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  • valarie907 5:13 pm on August 6, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: blogs, LIBR UX, memo, school libraries   

    Community School Library Blog Memo 

    Mr. Potato Head has his nose in a bood by Enokson on CC Flickr

    Mr. Potato Head Has His Nose in a Book by Enokson via CC Flickr

    While working on our school library blog for several UX assignments, I had been thinking about the challenges for school libraries to keep a blog, the lack of experience, the turn over, the lack of time, etc.  Yet, these blogs provide an important opportunity for the schools (students and staff), parents, school district, and community to access important information, find out what is happening in the school library, and leave feedback in the form of comments.  This can be very helpful in seeking support for quality school libraries and teacher librarians.  I’d like to propose a solution to this problem that incorporates Kelly’s 5 Steps of Design Thinking (Understand, Observe, Prototype, Evaluate, & Implement) for our school district which has over forty schools that is useful, usable and desirable.

    Dear District Librarian,

    School library blogs provide a great way to communicate important and interesting information to students, teachers, staff as well as parents and the entire community.  They also can be a powerful illustration of the worth of school libraries to maintain and seek support.  Yet, many of our school libraries do not have a blog.  This may be for a lot of reasons, including a lack of time, experience, and frequent turnovers in library staff, all of which makes blogging overwhelming and places it at the bottom of our priority lists.

    I’d like to propose a solution for this problem:  A district wide school library blog.

    This collective blog could be maintained by a team with experience in blog management to spread the load.  Each school can be set up with an author account so they can publish their own content at their convenience, and would still give them control over their content.  It would provide a way to build our school library community within our district by sharing what is going on in our libraries, as well as demonstrate their worth to all of our constituents.

    A planning team could anticipate and address many practical issues while planning the blog.  Simple guidelines or recommendations can be offered to ensure meaningful content for our students, staff and other constituents.  Categories can be developed so that visitors to the blog can view all the posts from their school.  Those who want to continue with their own blog can be accommodated by providing links to their blog on the collective blog.  Posts can be imported for those who want to migrate their blog to the collective blog.

    The blog could be implemented in a district wide meeting, followed by long distant training and support, using Microsoft Lync and screencast tutorials.  These tutorials can be collected for future reference for review and to help acquaint new library staff to the blog.

    The team could use web analytics as well as a visitor counter and map, as well as the number and types of comments to track the usage of the blog.  A brief survey may be sent out to find out who has visited the site and how usable it is at the end of the year to evaluate its success.

    A test blog can be set up to experiment with and help decide if this idea will work.  I look forward to exploring this idea further with you.  Thank you for your time!



    • trishalendo 8:34 am on August 7, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Love the picture and love the idea. Getting a larger group of bloggers to collaborate would really help create more frequent blog posts.

    • pmartin 5:33 am on August 8, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for introducing me to Microsoft Lync, Valarie! ‘Had never heard of it before this post!

    • daniellek9888 11:58 am on August 11, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      What a great letter you wrote. I think blogging is such a great idea. Even though it may be difficult to think that teenagers could possibly blog without doing inappropriate language but it could really make a difference and create a whole different environment.

  • valarie907 11:15 pm on August 4, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , LIBR UX, ,   

    Library Sign Revolution 

    “Stop posting signs people won’t read and start posting (pretty) signs that matter.” (Rogers, 2012)

    Apparently people don’t read signs (Rogers, 2012).  So, why do libraries rely on them so much?  Signs provide information and libraries are in the business of information…coincidence?  I don’t think so.  Libraries have a lot of information to share, and good signage can reduce the redundancy of frequently asked questions and difficulties in order to improve the usefulness, usability and desirability of the library and its offerings.

    I chose to redo library signs that I noticed were not working during my observations for the context analysis assignment.  If it doesn’t work, then it’s time to rethink solutions figure out what will.  I used principles from Schmidt (2011), Williams (2004), and Roberts (2012), to guide my re-designs of the following signs.


    Entryway Sign

    Original entryway queit poster

    Original entryway poster  (Sorry for the reflection…but it proves another challenge for putting up good signs!)

    For the most part, people tend to be fairly quiet in the library, but the entryway ceiling opens to the second floor where the library is located.  Unbeknownst to many, voices carry loud and clear.  The informational sign posted doesn’t seem to catch people’s attention, as noted during an observation for the context inquiry assignment in which a young woman came in and continued her phone conversation even though she came through the door where the sign is posted.  The image is cute, but it looks childish, so it might grab the attention of kids or parents, but others might ignore it.  The attention grabbing text in red does not offer the most important piece of information and the centering takes away from the readability.

    Voices Carry

    Entryway poster revolutionized

    I looked for an image that was more generalizable to everyone, and came across this Creative Commons image on Flickr which appeals to me because it’s a dramatic black and white image and is off center.  The young woman is attractive in a youthful way that many people can identify with, and she doesn’t look like she’s judging anyone.  Plus, she’s looking up, as in upstairs.  This image communicated the need for quiet, so I didn’t have to spell it out, thereby freeing up space to play with.  I based my choice of words on what might actually be said to warn someone, as in “Psst, voices carry…they can hear you upstairs.”

