Library User Experiences Are About More Than the Website And Building

It’s always good to come across projects involving libraries that may provide good examples of the benefits of design thinking for better library user experiences. Michael Magoolaghan, an information architect with the Vanguard Group, writes that he first got involved in a library experience design project when as a trustee for a small public library he and other board members realized both the library facility and its website needed overhauls. He writes that one of his first major realizations about the project was that it was about more than just making the library look good:

As it turns out, I soon found myself engaged with one of the major challenges facing small public libraries today: rethinking the user experience to help bridge the digital and physical realms while enabling library administrators to better respond to patrons’ changing needs.

A good observation to be sure but I wonder if someone who is a public library trustee will have a sufficient grasp of the totality of the library user experience. A good decision by Magoolaghan is to go back and study Maya Design’s work-practice study at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (a featured case student in Academic Librarianship by Design). Further analysis leads him to state that”

The problem with proceeding along separate tracks, however, was that we risked developing two distinct, uncoordinated user experiences. As the board assessed the work submitted by the building consultant and architect on the one hand and the Drexel students on the other, we gradually realized that we needed to approach these two projects in a more coordinated way. In short, we needed to redesign not just the building and website, but the end-to-end library experience.

So he realizes that the library user experience isn’t just focused on the website or the building, but that when you start talking to the community – users and non-users alike – it really starts to broaden the understanding of what the library can really accomplish and what it needs to do to set the stage for the experience that moves the library forward. So what’s next in this user experience design project? According to Magoolaghan:

Once the board and architect settle on a preferred approach to the building renovation, we’ll begin working with a graphic designer to develop a branding strategy, integrate the physical and online wayfinding systems and (most importantly) design the materials for our fundraising program. ..If they can keep the end-to-end user experience in focus, I have no doubt that small libraries will weather the storm and remain a vital part of our communities for decades to come.

I like that he describes it as an “end-to-end user experience” because that points to the totality of the user experience. It’s not just about the website or building, he comes to understand, but that users want an an overall experience at all library touchpoints. So take a look at this article. I think you will notice, if you’ve read it previously, that the author draws on the Maya Design activity – and he makes no secret of that. Maya’s work on that project still inspires others involved in redesigning this library

Author: StevenB

Steven Bell is currently Associate University Librarian for Research and Instructional Services at Temple University, and was previously Director of the Library at Philadelphia University. Steven is the author of two regular columns published by Library Journal, From the Bell Tower and Leading From the Library. With John Shank he is co-founder of the Blended Librarians Online Learning Community. Bell and Shank are also authors of the book Academic Librarianship by Design. Bell's latest book is Crucible Moments: Inspiring Library Leadership. More information is found at his website.

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