Posts Tagged ‘users’
Last week I got to facilitate a really fun session for the Lehigh Valley Chapter of the Pennsylvania Library Association. For my breakout session I decided to copy a format I had seen Aaron Schmidt and Amanda Etches use back in November 2011 at the Library Journal Summit in Philadelphia.
We recruited students from four local colleges/universities and basically ran a live focus group, talking openly with them about why they use the library, how they do research, and how they use technology. I’m not going to name names to protect these innocent students who so kindly shared their honest opinions about libraries, but we had representatives from Northampton Community College, Widener University, Penn State, and Muhlenberg University. And guys, they were amazing. Everyone was professional and had great, well-articulated thoughts to share. It was really inspiring to work with them (thank you!!!).
In my introduction I shared a little bit about why I wanted to do a session like this instead of just talking to attendees about academic libraries. We talk a lot about initiating change from within (or outside of) our institutions and change-resistors. “User experience” is also a phrase that has gained traction in recent years. In my position, I’ve found that talking directly with users has provided me with the tools I need to initiate change in my library. I realized when we started our Library Student Advisory Board that when I talked with students about different projects or initiatives, they gave me actual evidence as in “yes this is a good idea” or “no, no one would use it like that” that I was able to leverage to bring about changes in the way things were done and the projects I pursued. I think it’s really important for us to talk to our users, to be open to what they have to say, and most importantly, to make changes accordingly. Sometimes it’s difficult to do this because there are so many things vying for our time but I think it’s critical in terms of designing the future for academic libraries.
I remember walking away inspired and excited from Aaron and Amanda’s session in 2011 and I hope attendees had a similar experience after participating last week. If nothing else, perhaps they learned one new thing about the life of a college student, or left feeling empowered to talk to the users at their own institution. Personally, this was one of the most fun presentations I’ve ever done.
A couple of people wanted to see my list of questions, so you can steal those here (no worries, I borrowed most of them from Aaron and Amanda and added some of my own—you have permission to steal this entire idea!). Mine are at the top—the numbers are the initial questions I started with and the indented letters are follow up questions that I asked on the spot based on student responses. If anyone has questions about how this worked, just leave a comment and I can share more details.
Sending huge thanks out to Aaron and Amanda for sharing their questions and advice for the student panel, to LVPALA for inviting me to present at the workshop, to Courtney Eger for being an excellent speaker contact and helping recruit students, to Tina Hertel and Muhlenberg College for helping recruit students, and of course to the students who volunteered their summer time to participate in what could have been a very uncomfortable experience (I hope it wasn’t too bad!). This was truly a session that couldn’t have happened with just me alone. Collaboration for the win!
I’m planning to do another post about things I thought were intriguing about the student responses but I have to transcribe the audio from the session first… stay tuned!
Quick evals from two different upperclassmen (in the same class) following a library instruction session I did a few weeks ago. Please discuss:
- “What confuses me is how the university thinks we don’t understand the website – we know how to find everything online, it’s what our generation does.”
- “I think the whole library page setup is confusing and difficult to navigate.”
My colleague Greg and I recently facilitated a fun and successful brainstorming session at my library. We had everyone watch this video, asking them not to focus on the specific technology being used, but on the possibilities— how the technology impacted the experience of the family depicted. Then we talked about how the new library (including our new building, new website, changing staff and services) is shifting to focus on the overarching experience students have when they encounter “the library” on or off campus. We also talked about how the Millersville library has been soliciting user feedback for years about the renovation— what chairs would students prefer, what kinds of spaces do they need, what technologies should we support? We are moving in that direction with our new website as well, and at the moment are privileging input from our target audience over internal input in order to ensure that our “digital branch” exists primarily for the user, not the library. It’s a shift that has been happening for years (ever since I arrived in 2008), but I don’t know that anyone has ever presented it quite so holistically before.