    Contrast:  The image provided a great deal of the contrast.  It was serendipity that the image didn’t quite fill the page, leaving a white band on the top and bottom, so I centered it and filled the background with black to give it further contrast and sophistication.  I used large red text for the main message to grab people’s attention as suggested by Williams (2004).  I chose the font based on readability at a distance, by zooming out to see if it can still be read.  I added a shadow to the text to improve the readability by adding additional contrast since it was on top of the grey part of the image.

    Repetition:  The black band on top is repeated on the bottom.  Though I played with a lot of fonts, this sign had so little text on it; I decided to use the same font for all the elements, just in different ways.

    Alignment:  I set most of the text on the left to accent the image, except for the attribution URL.  I spread out the name of the library in the bottom band making it easier to read in a small font size, and wondered if it clashed too much with the plain text of the URL, but decided to keep it…I’m still not sure if I should have done that.  The JPG image isn’t as clear as the PPT or PDF, so it stands out better in the actual document.

    Proximity:  The two lines of text are close together, so that when the eye is drawn to the red text, the person will easily follow through and read the white text.  I placed the attribution URL for the image below the image in a small font size to the right because I wanted the eye to continue to drop to the library’s name after reading the main message.

    Printer Sign

    Original printer sign

    Original printer sign

    This sign isn’t working either.  It’s taped to the front and side of the printer, but people using the printer aren’t reading it.  During my context analysis, I watched a young man collect his printed items in confusion, looking from back to front over and over.  He checked with the front desk to figure out what happened, and stated that he was confused as he walked away…still looking perplexed.  I imagine this must happen frequently.

    Besides not catching people’s attention, the words, re-used paper, are split between two lines, and even I made the mistake of thinking re-cycled paper, which had a totally different meaning.  It’s too text heavy and the centering makes it hard to read or make sense of at a glance.


    Mini printer sign revolutionized  (or better yet, this one!)

    My solution is two-part.  First, I made a small sign to place on the printer, and then, using the same image to link the two, I made a poster to place next to the printer to grab people’s attention.  I chose the image because it had the familiar recycle symbol on it and the extra lines around it gave it the feeling of motion, which I thought was a good association for a printer.  I decided not to use either of the two logos for the library since they clashed with the overall design, didn’t look good if made very small, but I thought it was important for the name of the library to be included to give it some formality and gave it a wide spacing so it stands out and is easy to read as I did in the last poster.

    Printer poster revolution

    Printer poster revolutionized  (or better yet, this one!)

    Contrast:  The large title in bold stands out as the focus point in contrast to the bright blue and green recycle image.  I took a bit of a chance using a slab serif for the title, but it was the large contrasting focus piece, so I thought I could get away with it here.

    Repetition:  I used the same font for all but the large title.  The bright blue color is repeated throughout the design.  The arrows in the recycle logo are repeated in the bullet points in the same color.  I also used the same fonts for the Entryway poster, including the name of the library, which was set with wide spacing to help it stand out.

    Alignment:  The different sizes, contrasts and colors of the elements provided plenty of variety, so I used a right side alignment throughout for a distinct, simple and readable design.  I also made an effort not to space all the elements out evenly.

    Proximity:  The name of the library was placed above the title, to emphasize whose printer and sign these belong to.  This prevents having to repeat this information to clarify who to see in the last bullet point.  The details about the paper used and cost is together in one block element.

    I kept fiddling with the designs, trying this and that, getting a little lost in all the details.  It was particularly helpful to walk away from it for a bit and look at it again later, but sometimes, it just has to be good enough.  The best part is that all this experience adds up and I can get better at this.  *edit  In fact, I was struck by an idea while double checking the layout for this post and came up with a mini sign (JPG) and a large sign (PDF), that looks better.

    Sometimes a library is limited by its resources, and I was hoping that I could use software that was fairly common to make a decent sign.  I chose PowerPoint, and was pretty pleased with how it worked, although I need to purchase more fonts.  It’s probably a good idea to embed the fonts in the saved document, though, so others can view and edit in case they don’t have that font.  The most challenging aspect was the alignment, since a text box alignment was not equal to the actual text.  Sometimes a local printer won’t do a design justice, so it may be worth the effort of taking it to a copier for a more professional print if it will be around for a while.


    Roberts, J. (2012). Signs that work, part 2. Event and informational signage. Retrieved from http://jrdesignstrategies.com/environmental-design/1459/

    Schmidt, A. (2011). Signs of good design: The user experience. Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2011/02/opinion/aaron-schmidt/signs-of-good-design-the-user-experience/

    Williams, R. (2004). The non-designer’s design book: Design and typographic principles for the visual novice. Berkeley, CA: Peachpit Press.

    Also, for inspiration, check out this blog:  Library Graphic Design



    • johnpappas 2:57 pm on August 5, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      I love the first one! It seems almost foreboding. I like a little humor in a library’s signage.

      • valarie907 4:31 pm on August 5, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks John!
        I really like how it turned out too. To be honest, I think I could have found a better image for the printer signs…I should have kept looking. I guess that’s the difference between having to find something (free) that works versus being able to design my own image. I wonder where the pros find theirs?

