E-Boards Usage and Content Strategy

In Fall 2014, Josephine McRobbie and Andreas Orphanides conducted user interviews at the D. H. Hill Library that looked to improve content strategy and future placement of electronic billboards (e-boards) in the building. We found that e-boards could be better utilized to disseminate information to users. Currently, the biggest barriers to use are the dynamic, changing nature of content featured on the e-boards, and the selection of relevant content. Relevance was defined by users as information that would help them manage time, conduct research, complete work, use technology, learn about their community, or explore activities.

Overview

In Fall 2014, Josephine McRobbie and Andreas Orphanides conducted user interviews at the D. H. Hill Library that looked to improve content strategy and future placement of electronic billboards (e-boards) in the building. We found that e-boards could be better utilized to disseminate information to users. Currently, the biggest barriers to use are the dynamic, changing nature of content featured on the e-boards, and the selection of relevant content. Relevance was defined by users as information that would help them manage time, conduct research, complete work, use technology, learn about their community, or explore activities.

Research questions

  1. What are typical location-based needs and activities of users in D. H. Hill, and how can these be addressed by e-boards in their current locations?

  2. How long is the user’s typical interaction with each e-board space, and could does this inform content?

What we found

E-boards are underutilized.

"They're just kind of ... there.."

6 out of 7 interviewees did not mention the e-boards as a utilized source of information during the first sections of the study. When directly prompted, most participants noted that they do not utilize the boards, for a variety of reasons outlined below.

Consistently available information is important.

"I don't think I'd stand and look at everything as it's going by... it probably takes a couple of minutes to go through everything, so maybe just one thing on each screen so you can just look at each thing that you need."

"There's such a delay in trying to get the right information at the right time."

"I definitely wish we didn't have the e-boards - they move so fast. I get the fact that they're advertising but I would like to go back and see that ad."

According to users, the screens are underutilized because the screens do not show information that is consistently available (i.e., they "switch" too much between screens, with no indication when specific information will be displayed). Users indicated that they are busy and task-driven when they are in the library and they do not have time to wait for the content they need to appear on an e-board.

After a certain point in a student’s life at NCSU, the more generic "Ask Us" displays are not useful.

"Usually I am not paying that much attention to them. Because it's been a while since I've been here and I know what it's going to display, it's usually ‘ask for help’ that I kinda notice every single time …‘ask for help at the library’... every time I look at the computer it always tells me that - so it's not exactly a surprise for me."

Participants noted that the signage that promotes the Ask Us chat and in-person help, the technology lending program, and other flagship Libraries services becomes less useful over the course of a student’s life at NCSU. Feedback indicated that users quickly learn about these services via signage, staff, or peer-education during their first few months as library users, and that they do not "connect" with more generic service advertisements.

Users reported a desire for for basic "real-time" temporal information such as current time, weather, and transportation options.

"I would say if there was Transloc automatically displaying sometimes, that would be really useful. When you come to the library and log in, it takes some time, like 1 or 2 minutes and the buses don't wait that long… Display that for a continuous period of time so anybody who has to go somewhere could just come in, look at it, and go."

Content should be based on typical uses of a space.

"I usually look at these ones more because I'm standing here waiting." (regarding e-boards in elevator spaces)

"I mostly use this area to wait for people if I’m going to be honest with you." (regarding Ask Us as a physical library space)

Interviews reinforced that interactions with e-boards are dependent on the typical length of interaction with a space. Generally, the boards by the elevators and at Ask Us are prime real estate as users are often waiting at these areas. These are areas to highlight library services while there is a captive audience. Spaces like the lower lobby and the Learning Commons should be formatted for information that users can glance at without stopping, while on their way to or from a workspace.

Users learn about new spaces and services through peer-education, appreciate visual representations of spaces, and value unique NCSU- and library-specific content.

"I just found out [from friends] about the different learning rooms upstairs [in the West Wing], just finding out about all the different spaces to work was new to me." (In response to: “what is confusing about using this library?”)

"I was confused about [the purpose of the Tech Sandbox] ... until my sister told me it was a place to relax and play video games or study." (In response to: “what is confusing about using this library?”)

"[It gives me] information that I wouldn't have known about and don't have any access to." (On interest in content such as the bookBot Relay video)

Recommendations and Changes

Based on this feedback, we suggest the following changes to the D. H. Hill Library's e-board system. These are grouped as immediate, intermediate, and long-term implementations.

For immediate implementation

  • Phase out generic "Ask Us" displays after the first weeks of a new semester.
  • Include Transloc campus bus tracker on one lobby and one Learning Commons e-board at all times.
  • Program elevator e-boards to include library events, news, and curated content, along with a small amount of campus events sourced from all-campus Billboard slide group.
  • Generally, the fewer slides, the better.

For near-term implementation

  • Design a static slide that includes current time, weather conditions, library hours, and Groupfinder and daily events. This slide will live on a lower lobby e-board and a Learning Commons e-board.
  • Work with Libraries graphic designer to create slides that highlight unique tech-lending items, visuals and maps of workspaces within Hill.
  • Adapt unique library content (bookBot Poetry, Data Views, etc.) for e-boards.

For long-term implementation

  • Once content has been fine-tuned, if there are still screens containing extraneous content, consider reducing the number of e-boards to a manageable number that would carry only crucial information.
  • Consider moving an e-board to the second floor near the Visualization Studio and one to the west wing (visible from the Silent Reading Room).
  • Move e-boards in Learning Commons and Ask Us to eye level for better line of sight.

How We Did It

Seven students participated in the study, which was facilitated by Josephine McRobbie. Each participant walked throughout a predetermined set of locations in the library and was prompted to discuss their in-building informational and resource needs. A followup set of interview questions directly addressed e-board content and usage.

Participant Breakdown

7 participants; all undergraduate; men and women; from 7 different academic departments; incentivized with gift cards for participating.

Study design and detailed results available upon request.

Team