I had an interesting conversation with a faculty member last week that went something like this: “Brian, I want you to know that it’s getting harder for me to get students to use the library— especially the databases— anything beyond three clicks is just too many.”
In some disciplines this would not really shock me, but it was a historian. This is someone who is passionate about the library. This is someone who advocates for primary resources and through research. This is someone—who from what I can tell—is a very sophisticated database user.
If our super users are frustrated with database interfaces – what does that mean? Many of us spend a lot of time promoting library resources to students, but if faculty stop encouraging (or requiring) usage—what then?
The assignment is actually straightforward. Explore historical events by comparing coverage…
We’re revisiting our mission, vision, and values. It feels like we are in the early stages of a transformation—physical, virtual, philosophical, etc. This is very apparent in the types of positions that we’re hiring: Research Environments Librarian, Visual Literacy Instructor, Web Developer, and so forth. The whole concept of what we do (or what we can do) as an organization is greatly expanding as new capabilities are being added.
This summer we are exploring a big concept that I’m calling our aspirational identity. What words and images do we use internally to articulate why our library exists? What moods, feelings, and energy do we want to project outward? How can we support and amplify that Virginia Tech brand? It’s really about reframing the identity of the library and making a statement: this is who we are now. I’m drawing inspiration from The Container Store and …
What does it mean to be embedded? We have workshops, blogs, and books, but I’m not sure that we have a common definition. Perhaps it circles around the act of taking content or services outside of our traditional framework (spaces, websites) and integrating them into the natural habitat of our users?
But that feels too vague. If I provide office hours in a classroom building or if I interact with a class via the course management system— am I embedded? Technically, yes, but this is a gray area to me. There are different degrees of experiences.
The more I think about embedded librarianship, and I will confess I have not read much of the emerging conversation, the question I’m having is with depth. How engaged are we? Are we simply serving a traditional librarian role in an nontraditional environment or is there something else to it? Are we changing our context or are…
As part of an upcoming renovation we’re spending a lot of time thinking about engagement and how to stage positive and productive user experiences. I met with members of our team last week to talk about current and anticipated interactions and touch points within our library.
What’s the visual cue here?
Lauren got me thinking about visual cues. For example, does your reference desk invite people to linger-and-learn or does it promote short discussions? At VT we’re seeing fewer questions overall, but we’re investing more time per person on instructional topics. So the issue becomes: how might we reshape the “getting help experience” to signify and accommodate long conversations?
This applies to circulation too. Much of their activity consists of quick transactions: grab-and-go. But consider…
I’m a fan of Shark Tank. I’ve learned a lot from watching the panel evaluate business prospects. Thanks for making the show exciting and educational.
I wanted to share a note regarding your recent post Will Your College Go Out Of Business Before Your Graduate? There are a lot of conversations right now about where higher education is heading. I appreciate your focus on the business model aspect. As a father myself, the affordability of education is definitely on my mind too.
I’m writing because of a comment you made questioning why anyone would construct new libraries. Today, libraries are some of the busiest buildings on campuses across the country. As more and more information migrates to online platforms, library spaces are transforming into knowledge or content creation centers. They are hubs for…
I saw that there was a session at midwinter talking about focus groups. Since I won’t be there I wanted to take a few minutes and share my thoughts. I don’t have the original announcement, but I was disappointed with the phrasing. It asked something like are focus groups effective? I would prefer a conversation around how to use focus groups effectively.
I have found thematic conversations with various user (and non-user) segments to be an important component of my discovery strategy. Focus groups often get knocked because of three main things: loud people dominate the discussion, people tend to tell you what they think you want to hear, and people can’t imagine breakthrough change. Those are all legit criticisms, however, if you plan according you can neutralize those issues.
It’s an interesting visual showing how an extended slinky hovers in midair when dropped. The dramatic demonstration is followed by the scientific explanation. What’s cool about the video is that the researcher shows the raw model on the computer and talks about the experiment, but it’s the intro that grabs your attention. The demo is intriguing and compels you into wanted to learn more. It’s Matrix stuff!
Along with the video there is also a link to the pre-print of the paper providing everyone with open access to the scholarly material. It’s a great way to promote a paper.
The video has over one million views and over nine hundred comments. Granted most of the comments are silly, but the video was effective in getting people thinking and talking about…
We celebrated Open Access this week since we had Cameron Neylon (PLoS) on campus for a few days as part of our Distinguished Innovator in Residence program. I’ll have more to share about that later, but today I wanted to highlight an interesting component of our OA program: The Knowledge Drive.
Late last spring, I watched people line up to give blood at a Virginia Blood Services drive on campus. I thought about what made it to successful; VBS had advertised the need for blood, so there was awareness on campus. The drive was also convenient, since VBS took the blood drive to where potential donors were, rather than waiting for donors to come to them. Donors were also receiving items like T-shirts, flip flops, or stickers that let others know that they were contributing to a greater good.
Last week our Herman Miller rep dropped off a SPUN chair for us to try out. As soon as I saw it I had a negative reaction. It was just too silly and impractical. When you spin around in it you feel like you’re going to fall off.
The story could have ended there.
The next day I heard library staff talking about it. They had seen it in the mailroom when it arrived and in the lobby of the Dean’s Office. It was mysterious. It was unusual. It was cool. Had I missed the point?
Like any good startup I knew that we had to test the concept with potential users. We put it out on the main floor and invited students to share their thoughts on Facebook and to tag the library.
Last night we had eight students offer comments, two included photos of themselves in the chair. That’s pretty good for the second week of …
Last weekend I went to Target to do a little Mother’s Day shopping and I walked into a branded environment. I’ve written about this before for television and social media, but this example was implemented in a physical space.
Let me backup and say that renovation is in the air at Virginia Tech and I’ve been studying/observing a variety of retail experiences—from service transactions to the display of merchandise to wayfinding to in-store traffic patterns. I’ll share more in a future post, but I think that there is a lot that libraries can learn from commercial enterprise in terms of moving people through space and grabbing their interest along the way.
So Target— they recently launched The Shops. In a nutshell, they selected a handful of regional retail stores and packaged their goods (or you could say they curated their collections) and brought them into …
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is Associate Dean for Learning & Outreach at Virginia Tech. This blog is about designing better user experiences and the pursuit of use-sensitive libraries.
In his new book, Brian Mathews speaks directly to the academic library practitioner. The guiding principle, that marketing should focus on the lifestyle of the user, showcases how the library fits within the daily life of students.