    • Aaron Schmidt 8:30 am on August 12, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Great signs!

      And to answer your question: professionals often make their own graphics.

  • valarie907 10:57 pm on July 28, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , LIBR UX   

    Contextual Inquiry at the Library 

    “Contextual Inquiry is a form of fly-on-the-wall user research where users are observed in their own environment.”  (Clearleft, n.d.)

    Contextual inquiry is an ethnographic research method that is based on Contextual Design (Wikipedia, 2012).  Contextual Design is a user-centered design process based on theories from anthropology, psychology, and design, for commercial design teams to collect, interpret and consolidate data about users in the field to understand user’s fundamental intents, desires, and drives in order to create and prototype products and services, and iteratively test and refine those products and services (Holtzblatt & Beyer, 2013).  Contextual design was primarily used to understand work practices, and Holtzblatt & Beyer (2013) point out that the only way to understand users is to go out in the field and observe and talk with people in their natural context, their workplace.

    This concept has been adapted in the UX community to provide a methodology for gathering data about users in other contexts, including the library profession in both physical and online spaces (Eriksson, Krogh & Lykke-Olesen, 2007, Holtzblatt & Beyer, 2013, Schmidt, 2011).

    For this assignment, we had record our unbiased observations of users in a library context.  I observed the library entrance from the inside, and the library front desk area for about 20 minutes each.  My observation notes may be viewed in the previous post.

    The main take-aways from my observations at the entrance was that the bulletin board in the entry way is important since so many people glanced or stopped to look at it, making it an important feature of the library.  Also, though it was only recorded briefly, I’ve experienced problems and have observed other people having problems with the entryway mat.  It needs to be resolved once and for all since it is not easily and directly observable to the library staff to help with it when necessary.

    My observations at the front desk area demonstrated how efficient and familiar the librarian is with the patrons and knows what questions to ask when a patron is not recognized.  From the patron’s perspective, using recycled paper at the printer is a great idea, but needs to be made more obvious.  But, from the librarian’s perspective, it was easy to see how difficult it was to try to get anything done with all the interruptions, so some work space strategies to improve productivity with all the interruptions would be worth problem-solving (I’m sure it’s something that is addressed).

    Recording the library patron’s activity for this exercise forced me suspend judgment and focus exclusively on the patron’s actions.  This revealed important behavior patterns that would be helpful in future planning to improve the user experience in the library.  While I suspect a consistent methodology would be significant, this type of exercise could be valuable for all library staff to participate in to provide them with the knowledge and experience in observation to contribute to an open and flexible library environment focused on meeting both staff and patron needs.  Staff could easily be trained to record and share observations, on a prefabricated form to make it easy to fill out and share with administrators.  Sharing the observations will make the most of their efforts (Schmidt, 2011).


    Clearleft. (n.d.). Contextual inquiry. Retrieved from http://clearleft.com/does/contextual-inquiry

    Eriksson, E., Krogh, P. G., Lykke-Olesen, A. (2007). Inquiry into libraries: A design approach to children’s interactive library. Retrieved from http://www.nordes.org/opj/index.php/n13/article/view/164

    Holtzblatt, K. & Beyer, H. (2013). Contextual Design. In: Soegaard, Mads and Dam, Rikke Friis (eds.), The Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction, 2nd Ed.. Aarhus, Denmark: The Interaction Design Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.interaction-design.org/encyclopedia/contextual_design.html

    Schmidt, A. (2011). Getting to know your patrons: The user experience. Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2011/06/opinion/aaron-schmidt/getting-to-know-your-patrons-the-user-experience/

    Wikipedia. (2012). Contextual inquiry. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contextual_inquiry


    PS…here’s a great research article that uses cooperative inquiry:

    Druin,A. (2011). Children as codesigners of new technologies: Valuing the imagination to transform what is possible. New Directions for Youth Development, 2010(128), p 35-43. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/yd.373/abstract

    • valarie907 4:23 pm on July 29, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      I just realized I forgot to add another issue with the entrance besides the mat is that noise carries up into the library, which is on the second floor, due to a large opening in the ceiling. An 8.5X11 notice is posted on one of the entryway doors, but not everyone sees it, so people often enter talking loudly or are on their phones when they come in, not realizing people upstairs can hear them. Outside of the little poster, I’m not sure what else could be done to address this problem. Any ideas?

    • Aaron Schmidt 7:07 pm on August 2, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Ooo – thanks again for the new to me article!

      Regarding the problem you mention..hmm..I don’t know. Fill in the ceiling with more floorspace??

      • valarie907 12:43 am on August 3, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        Yay! I love it when teachers are learners too! =)

        Yeah, I understand the strategy to create an open area in the entryway with a high ceiling, and keeping it open probably seemed like a great idea at the time, but it’s also a loss of floor space. Beyond signage, I’m not sure what they will do about it.

