LJ Index of Public Library Service 2015 The Star Libraries All the Stars, State by State Do-It-Yourself Projects with LJ Index Data E-Circ Not Ready for Prime Time Understanding Star Status Shifts Find Your Library Every Star Library Ever Named LJ Index FAQ The LJ Index is based on four types of per capita use […]
Even for forward-thinking libraries and librarians, who operate in one of today’s most fast-changing and dynamic fields, concepts like innovation and change management may sometimes seem esoteric. If so, don’t be alarmed: Even the world’s most progressive business schools typically offer precious little training in these increasingly vital subjects. Happily for those operating on the frontlines of leadership or administration though, mastering these concepts—the art of staying ahead of the curve—doesn’t have to be a difficult process. In fact, all it often takes to get ahead and continuously go from strength to strength in today’s hyper-kinetic business world is to stay alert, stay adaptable, and stay amenable to new ideas and strategies. Flexibility is, in short, the essence of future-proofing.
In August, Harvard Library opened its User Research Center (URC), where library staff can discuss, design, and implement in-person and device-based user experience research. According to Susan Fliss, Associate University Librarian for Research, Teaching, and Learning and Director and Librarian of Monroe C. Gutman Library, this is the next step in a change in focus for Harvard’s library system. “Over the past several years, Harvard librarians and staff have been investing time in developing skills in anthropological survey design and user testing. While we had many people who were undertaking user design projects, the projects were dispersed across libraries and schools.” By creating a centralized Research Center, Fliss hopes that Amy Deschenes, Library User Experience Specialist, and Kris Markman, Online Learning Librarian, can coordinate usability efforts across all of Harvard’s libraries.
What is happiness? What makes us happy? Do libraries have the capacity to deliver a happy experience to those who use them? All good questions. The answers are elusive, but thanks to a body of research on happiness accumulated over the past quarter century we are better able to answer those questions. Librarians are increasingly expressing an interest in the design of experiences that improve how community members interact with the full range of service, resources, and staff. Think of it as the “totality” of all that the library has to offer as an experience, not just the usability of the catalog, the cleanliness of the restrooms, or the smiles on staff faces at service points. Each, no doubt, is important to the overall experience. Great library experiences are delivered at every touch point where community members connect with the library.
Libraries are all about access to information in its many forms, and librarians have a long and admirable tradition of striving to increase that access whenever they can. Several recent events have spurred me to think about real-world barriers—visible and invisible—and how seeing them in light of access to the library could influence services.
By now the concept of user experience (UX) has shown up on most librarians’ radar at some point. Whether you’ve found yourself curious about how better digital design could help your library’s traffic, you wish had a UX specialist on staff, you’re engaged by Aaron Schmidt’s The User Experience column, or you’ve considered learning more about user-centered design yourself, the chance to improve the library’s user experience is within everyone’s reach.
The Impact Survey was first used in 2009 to help gather data for the Opportunity for All study reports, conducted by the University of Washington’s iSchool with assistance from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Libraries were enlisted to connect to a web survey, the results of which were used to augment responses gathered through a telephone-based poll. To our surprise and delight, we gathered more than 45,000 survey responses in just ten weeks, with about 400 libraries participating. Even more delightful was finding that libraries were using the data from Opportunity for All as well as the reports of Impact Survey results from their own communities.