Contextually appropriateI can’t say I’m proud of my mindless act, but it did get me thinking about the very sensitive issue of appropriate behavior in libraries. I’m not going on a campaign encouraging libraries to offer showers to their patrons, but not because I think the idea is ridiculous. I actually think it is a legitimate potential service offering. That such a service would likely be useful for only a very small segment of library users is one reason why it isn’t worth pursuing. But as a theoretical concept, I find nothing inherently wrong or illogical with the idea of a library offering showers. It is simply an idea that hasn’t found many appropriate contexts. Even so, with the smallest amount of imagination I can think of contexts in which this could work. What about a multiuse facility that houses a restaurant, a gym, a coworking space, and a library? Seems like an amazing place. And don’t forget that the new central library in Helsinki, Finland—to be completed in 2017—will feature sauna facilities. These will be contextually and culturally appropriate.
Challenging assumptionsThis is about more than showers and saunas. It is about our long-held assumptions and how we react to new ideas. When we’re closed off to concepts without examining them fully, or without exploring the frameworks in which they exist, we’re unlikely truly to innovate or create any radically meaningful experiences. When evaluating new initiatives, we should consider the library less and our communities more. Without this sort of thinking, we’d have never realized libraries with popular materials, web access, and instructional classes, let alone cafés, gaming nights, and public health nurses. Learning about our contexts—our communities—takes more than facilitating surveys and leading focus groups. After all, those techniques put less emphasis on people and more on their opinions. Even though extra work is required, the techniques aren’t mysterious. There are well-established methods we can use to learn about the individuals in our areas and then design contextually appropriate programs and services. To the Grand County Public Library in Moab, my apologies for the slight transgression. I did leave the restroom in the same shape as I found it. To everyone else, if you’re in Moab, visit the library. But if you need a place to clean up in that city, try the aquatic center. It has nice pools and clean showers.
Table of contents:1. Introducing Library User Experience
1.1 What Is User Experience Design?
1.2 Why UX for Libraries?
1.3 The Trinity of Good UX
1.4 The Principles of Library User Experience Design
1.5 How to Use This Book
1.6 A Note on Terminology 2. User Research Techniques in This Book
2.1 Attitudinal and Behavioral Research
2.2 Other User Research Techniques
2.3 Additional Reading 3. Physical Space
3.1 The Library Building Is Clean and Functions as Intended
3.2 The Library Building Is Free from Clutter
3.3 Furniture Adequately Supports Member Needs
3.4 The Building Supports Diverse Behaviors
3.5 Members Have Easy Access to Power Outlets 4. Service Points
4.1 Members Readily Approach Service Desks
4.2 Service Desks Adjust to Changing Needs
4.3 Members Receive Assistance When and Where They Need It
4.4 Members Receive the Kind of Assistance They Need
4.5 Additional Reading 5. Policies and Customer Service
5.1 Your Library Has a Service Philosophy
5.2 Your Staff Members Know and Live Your Service Philosophy
5.3 There Is as Little Policy as Possible
5.4 Library Policies Empower Staff
5.5 Staff Members Are Friendly and Genuinely Want to Help
5.6 Service Is Consistent across Departments and Modalities
5.7 Service Is Consistent across the Organization 6. Signage and Wayfinding
6.1 Your Library Has a Brand Manual That Is Consistent with the Principles of Graphic Design
6.2 All Signage Uses the Same Visual Language
6.3 Different Types of Signs Are Visually Distinct
6.4 There Are as Few Signs as Possible
6.5 There Are No Paper Signs Taped to Walls, Doors, Tables, Computers, or Any Other Surfaces
6.6 Regulatory Signs Are Written in a Plain, Polite, and Friendly Manner
6.7 Library Cards Contain Useful Information and Employ the Library’s Visual Language
6.8 First-Time Visitors Can Easily Locate All Parts of the Library
6.9 Additional Reading 7. Online Presence
7.1 Members Can Easily Search for Library Items and Place Holds
7.2 Members Can Easily Accomplish Critical Tasks
7.3 The Size of Your Website Is Commensurate with the Amount of Effort You Can Devote to It
7.4 Web Content Is Engaging
7.5 Content Is Written for the Web
7.6 Website Employs Web Design Conventions
7.7 Home Page Clearly Expresses What People Can Do on Your Site