  • valarie907 10:30 pm on July 28, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , LIBR UX,   

    Contextual Inquiry: Library Observation Notes 

    SCLM entryway

    SCLM entryway

    Library Museum Entrance

    • one male person leaving. greeting an incoming individual
    • incoming individual going upstairs to the library with a tote
    • two young girls leaving the library after a few minutes
    • one empty handed young boy leaving the library, door gets stuck on the mat, so the boy pushes it shut
    • young man with backpack leaves the museum via the stairs
    • older gentleman comes to fix the mat
    • young man with baby in the back pack enters and goes upstairs to the library
    • woman enters on her cell phone and sits next to me, perhaps unaware that her voice will carry upstairs through the open ceiling to the library.  Goes into entry way to talk freely/privately.
    • worker enters building goes into museum briefly and goes upstairs to the library
    • young woman with keys comes downstairs to exit the library with books
    • older couple leave the library with e-reader in hand
    • older woman enters
    • young man with back pack leaves
    • young woman with Trader Joes sling tote leaves
    • woman on the phone enters the library and goes upstairs
    • young woman with bag goes up into the library
    • empty handed man goes down the stairs to leave the library (newspaper in back pocket)
    • young man enters the library with canteen and enters bathroom
    • young woman enters with man, with phones and goes upstairs
    • man enters with dvds and goes upstairs
    • man enters, pauses to look at the notices in the entry way and proceeds into the bathroom
    • young couple walks in with backpacks, woman goes upstairs, man stops at the water fountain
    • older man comes downstairs looks at the dedication tiles and leaves the building
    • man with dvds comes down and leaves with more dvds
    • young mom and daughter enter building and go upstairs
    • man with canteen leaves the building after visiting the bathroom
    • young couple with phones leave with a book and tote.
    • man enters, stops to read the notices in the entry way and checks out the dedication tiles and goes upstairs
    • woman leaves the museum with backpack and saunters outside to fix her shoes (walking)
    • woman leaves the museum, with the other woman, takes a picture and they talk before leaving (deciding where to go next, maybe)
    • woman with dvds comes downstairs and reads the notices before leaving the building
    • older woman with small bag enters building and goes upstairs
    • older couple leave the museum, ponder for a moment and go further in the building to use the restrooms
    • man enters to refill brochures located down the hall in the entryway
    • young man with canteen enters empty handed and goes upstairs
    • young woman and girl go down stair
    • young woman with backpack leaves
    • young man without canteen leaves with plastic container
    • young man with backpack leaves with purpose
    • older couple who use the bathroom leave, man glances at notices, woman leads way out

    (front desk photo)*(I’ll have to get another one…)

    Library Museum Front Desk Area

    • young man with back pack approaches to request a computer, was asked if he used them before to which he nodded yes and was given a pass.  He went directly to the computer
    • person approached the unmanned counter (librarian could watch the front area through an open window in the back work space), teen girl approaches, librarian moves to front counter, girl asks for a computer and is given a pass.
    • young woman approaches counter and leaves an item and is told “thanks”
    • man approaches counter and waits to check out an item.  Places items and receipt in backpack and leaves.
    • young woman approaches to ask about mail drop boxes around town, librarian offers information, but cannot confirm where all PO drop boxes are around town.  Young woman says thank you and goes back to her chair.
    • librarian goes behind the window, older man approaches  window behind the counter to ask a question, librarian meets man behind counter and moves back out to answer his question about where he can find used books in town.  He goes back into the library.
    • printer begins printing, a young man approaches printer, waits a moment while papers print, then looks curiously at the papers from front to back.  Looks to the front counter to get librarians attention while she helps another patron who just arrived. Approaches counter questioning why there is other printed material on his papers to find out that the library uses recycled paper, and it is 25 cents to print on blank paper.  He walks away saying he was confused.  (note: a small orange sign is taped to the computer explaining this in front of the printer and on the side)
    • young woman approaches counter (in the middle of the previous event) to request a computer (the one I was sitting at, so I moved).  Was given a pass, sat down, then disappeared for about 6 minutes while logged in.
    • young man approaches counter to request a computer, is asked if some sort of difference in the mouse is okay, to which he replies “yes,” gets pass and goes to the computer.
    • a student helper informs librarian about finding a loose dvd on the shelf, so she investigates where it may have come from.

    *I couldn’t add my photos, so I’ll see if I can do it later.

    • kelsey.smith 4:49 pm on July 29, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      I like that the patrons can print for free on recycled paper! That would be frustrating, however, if they didn’t see the sign then printed important documents on scrap paper…but it seems that the library has appropriate signs and notifications.

      • valarie907 12:37 am on August 3, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        I liked that idea too, but the confusion on the young man’s face said it all…better signage! I got a couple of ideas for our next assignment from this one. =)

    • mikelarson 6:05 pm on August 11, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Nice job of scripting your observations. I like your writing style. Ever consider getting a book out? 🙂 -Mike

  • valarie907 11:33 pm on July 21, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: LIBR UX,   

    Service Safari Worksheet #2 

    photo by Ian Gowen via Flickr CC

    photo by Ian Gowen via Flickr CC  (not a photo of my computer lab)

    This second worksheet was adapted from the first one so that it could be used with young library users to offer feedback on their library experiences.  The following scenario is based on what our students need to do in order to use a computer during open library.  Last year was the first time we had open library during the lunch/recess hour for the whole school.  About 40 kids on average attend, but there are only 14 computers available, so students are often anxious to get in line to get one.

