I recently attended a three-day CLIR Seminar on Issues of Participatory Design in Academic Libraries, led by the amazing Nancy Fried Foster. About 40 libraries were represented. 14 various design/ethnography projects were presented, including my own overview talk-I hope to get that up on slideshare this week! Nancy also included a refresher on participatory design, a segment on “Convincing a Dean,” and “The Architects’ View of User-Centered Design.” There was a lot of time to mingle with librarians from other institutions, and I met new and interesting folks ranging from the Head of the User Experience Department at the University of Michigan, the E-Learning Strategist from the University of Illinois-UC, and the MIT UX head. Everyone was deeply committed to using user-centered tools to create library environments and services. The projects were truly interesting and inspiring.
From a meeting room standpoint, two interesting things:
- the meeting planners had put computers in back of room for use (we were in a conference room in the library)
- a lot of folks were accessing wifi through Eduroam–if an institution participates in Eduroam, you can get wifi at other institutions
The “Convincing a Dean” portion gave reasons of why a library should think about doing participatory design or user research as:
- align services, facilities, staffing, and digital presence with the real needs of library users
- use time and resources wisely
- gain credibility on campus (you are doing research)
- strengthen its importance to the academic mission of the university
- drive innovation
- facilitate relationships
- uncover unrecognized problems
- you don’t have to go back and change, because you got all the input and feedback up front
More about some of the folks I met:
Diane Klare (Wesleyan) is participating in the NITLE Innovation Studio http://www.nitle.org/help/innovationstudio.php
This is Lisa Spiro’s new project. Sounds really interesting.
Marilyn Pukkila and Ellen Freeman (Colby)– they had done a great ethnographic study, but one of the main things they learned:
“faculty don’t want technology solutions, they want personal research assistants”
Marcy Strong (University of Rochester)- “How Undergraduates Learn the Ropes.” They worked with RA’s in the college dorms. They used photo diaries, and library student workers recruited more students for the study. They discovered a real role for librarians as pre-major advisors. Now, they also reward students that ask for help from the reference desk.
Travis Smith (University of Richmond) “Insider’s Guide to the Library.” They had an anthropology undergraduate class do field notes with the library as a study site. The field notes were hard to read, but super honest. Students gave a presentation to library staff–including interesting things like a “sketchy” stairwell. The librarians were curious about how the students wrote about social stereotypes.
Patti Cossard (University of Maryland) did cool 10 minute on the spot interviews; 3 questions; when and where do you study for exams? They did 33 interviews in 4 different locations and had four findings.
Stephanie Hartman (MIT) uses Dotmocracy.org to help get data from focus groups, and also from librarians as they do work around what projects to focus on next. It is a great tool for participartory large group decisions. MIT also used GIS to create heatmaps of people in the building at different times, and built 3-D models of that usage. They used student workers to walk around at different times and input where they were, and what they were doing (studying, using a computer, etc.)
Sheree Fu (Claremont University) gave an amusing talk about only getting a water fountain out of a year long study. It is an awesome water fountain. Looks like this.
Marcy Strong (University of Rochester) is doing interesting things with metadata.
All of the presenters are sending a few slides and notes from the talks to CLIR over the next few weeks. CLIR is going to publish the combined work on their website http://www.clir.org/
The UX folks present were very excited about the SLA UX Caucus group. I have asked CLIR to consider also having some usability workshops in the next year, and they were very interested in that possibility. I was told by Nancy Foster after the meeting that my talk had resonated with many people because of the tenacity aspect–our first study had two researchers, then four, then we just had 10. The first study didn’t really have anything implemented, and now we are considering many more implementations. The takeaway from my talk was not to do just one study, get frustrated, and stop. But rather, keep going, keep learning, and keep doing user research, and get more folks involved!
The biggest takeaways that I had? I want to do more research with undergrads, including those 3 questions around campus, and also, I am so thrilled that Nancy Foster has created so many anthropological researchers in the library world!
AnthroLib Bibliography: a bibliography of resources related to user research and participatory design, especially in higher education and academic libraries
AnthroLib Listserv: a list for people who have participated in CLIR workshops and others who work in higher education and academic libraries