7.8 Website Is Easy to Use on All Devices
7.9 Website Employs the Library’s Visual Language
7.10 You Use Social Media in Meaningful Ways
7.11 Additional Reading 8. Using the Library
8.1 The Technology in Your Library Is Relevant, Useful, and Usable
8.2 Collections Are Relevant to Member Needs
8.3 Marketing Materials Are Relevant to Member Needs
8.4 You Merchandize Your Materials
8.5 Library Services and Programs Solve Problems
8.6 Additional Reading 9. Wrapping Up: Philosophy, Process, and Culture
9.1 Whole Library Thinking
9.2 The Design Process
9.3 Your Organizational Culture
9.4 Parting Words
- Finding library items
- Renewing library items
- Library hours and locations
- Loan periods
- How to get a library card
- Library events
- Library services
- Book reviews
- Library value calculator
- Homework help
- History of the library
- Library mission statement
- Library policy
- Library board minutes
IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WON’T COMEWhy do some libraries insist on developing website content that is not being used? There’s no doubt it would be great if library users came to our sites to read book reviews, listen to podcasts, and calculate the value that the library delivers to them. We want to be a valuable resource. We want people to trust our opinions and rely on us for guidance. But just because this would be wonderful doesn’t mean it is going to happen. We’re ever hopeful that if we advertise our websites in the right way, or create the right sort of graphic, or make the visual design more attractive, people will begin to use our content. This is pure fantasy. We need a healthy dose of reality. By living in this dream world, we’re doing ourselves and our members a disservice. It is time for us to adjust our expectations about what it means to create and maintain a library website. If we liberate ourselves from producing scads of content that no one wants, we’ll have some surplus resources. We can use this extra horsepower to achieve other library priorities that meet user needs, such as improving our catalog interfaces.
SETTING A GOOD EXAMPLEI’m not yet aware of any libraries sending out great niche newsletters; please get in touch if you’re doing so. But here are three libraries that have reduced the scope of their sites and focused on what’s important. Addison Public Library, IL
A very lean (and attractive) website. Lane Public Library, Hamilton, OH
This site’s content is quite restrained and presented in an effective, attractive manner. Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, KS
There’s still a decent amount of content on this site, but the staff have done a lot of whittling down from the previous iteration. The result is an easy-to-grasp understanding of what users can find on the site and targeted information that’s worthwhile to those interested.
NEW/OLD SPACES FOR CONTENTInstead of creating content for your website and hoping people will visit, consider delivering it to their inboxes. Email newsletters are experiencing a renaissance and for good reason. Nearly everyone uses email. And sending an email is a sure way to get something in front of someone’s eyeballs. Marketing experts have observed that people are much more likely to take action as the result of an email than a tweet. I’m not advocating spamming your users’ in-boxes with generic library information. Instead, consider creating one or two newsletters based on the interests of your community. These newsletters will not appeal to everyone, and that’s the point. Find a niche—such as cooking, gardening, or hiking—and invest your efforts in developing a relationship with the folks who are passionate about that activity. It is a lot easier and more effective to deliver value to a select group of people about a specific topic than it is to create a website that appeals to everyone. Start small, and if you’re successful and have extra time, create a newsletter for another group. Library print newsletters face the same problem as library websites. While they’re useful for providing a comprehensive look at what’s going on at a library, they’re too general for anyone to get excited about. Consider rolling your newly developed niche content into a complementary print newsletter, too.
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Random background infoThis idea is a response to the type of library-chic fetishization that Jessamyn wrote about so well here. Don’t get me wrong, I like geeky library pride stuff as much as the next librarian. But I figured: why not making something in the same vein that promotes actual libraries and encourages library use?