Then everyone split into groups and did a brainstorming exercise. We had people count off by fours to ensure diverse representation in the groups— we wanted to get the broadest intermixing of the minds: front-line staff with administrators, student employees with librarians, etc. You can adapt/re-purpose our Brainstorming Handout if you’d like. The handout asks participants to consider a few everyday situations: buying and drinking a cup of coffee at Starbucks vs. a local coffee shop; listening to music on Spotify vs. iTunes; shopping for produce at the market vs. a grocery store. Greg and I asked the groups to use markers and big pieces of paper to brainstorm about an experience listed on the handout or another transaction/interaction, considering the following questions:
- What did you prefer and why?
- What made your experience better at one or the other?
- What would make the experience even better?
- What do you imagine this experience looking like 5 or 10 years from now?
Everyone started working and Greg & I circulated the room to observe and chime in. Interestingly, all of the groups decided to discuss the experience of grocery shopping. Here are notes from some of the groups (I lost one of the big pieces of paper before getting it typed up):
- Social interaction
- Central Market – Better customer service – local is better
- Drive-up grocery
- Co-ops (but land is disappearing)
- Ordering online
- Continuing to meet expectations
- Convenience – Depends on location, more process/services coming to you vs going to it
- Grocery stores – convenient, open space, variety, cheaper, self checkout/single checkout
- Market – specialty items, freshness, fun, expect to spend more time
- 5-10 years from now – Electronic – order from fridge – personal grocery shopper – Multifunction cooking device – Ordering of items based on prior purchase
My purpose with this post isn’t to compare libraries to grocery shopping. But honestly, who can ignore the similarities when you look at the brainstorming results? Many of the things that came up as memorable parts of the experience of shopping have been talked about when discussing the future of libraries. Making services/resources/spaces convenient for the user. Providing an element of social interaction. Good customer service. Locally-focused collections. Electronic access. Customization and personalization. Multifunction devices. Recommendation services. Open spaces. Self-service points. Interesting…
Coming back together in a large group, we did a debriefing where each team talked about their brainstorming for a few minutes. Observations included that what is convenient for one group or person might be inconvenient for another (echoing the differences between target audiences at an academic library – freshmen vs seniors vs commuters). Another interesting point was that much of the discussion revolved around the customer experience (service, convenience) rather than the content (quality of food). Although one team did mention freshness and specialty items, it wasn’t the focus. It’s almost as if content is a given, a certain standard upheld so that consumers can focus on other factors when making their decision of where to shop. I wonder how much transferability this has when considering the library. Should we be staking our name and our futures on content alone? Should we downplay our content to focus more closely on other reasons users would want to choose the library as an integral part of their lives?
I deemed the brainstorming session a success. People didn’t feel threatened. They weren’t being asked to brainstorm about the library specifically, which could unintentionally underscore fears of job/organizational re-visioning. Instead, we deconstructed the everyday experience of grocery shopping. I think it was the first step towards opening a productive line of dialogue for the future of our library. Have you had success with brainstorming at your library? I’d love to learn how to do this better and more frequently!
Image CC BY-NC 2.0 courtesy of ericmay
On Wednesday I had the chance to attend NeoCon East, the “Premier Design Exposition for Commercial Interiors on the East Coast” in Baltimore, MD. I had fun checking out options for the library renovation, seeing design-y things, and experiencing my first non-library exhibit hall. Below are some observations and a few of my favorite things.
Library exhibit hall vs. design expo
- There were definitely more men at NeoCon than I’ve seen at ALA/library conferences. The age demographic there seemed to skew younger as well (although I’m not awesome at guessing ages). Most booths had both male and female representatives available to talk to customers and walk them through the floor.
- I almost hesitate to say this because I don’t want to offend anyone, but the NeoCon attendees were dressed a lot nicer than people I have seen at ALA/library conferences. I am generalizing here (on both sides) but I picked up on it right away. Maybe the designers/design students at NeoCon are more concerned with their visual aesthetic than librarians. There were also a hell of a lot more women in stilettos and other fancy shoes. Lots of suits. Lots of black.
