American Library Association (ALA) in June 2016.