Software + Tiny Café

In February 2019, we held a pop-up user research station event, Tiny Café, where we found out more about our patrons’ software and programming needs.


We invite our library users to get more involved with redeveloping library services and resources through Tiny Café events. During the pop-up event, we asked patrons to spend five to ten minutes answering usability questions or completing monitored tasks in exchange for free snacks and beverages. For this version of Tiny Café, we asked participants about their software needs, and they tested online services related to the library’s software pages. Usability testing was conducted on February 1, 2019 in both Hill and Hunt Libraries.

Questions we asked and what we found out

How do users go about finding out which software programs are available on computers at the Libraries?

  • The types of software and programming environments the participants work with in their courses varied greatly by their disciplines. 5 of the 28 participants mentioned they would login to any library computer and manually look through the computer’s contents to find out what was already downloaded on it. 5 participants would go directly to the Ask Us Service Desk to seek help with available software on computers in the Libraries. Another 5 participants, 4 of which were graduate students, would opt to use their own device if possible. Others might turn to Google, the Libraries’ website, or the Office of Information Technology (OIT) for their software-seeking needs.


How do users locate a computer in the Libraries with a specific type of software?

  • We asked patrons to search for Simio software since it is only available on select computers throughout the Libraries. The computers loaded with Simio software have specialized labels, as seen in the “Device” column below, and are located in the specific locations listed on the Simio software page on the Libraries’ website (see below).


Table showing an example of where you will find the software. The table is divided by location among the Hill anf Hunt Libraries

  • Out of 28 participants, 6 of them would seek a specific type of device in one of the locations listed as having Simio. 14 participants would go to one of the locations listed above and would expect to use the software on any of the computers in the area, without looking for a specially labeled device. