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.

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