- At four PM, free booze magically appeared. Everywhere! I saw a keg on the exhibit hall floor and multiple tables of bottled beer and wine. I got carded (what the what!) when I grabbed a glass. It was pretty cool – once people started drinking, everyone was sitting in the different pieces of furniture talking and hanging out. It was almost like the “sales pitch” was over and everyone was just having a good time. You could really tell which seating options worked for social atmospheres – those were the ones people gravitated towards.
- The NeoCon swag was pretty similar to ALA/library conferences. Lots of exhibitors had freebies – tote bags galore, stress balls, plastic watches, iPad covers, pens, candy, lip balm, etc. I didn’t see as many crazed people running around collecting ten of everything. People seemed a bit more reserved. That said, the one giveaway I really did want (a sweet canvas Herman Miller bag) ran out before I could get one. Luckily, our HM rep is awesome and is going to mail me one!
These are a few of my favorite things
Integra Bay Chair – My colleagues and I loved this seating option. It comes in 4 different seat widths and the tablet arm holds 300 pounds (their promo materials show someone standing on it!). You can add upholstered or wood arms, but I enjoyed the armless version. It’s fairly easy to push around and the cup holder feature is nice because it doesn’t eat up your limited tablet space (plus, you won’t accidentally knock your coffee over onto your laptop). I also really like the contrasting fabrics in this floor model. The pattern and solid combination seems to highlight the shape and accentuate the curves in this more fluid/free-form chair. I can see us incorporating some of these throughout our new library to offer a diversity of seating options for students. Maybe in bright accent colors?
Kimball Fit – Oh. My. Last week I was reviewing the furniture drawings for my workspace in the new library and our furniture supplier showed me the Kimball Fit “sling lounge” as a potential option (we also looked at the Herman Miller Tato, Tatino, Tatone and the Fatboy original beanbag). I’m looking for some fun pieces to use in my co-working space for creative group brainstorming sessions with library student employees/staff. I was really looking forward to testing a Fit at NeoCon and was getting bummed out as we walked through and didn’t see any. Then, at the same time, my colleague Greg and I spotted three of them. We pointed, looked at each other with glee, and headed over to test them out. You can probably tell from the huge smile on my face – I loved it! It was awkward sitting down the first time because you’re not quite sure it will hold you, but the material is stretchy and supportive. It feels almost like you are settling back into a hammock, really fun. Lightweight, can nest together for storage, and as we were leaving, we even saw two people sitting in one together! They do have a larger footprint, but I certainly think I could squeeze one of these into my new workspace!
Leland International – This was a really fun booth and I saw two of my favorite pieces there, the Ebb Bench (hollow) and the Brit Bench (blue). You can use connectors for both of them to hook up multiple pieces in different shapes, but I honestly liked them both as single, standalone pieces. The Ebb bench is very minimalist and modern. It would be great for hallways and the representative said they have done some in airports (although then they have to cap the ends). You can get it entirely upholstered, in wood veneer, or in wood veneer with upholstered “pads” (my fav). I was thinking this would work well in the new juvenile/curriculum center section, although we might have an issue with small children trying to climb inside. The Brit bench was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I think it would be perfect for the library entryway, where we are putting in a media wall with digital signage and inspirational quotes. This type of sculptural bench doesn’t lend itself to long waits, which is fine because it will be somewhat drafty in the entryway. At the same time, it provides a perfect spot to rest with your bags to meet someone before heading into the library. I love the three “prongs” too, it gives the bench a more social feel because you’re facing someone else any way you sit on it.
izzy+ Dewey 6-Top Table – I mean, it’s a whiteboard-topped table, what more can I say? Awesome.
I took a bunch of other photos at the show which you can see on my Flickr page. Leave a comment here or there and let me know which items you love, hate, could envision in libraries. Have any of you been to a trade show/exhibit floor beyond library conferences? Did you enjoy it? What was different and what was similar?
* A big thanks to Supply Source for inviting us to and escorting us around NeoCon!*
I am super jazzed to be a part of Library Journal’s second Future of the Academic Library Symposium, coming up on November 11th at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. Co-sponsored by Temple University Libraries, this event is FREE & open to librarians and library staff from academic institutions. At this point I haven’t heard anything about the event being recorded or streamed, but I will try to find out. It would be nice if this could be shared with academic librarians who can’t be in Philly in November.
