July 26, 2017

Library UX in Practice | The User Experience

Aaron SchmidtThe Southeast Florida Library Information Network (SEFLIN) is diving deep into library user experience (UX), and the organization’s member libraries are reaping the benefits.

SEFLIN recently created an application for member libraries to propose UX projects. Six libraries were selected—a mix of public and academic institutions—and I’ll be working with them in 2015. Spending a day together in January, we talked about aspirations along with library UX challenges, opportunities, and techniques. In subsequent days I met with the UX teams individually at their libraries so we could further discuss and refine their project ideas.

Different libraries have many distinct qualities, but many also share common UX concerns. So here are the UX projects that SEFLIN libraries will be taking on in Q1 of 2015. Perhaps you’ll see a project that sparks some inspiration.

Entrance makeover

The Problem: One very stately SEFLIN library aims to excel at customer service, but the library’s leaders are displeased that the entrance to their building isn’t quite as inviting as it could be. Upon entering this library, users are greeted with…not much! While the building looks pleasant enough, no staff are in view, and the library would prefer to create a welcoming entrance that connects members and staff and allows the library to demonstrate its excellent customer service.

The Plan: After going on some “service safaris,” library leaders are planning to create a prototype layout for the new entrance and implement it for a two-week period. This will help them learn what’s working and what’s not and subsequently create an improved iteration. In the end, they hope to execute a design and in the process free up their current circulation area to increase staff workroom space.

Better branding

The Problem: Initially a two-branch SEFLIN library planned to examine signage and wayfinding issues in one of its two locations. However, taking a step back, we realized that the library needed an up-to-date branding identity to help establish visual consistency between the two facilities before making other improvements.

The Plan: Developing a branding platform will help them effect strategic improvements not only in their signage but also in other print collateral materials and on the website, too. This new direction illustrates the benefits to beginning a project by asking, “Why?” to get at the root causes of problems.

Improving through removing

The Problem: One nearly 75-year-old library has amassed quite a diverse collection. There’s great, old art, a ton of books and other library materials (and the requisite stacks to house them), and less than ideal signage.

The Plan: This project will include moving a lot of the library’s artwork to the local museum, continuing to weed the collection so that the number of stacks can be reduced, and creating a sensible signage system with the aid of a professional graphic designer.

Building flow

The Problem: Many patrons of one SEFLIN library don’t know that their library has third and fourth floors! This new library is quite beautiful, but it is designed in such a way that neither the elevators nor the staircase to the upper floors are featured prominently.

The Plan: This library will recruit about 15 people and conduct walkthroughs of the building to observe how these folks accomplish (or don’t accomplish) library tasks. Staff will also record the directional questions they are asked and probably experiment with cross-staffing of desks as a result. Finally, they plan to do some sketching to reconsider the design of the entrance.

Data-driven design decisions

The Problem: One university library is beginning a long-term project by getting hard data about how its students use the facility.

The Plan: To get a comprehensive perspective on usage, both quantitative and qualitative data will be collected. This data collection will be the initial step to a larger research project that will include performing user interviews and employing other research methods with direct content. With this research the library staff will be well equipped to make good decisions about future facility and service designs.

Layout and signs

The Problem: Considering the number of directional questions librarians in this SEFLIN library receive, staff have become convinced that their ­signage program is not effective. (Sound familiar?)

The Plan: They’re going to do something radical: remove all of the signs in the library and see what happens! The results will help them to determine just what signs they need; then they’ll re­design and go from there.

This article was published in Library Journal's March 1, 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Aaron Schmidt About Aaron Schmidt

Aaron Schmidt (librarian@gmail.com) is a principal at the library user experience consultancy Influx (influx.us). He is a 2005 LJ Mover & Shaker. He writes at walkingpaper.org

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  1. Do you still illustrate?

    Please contact me
    Mike Stone
    798-308-9199