    Service Safari Worksheet 2

    1. Identify the goal.
    2. Did you achieve the goal?
    3. Was the experience positive or negative?
    4. Was anything confusing or frustrating?
    5. What was good or worked well?
    6. What was bad or didn’t work well?
    7. Did you interact with anyone?
    8. Describe the customer service.

    Getting a Computer During Open Library

    1.  Identify the goal. 

    I want to get a computer during Open Library

    2.  Did you achieve the goal?


    3.  Was the experience positive or negative?

    It’s great when I get a computer and a bummer when I don’t.

    4.  Was anything confusing or frustrating?

    Sometimes I forget to get in the right line, or someone cuts in front of me.  It’s frustrating when I don’t get in line soon enough because my class is slow.

    5.  What was good or worked well?

    We can see if any computers are open by checking the poster for any big red dots.  If there’s a dot, a computer is available.

    6.  What was bad or didn’t work well?

    Other kids push and shove, so sometimes we have to line up again and start over without any pushing.

    7.  Did anyone help or work with you?

    The librarian watches us and lets us in.  We go to her if we need help.

    8.  Describe your experience.

    It’s nice if I get a computer, but it’s not really fair the same people get the computers over and over.

    I was aware that the set up for free time with limited computers in the library would be problematic.  We brainstormed a variety ways to make it a positive activity and to keep it as simple as possible.  The best idea was making the poster with the big red dots to give the students a visual cue if a computer was available or not.  Whenever an issue came up, I’d engage the students in problem solving so they could be a part of the solution (they often had good ideas and suggestions!).  These simple service safari sheets may be a great way to solicit feedback to improve our offerings.


    Schmidt, A. (2012). Stepping out of the library: The user experience. The Library Journal. Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2012/03/opinion/aaron-schmidt/stepping-out-of-the-library-the-user-experience/



    • mikelarson 5:59 pm on August 11, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      A nice job regarding a tough group to gauge. You did well at meeting them at their level. -Mike

  • valarie907 11:01 pm on July 21, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: LIBR UX,   

    Library Service Safari #1 

    photo by ...love Maegan via Flickr

    photo by …love Maegan via Flickr


    The way the week worked out, I was not able to do an actual library service safari, so these are simulated safaris based on previous experiences.

    1. What was the goal of this service and was it met?
    2. Was this experience overall positive or negative?
    3. What was good about the service?
    4. What detracted from the experience?
    5. With whom did you interact?
    6. Were you confused at any time during the experience?
    7. Describe the physical space.
    8. Describe the customer service.

    The way the week worked out, I was not able to do an actual library service safari, so these are simulated safaris based on previous experiences.

    Paying My Library Fee Safari

    No matter how often we tell our students the policy on lost books, they still seem uncertain what to do.  So, I’m simulating what it would be like to have a lost book fee to pay.  Generally it is a negative experience, but requesting feedback using a service safari worksheet would be a great way to make it less unpleasant.

    1.  What was the goal of this service and was it met?

    I lost my library book and needed to pay for it.  Yes, I paid my bill.

    2.  Was this experience overall positive or negative?

    Mostly negative, except for the bookmark the librarian gave me.

    3.  What was good about the service?

    I got a receipt to show I paid for the book.

    4.  What detracted from the experience?

    I wasn’t sure when I would be able to pay for the book.

    5.  With whom did you interact?

    The school librarian.

    6.  Were you confused at any time during the experience?

    I wasn’t sure where to go to pay for the lost book or who to talk to about it.  The secretary told me to check the library.  I wondered what happens if I find the book, but the librarian told me I’ll get a refund if it’s found.

    7.  Describe the physical space.

    The school library has a long front counter with a computer that the librarian sits behind.

    8.  Describe the customer service.

    I didn’t know I lost a book until I got an email notice for it.  I thought I turned it in, but the librarian and I didn’t find it in the library when we checked the library shelves.  I had to look for the librarian so I could pay my fee, but when I found her, I was able to pay and get a receipt.  She gave me a bookmark for paying for the book I lost.

    See Service Safari Worksheet 2 for the rest of the assignment.

  • valarie907 10:43 pm on July 21, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: journey map, LIBR UX,   

    Library Journey Maps 

    Not a Postal Box! by M. Gifford via Flickr CC

    photo by M. Gifford via Flickr CC  (this it isn’t the dropbox at my library)

    Library programming often gets a lot of attention, but everyday tasks have the potential be frustrating and hinder library experiences.  These tasks can include everything between getting to the library, parking, entering the library, locating items to leaving the library and everything in between.  Mapping out common events is a great way to identify pain points and improve how patrons accomplish library tasks and goals.

    Realistic Journey Map:  Returning a DVD after hours

    I’m usually in a rush and often run as many errands as I can after hours.  This scenario happens a lot to me.

    1. Prepare items to return to the library
    2. Drive to the library
    3. Park on the side
    4. Get out of car and run around to the drop box
    5. Put items in dropbox…but, wait, this one is a DVD, which says Do Not Put in the Dropbox.  Bummer.
    6. Take it home, to try to remember to return it the next day and hopefully avoid accruing late fees.

