Friday, May 12, 2006

Changes in the Zeitgeist?

Yesterday, I did a 45-minute version of the Perceptions Report presentation titled "The User Driven Library" at the SOLINET Annual Members Meeting in Atlanta. The second last slide in the presentation made some suggestions of what a "user driven library" might look like:
  • Clean, uncluttered, well-lit facilities
  • Self-directed service
  • "Free range" learning
  • Education, not just information
  • Listening, not just hearing
  • Acting, not just planning
In the Q and A session at the end, someone suggested that many librarians are already doing a lot of these things, and so I asked for a show of hands on whether people were, say, conscientiously weeding appropriate collections to make them more attractive and accessible, or recreating reference services to get away from place-bound or desk-bound service. About two-thirds of the audience said yes to the first question, and about half said yes to the second. There was somewhat less agreement when I asked if people were reformulating their budgets and facilities to support independent learning with more public programming or group study space.

When we first started talking about the environmental scan and then the Perceptions report, there was a lot of pushback about some of the ideas, especially the ones around self-service and rethinking user expectations. Have we started to reach a tipping point? Have enough libraries started to go down this path that we can start to see some real progress? What's your experience in this?


Scott said...

I think many libraries have started implementing user-centered changes - if its not a tipping point yet it's certainly a strong trend! :-)

But due to many factors - lack of money and the difficulty in turning bureaucratic structures on a dime being two of the largest - most libraries are having to implement these changes a bit at a time.

stevenb said...

I see some parallels between your observations and what I see at the Blended Librarians community. That is, we talk about blended librarianship - and discuss what it is and isn't - and librarians will still say "Yes, I'm a blended librarian" because they see themselves as multitaskers - they wear a number of different hats on the job - but they really have not integrated instructional design and technology skills into what they do - which is the core quality of blended librarianship. In the same way, you've got a crowd that says " yes we are already user-centered" but I really doubt that is the case. I've been studying the "Age of User Experience" recently and I think we have a long way to go in understanding what a user experience is and how to provide one. Some of your "user driven library" list is similar to a list of the "library user experience" that I developed for a talk a few weeks back in Ohio. For example, "make it local (customize for what your users need", etc. But these that developments that have to be designed into our overall operation, and I think that librarians still have a lot to learn about designed good user experiences - which goes beyond the design of a building interior - which is where our energies often seem focused.