FACE-TO-FACE CUSTOMER SERVICEAs we are social creatures, the human interactions that happen inside of our buildings are often a make-or-break aspect of building trust. In fact, customer service is so tightly linked to trust and the overall user experience (UX), it is often the only aspect of UX that librarians consider. Genuinely friendly and helpful interactions lead people to accomplishing their goals, demonstrate respect, and tell people, “Yes, we really do care about you as a person.” Poor customer service usually diminishes even the most desirable services. Customer service also involves follow-through. Libraries must do what they say they’re going to do. This applies both to small- and large-scale claims. On the granular level, it is important that librarians carry out the tasks they promise members; reserving an item or phoning them with the answer to a reference question, for instance. On a broader level, libraries need to back up the big claims often found in mission statements. Things like “improve the quality of life for all citizens” and “provide access to the world of social and cultural ideas” can only be demonstrated through action. Simply pasting some nice words onto a web page won’t cut it. Show, don’t tell.
SHOWING YOUR PERSONALITYIt is easier to relate to a group of people than it is to a building. I’ve worked with a lot of libraries’ staffs over the years, and I don’t think I’ve met a single group that didn’t have at least a strong contingent of enthusiastic and fun employees. Letting librarians’ personalities show makes it easier for individuals to relate to—and therefore trust—the library. There are plenty of opportunities for this: displays, events, contributions in newsletters, emails, and on the web, among others. Have some fun, be yourself, and ensure that your library’s brand makes it apparent that it is an organization filled with people. Remember, being fun and engaging folks doesn’t necessarily mean you’re dumbing the library down. Only people who take themselves too seriously think that way!
MAKING PEOPLE SUCCESSFULA great way to earn loyalty is to help patrons to be successful. When it is apparent that the library has their best interests at heart, people are likely to use the library more—and advocate for it. Remember, people’s actions in a library don’t exist in a vacuum. When they check out a DVD, they’re hoping to be entertained. When they ask a reference question, they probably have a goal they’re hoping to attain. Even if that goal is a barroom bet (maybe especially so!), helping people to reach their ends is an important way to earn their trust. Would your library be a different place if you started thinking of it as an organization that works with members to accomplish goals?
WEBSITESThe content on your website, what people can accomplish using it, and its visual design all impact the level of trust people place both in the site and in your institution as a whole. A website with outdated information or poor legibility raises a red flag and leads people to believe the site is sloppy or ineffectual.
HONESTYIn “The Transparent Library: Living Out Loud” (LJ 6/1/07, p. 34), Michael Stephens and Michael Casey illustrate how transparent libraries set themselves up to build long-lasting relationships.
“Transparency and arrogance are like oil and water—the two simply don’t mix. This is a very good reason for encouraging transparency in any organization. It’s very difficult for a transparent library to lie and shy away from the truth….”If a library isn’t honest with its members, it is unlikely that a trusting relationship will form. Making it known why your organization makes the decisions it does and being forthright when it makes mistakes are effective ways to humanize your library. Engaging patrons with participatory design methods and involving them in the planning process take this idea further. The more deliberate the transparency, the better the result.
The public library in San Miguel De Allende.
Biblioteca de México “José Vasconcelos”
The National Library has a project called “City of Books” which houses the personal collections of five Mexican authors. The spaces function as part archive, part research libraries, part tribute, and part all around amazing places to be. The building also has an amazing space for the visual impaired, an inspiring general use area and a popular area for kids. Carlos Monsiváis liked cats. The art in his library reflected that.
Looks like cat hair. Totally gross.
From the collection of Jaime Garcia Terres.
A great room for meeting, talking, studying, reading, laptopping, etc… The lifted ceiling makes one feel as if they’re still outside.
Here’s the space for the visually impaired.
The art in this room is audio. Press your ear against the wall to hear a soundscape.
Section for visually impaired children.
Okay, not libraries, but two museums. First, the Museo Rufino Tamayo.
This wasn’t even an exhibit in El Chopo. Just some amazing storage organization!
And in the bookstore: To read is a pleasure.
Previous Mexican Library content on Walking Paper
$8 for 3
$25 for 10
(plus some modest shipping charges!)