    Not being able to return DVDs is a major painpoint for people who are strapped for time or need to return their items after hours.  I can go to the library when it is open, but the limited hours from 11 am – 6 pm prevents people who work during those hours from using the library features that are not available after hours.

    Realistic Journey Map:  Returning a DVD after hours

    1. Prepare items to return to the library
    2. Drive to the library
    3. Park on the side
    4. Get out of car and run around to the drop box
    5. Put items in dropbox, including DVDs because we can now leave them in the dropbox

    The solution is simple…allow people to return their DVDs in the dropbox…which may or may not happen.  What I can do is to conduct a journey map project for my library so we can address the painpoints and streamline services for our library patrons.


    Schmidt, A. (2012). Stepping out of the library: The user experience. The Library Journal. Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2012/03/opinion/aaron-schmidt/stepping-out-of-the-library-the-user-experience/


    • pmartin 5:10 am on July 22, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      I wonder if the library doesn’t want DVDs in the drop box because they get damaged. I think I’d put them through the slot anyways, but maybe with an elastic band around the case so it doesn’t open. Good drop boxes have a “spring-loaded” landing surface that accommodates load and prevents huge drops to the bottom.

      • valarie907 10:29 pm on July 25, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks for your comment, Pam! I think that was the initial reason for the policy…especially when the temperature drops in the winter. What I probably didn’t clarify is that the dropbox is no longer outside and I don’t think the risk of damage is all that great anymore with the new internal drop. I could be wrong…I’ll ask someday. While writing the post, the thought occurred to me that it would be nice to have another dropbox in town…somewhere convenient for people who don’t want to come all the way into town, but I would think that people would have to be able to drop off all items for it to work.

  • valarie907 11:18 pm on July 14, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , LIBR UX, persona   

    Creating Library Personas 

    Persona by Agonic via Flickr

    Public Library Personas

    School Library Personas

    Personas are fictional individuals that represent the characteristics of a target group.  Libraries can create and use personas to guide decision-making in order to effectively meet their community’s needs.  I’ve seen personas, but never used them, much less created them, so this week’s assignment was new territory.

    I drew on experience and data from a library marketing project for our community library museum and my experience with our elementary school library to create two public library personas and two elementary school library personas.  It was a challenge to focus on specific details to create a realistic persona.  I kept thinking about what was missing.  Fortunately, Schmidt (2012) addresses this by suggesting that a library create five personas as the sweet spot between generic and specific.

    While brainstorming I realized I unintentionally chose similar personas for each library type.  Two thoughts came out of this.  First, I realized that one really needs (informed) input from others to create realistic personas.  Second, I could continue with these similar personas and explore how they might differ for each library type.  I was fascinated how they might differ, so I have a young child persona and a middle age adult persona for both the school library and the public library.  The characteristics of the users are quite similar, but their usage of the library is quite different, so the answers to any questions about their wants, needs, and goals differed considerably.

    These sources were especially helpful in creating these personas:

    I’m grateful for Mr. Schmidt’s article about personas, because there simply are not many out there.  Did I say many?  I meant any…I couldn’t find any other library articles about personas (please share if you did!).  The Learning Space Toolkit:  Creating Personas Workshop Tool (n.d.) offered valuable directions. The first step was to identify assumptions about library users.  This was essential before moving on to step two to ditch those assumptions and neat little categories we place users in, and identify their goals according to their wants and needs.  Writing them on sticky notes is a great idea to prepare for step three, when it’s time to organize these goals by theme, to create a “skeleton.”  Step four transforms that skeleton into a persona to sum up a user’s primary needs.

    There were plenty of business and marketing articles about personas.  Coming across so many business references to personas lead me to back to a question that continues to grow as I progress through the program.  Should we apply a business model to libraries?

    For the most part, libraries are nonprofit institutions, but there seems to be a rise in operating them like a business, yet a business model changes expectation for management and operations, like raising an expectation they need to generate revenue.  Having taken Managing IT in the 21st Century, Marketing of Library & Info Services, and a 10 week Small Business Workshop last semester, I’m still seeking balance between nonprofit and business approaches to libraries.  I wonder if creating personas to build library programs and services encourages libraries to generalize too much and market to the masses.  Are you concerned about these issues?  Please share your thoughts and ideas…


    Learning Space Toolkit. (n.d.) Creating personas workshop toolkit.  Retrieved from http://learningspacetoolkit.org/needs-assessment/working-with-data/creating-personas-workshop-tool/

    Schmidt, A. (2012). Persona guidance: The user experience. Library Journal. Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2012/10/opinion/aaron-schmidt/persona-guidance-the-user-experience/

    PS.  I got the names I used from Popular Baby Names.

    • pmartin 7:02 am on July 15, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Love, love, love the quote you chose for “Michael”: “Do I have anything checked out?” That sounds very familiar, and says so much about the user segment!

      • valarie907 12:31 pm on July 15, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        Hi Pam,
        I meant to mention in the post that I not confident about my personas because input from others is so important, but that quote was a no-brainer…I even chuckled as I wrote it. =D

    • trishalendo 9:38 pm on July 15, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      I like that you included the “About Me” section at the end of the persona. It read differently then the others, but still got all the points across. It was kind of like when you read about an author, director, or journalist after you experience their work.