Anywho, the morning program will be focused on “Bridging the Culture Gap” with two segments – Innovation: Freedom vs Control and People: Strengthening the Culture (I’m a panelist!). Then there will be a midday panel about Discovery Services (the symposium is partially sponsored by EBSCO, after all) and the afternoon program will focus on “Bridging the User Gap” with panels of non-librarians (faculty & students) speaking about their experiences. I am pretty blown away to be sharing this event with some of my library land blogging idols, including Jenica Rogers, Courtney Young, Andy Burkhardt, Aaron Schmidt and Amanda Etches-Johnson. Fangirl much?!
Here’s the blurb from the segment I am speaking on:
“Why can’t my colleagues tolerate change?” Don’t these new librarians realize how we do things here?” “How come the deadwood always rejects my great ideas?” “Technology? That’s the new librarian’s job.” Our academic libraries can become fraught with misunderstanding and stereotypes about our colleagues, and when the gaps grow wide they lead to organizational dysfunction. To build better libraries we must confront these gaps. Doing so requires that we engage in authentic conversation focused on creating a better understanding of each other. Once we learn to appreciate our differences, and how our organizations thrive from the mix of skills we bring to it, we can begin to bridge the culture gap.”
Any readers out there who have thoughts on bridging the culture gap? Certain questions you’d like to see addressed or great answers to the ones posed above? If so, please leave a comment.
You can register and learn more about the event on the Library Journal website. Hope to see you there!
Over the summer and into this fall, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to interact with library student employees. The bulk of our students work in Access Services and Archives & Special Collections. Currently, I only supervise the occasional intern and graduate assistant, but I am in the process of hiring one student employee to work on communication/outreach. I do work pretty closely with a few of the student employees in Access Services, though. They help me with making copies & assembling handouts, posting signage around campus during down-times at the Circulation Desk, assisting with events, etc. I would honestly be lost without them (thank you)!!
Due to our renovation transition, I have been able to forge a new bond with the public services student employees. We have done a few training sessions with them to solicit feedback about how the temporary library is working from their perspective, gather ideas on how to publicize our services and new locations, and help them with referring students to the librarians who are now distributed across campus. Overall, I have found these sessions incredibly useful, particularly in terms of the wealth of new ideas the student employees have brought to our attention. From a communication/outreach standpoint, their feedback is invaluable because they know how students think, where they look for information, and what kinds of information could be better communicated. All of this contributes to the identity of the library on campus and in the lives of our students.
I was thinking about how we might be able to harness the advocacy power of our library student employees. We spend a lot of time bringing them up to speed on various project and initiatives, so they end up being really great library champions. When you connect that with their social nature (in-person and via the web), it seems like the perfect avenue for peer-to-peer information sharing. On more than one occasion, I have spoken to library student employees who have done informal updates about the library within their classes, either at the request of a professor who knows they work there, or in order to correct misinformation that a professor is sharing.
Here’s what I’m thinking: What if there was some kind of library student employee referral system to build on this sort of organic advocacy? For example, library student employee could earn points towards some kind of reward (or dare I say, a raise?!) if they:
- Convinced their professor to invite the librarian to do an information literacy instruction session or general library update
- Directed a student to their subject librarian for a group or individual research appointment
It could be kind of interesting. I see referral systems all the time – at hair and nail salons, when meeting with a new dentist or doctor, when signing up for new web services where if you convince 5 friends to join, you get a reward, etc. And we can see from websites like Yelp and Amazon Reviews that people are anxious to know what others think about a product/service before they are persuaded. Would it be better for a recommendation to visit a librarian to come from a peer than a librarian? Because no matter what we do to seem more approachable, I still think some students are intimidated asking for our help.
I am wondering:
- Has anyone tried this?
- How would professors react to this? Would they be annoyed, thinking it was some sort of interference with their classroom/teaching?