      • valarie907 11:10 pm on July 15, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks! One thing I didn’t like about the NCSU Libraries sample personas was all the text…and thinking back to the writing for the web week, I decided I preferred bullet points instead. I did like their “What in my bag” section, but lacked an appropriate application that worked for the school and public library personas.

    • Aaron Schmidt 8:05 pm on July 17, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Hurrah for sticky notes.

      Glad your computer is back in action because your work is great!

  • valarie907 11:21 pm on July 7, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: environment, , LIBR UX, , staff,   

    Library Touchpoints 

    We all know the importance of first impressions.  First points of contact in libraries are important because they leave unforgettable first impressions.  There are several touchpoints that act as first points of contact which are important for giving a positive first impression to encourage library patrons to return to visit again and again.

    First Point of Contact:  The Entrance (space, signage and staff)

    Mosley (2007) suggests that some library users know exactly what they will do when entering a library, but not all do and it’s important that the library be prepared to offer a positive first impression and meet the needs of those who don’t.  While Mosley focuses on the desk nearest the front door, it also includes the experience the visitor has when approaching the library and entering the library on his/her senses:

    • Sight:  Well kept, tidy, neglected, litter, signage…?  Is it welcoming and obvious where to go?
    • Touch:  Soft carpet, wood flooring, concrete…?
    • Sounds:  Quiet, loud, echoing, talking…?
    • Smell:  Clean, mildew, body odor (big homeless issue), chemical…?
    • Taste:  Hopefully there is no taste, but strong smells, such as exhaust can be tasted.

    These physical experiences send subtle messages to the library visitor that can be pleasant or unpleasant and add to their library experience.

    Pleasant Signage

    Signage as a point of contact is important because it often reflects a less formal communication that reflects more of the personality of the library.  A sign that is sloppily put together, posted or with a negative message is not a pleasant greeting for visitors.  Signage that communicates respect and consideration towards library patrons demonstrate empathy and value for them as fellow human beings.  A TTW article (2010), complete with photo and text from Leah White demonstrates how important these messages are:  “Many library users return to libraries because there is something special that keeps them coming back. However, if you welcome them at the entrance with insulting signage, people will think twice about patronizing such an institution.” (Leah White, 2010)

    Trained Staff

    Another important part of the entrance is the staff the visitor first encounters (Mosley, 2010).  Often workers at these front counters are paraprofessionals, volunteers, or student workers.  All staff should be trained to greet visitors and to communicate verbally and nonverbally they are available to help.  They should also be trained to provide accurate directions to common questions.  An ability to empathize with the visitor’s anxiety of visiting a new place or unanswered questions is important to make this effort natural and sincere.  Training should include how to address questions they don’t know the answers too and how to follow-up with those questions.  Regardless of their professional status, any staff at the front counter represents the library and should be equipped to answer questions (Mosley, 2010).

    One More First Point of Contact:  The Library Website

    The library had traditionally been a physical space that one visited, but with the rise in internet access, the library website is often the first point of contact.  Krug (2006) gave us a lot of tools to establish usable library websites that are self-evident, easy to scan and navigate.  Creating useful, usable and desirable library offerings should be an important part of decision making to provide excellent user experience (Schmidt, 2013).  In some cases the library website may be the only point of contact when potential patrons research a community they will move to, or should a person be homebound, or if they are only interested in the offerings available through the website, such as downloadable materials or databases.  Giving the library website users the information they seek and a means to obtain more information as needed is an extension of the library’s user experience, and there are no second chances to get it right.


    The most important purpose of these touchpoints is that the patron successfully completes their mission.  If they don’t find what they need, it is unlikely they will return.  If they find what they need, this success will encourage them to return to fulfill another need, and repeated success will ensure loyalty and support.  One of the most valuable lessons in this class so far is that UX is a perpetual objective and a good library never assumes it has achieved ultimate usability…it constantly strives to adapt to and meet their community’s needs.  This sounds very subjective, but it would be worthy to assess and evaluate all library touchpoints on a regular basis.  Nicholson (2004) proposes several methods of evaluation of a library as a system rather than attempting to isolate these touchpoints and their impact on the library as a whole.



    Krug, S. (2006). Don’t make me think!: A common sense approach to Web usability. Berkeley, CA: New Riders Pub.

    Mosley, P. (2007). Assessing user interactions at the desk nearest the front door. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 47(2), 159-167.

    Nicholson, S. (2004). A conceptual framework for the holistic measurement and cumulative evaluation of library services. Journal of Documentation, 60(2), 164-182. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.libaccess.sjlibrary.org/docview/217961349?accountid=10361

    Schmidt, A. (2013). Is your library a sundial?: The user experience. The Library Journal. Retrieved from lj.libraryjournal.com/2013/03/opinion/aaron-schmidt/is-your-library-a-sundial-the-user-experience/

    White, L. (2010). Leah White on library signage.  Tame the Web. Retrieved from http://tametheweb.com/2010/07/15/leah-white-on-library-signage/ Original article at http://www.americanlibrariesmagazine.org/article/signage-better-none-bad

    • valarie907 11:23 pm on July 7, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Sorry for the late post…I was trying to add images, but I guess I had to many windows open and I had computer problems. Fortunately, my text was saved in a Word document! =)

    • pmartin 7:10 am on July 8, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Nice post, Valarie! Thanks for bringing up the “entrance” touchpoint. Have you had a chance to read any of Paco Underhill’s work on consumer behavior? In LIBR204 we touched on some of his theories about entrances. For example, according to his research, people tend to stop and then turn right upon entering a store (and, probably, libraries too).

      Mosley’s observations about smell and taste are important. A library where I worked was in a recreation facility. Every time the pool staff put new chlorine in the pool, the fumes in the library were overwhelming. We suspected that the venting was such that we were getting direct air transfer from the pool’s work room (where chlorine was being poured). To the best of my knowledge, though, the problem was never investigated, despite the fact that both staff and patrons complained about burning airways!

      • valarie907 1:08 am on July 12, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks for reminding me about Underhill, Pam!

        A book I read by Peter Block, titled Community, emphasized hospitality to build a sense of belonging and community. I think this can be communicated no matter the physical and monetary limitations many libraries are faced with and it should start with first points of contact. Pam Sandlian Smith, the director of the successful Anythink libraries spoke about hospitality in her keynote at our 2012 state conference and referenced Setting the Table by Danny Meyer, and it’s been on my to read list every since.

        The situation with the pool sounds awful. The pool at the school uses too much chlorine, so I can only imagine…I can hardly stand to be in there!

    • Aaron Schmidt 10:32 am on July 8, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for the citation to the Mosley article. I’m going to read that today!

      • valarie907 11:35 pm on July 11, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        You’re welcome! I was expecting to find other articles about first points of contact, but I probably need to do a better search to find more.

    • jodythomas 11:32 am on July 13, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      The smell issue is an interesting one. I recently came across a trivia point that Disneyland pumps the faint smell of vanilla out onto Main Street to evoke that old-fashioned homey feel/memory. My library is older and does have the “library smell” of faint mildew, which some people think of as nostalgic and others don’t like, for health reasons and general cleanliness issues.

      • valarie907 12:22 pm on July 15, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks Jody,
        I read an article some time back about old books releasing a smell close to vanillin. I couldn’t find it, but here’s a recent one by Pew on the smell of books. The science of “the smell of books” I don’t favor a mildewy smell, though. At Disney’s California Adventures, they use smell-o-vision on one simulated ride/movie of California and I remember smelling oranges. =)

      • valarie907 1:42 am on August 3, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        Hi Jody,
        I just came across an article that made me think of this conversation about smell: Smell Of Chocolate In Bookstores Increases Sales, Study Finds

        Chocolate and vanillin (lignin) sounds good to me! =)

  • valarie907 9:07 pm on July 7, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , LIBR UX, problem solving   

    5 Whys: Problem Solving for Libraries 

    Solving library problems using the 5 Whys technique.  It was a challenge to narrow down the following problems to a single root cause, but it was an interesting way to explore a problem.


    Library Problem 1:  Items borrowed from the library are not returned to the drop off location

    Why 1

    Why is it difficult for people know where to return items to the library?

    Because they forget where to return their items.

    Why 2

    Why don’t they know where to return items?

    Because there is no sign for the book drop.

    Why 3

    Why isn’t there signage for the book drop?

    Because one has not been made to use for the traditional book drop space (counter).

    Why 4

    Why hasn’t a sign been made?

    Because there is not good place to put it.

    Why 5

    Why has there been no action taken to create a book drop sign or alternative place to leave items?

    Because traditional behaviors have prevented problem solving to set up a proper book drop.

    Comments:  This is a sad but true problem in our school library, which has been on my mind for some time.  We need to designate a space for the book drop, so our students and staff can be confident their borrowed items are returned to the library.  Since signage seems to offer an inadequate solution in the traditional space on a counter that gets a lot of usage, we need to rethink our traditions and assumptions to solve this problem.  This exercise has me thinking, and I have a few ideas we can explore.


    Library Problem 2:  Patrons viewing sexually explicit material in the library may expose other patrons to lewd and inappropriate behavior in the library.  (I think this may be too big for this exercise, but I wanted to give it a go anyway.)

    Why 1

    Why are patrons viewing sexually explicit material in the library?

    Because access to unfiltered wifi in the library allows library patrons to view anything on the internet.

    Why 2

    Why doesn’t the library filter it’s wifi to prevent access to sexually explicit content

    Because the library upholds First Amendment rights for intellectual freedom and uncensored access for all.

    Why 3

    Why is access to sexually explicit content leading to lewd and inappropriate behavior?

    Because rules and expectations for appropriate behavior in a public space are not being followed.

    Why 4

    Why don’t these patrons follow the rules?

    Because they don’t care.

    Why 5

    Why don’t they care?

    Because they don’t have self-control.

    Comments:  Protecting First Amendment rights along with the safety of other’s is a challenge when it comes to access to pornography in the library and the behaviors it sometimes results in.  Yes, you know what I’m talking about.  This is where theory meets practice.  It makes me appreciate the San Francisco Public Library’s Open Access Policy FAQs.

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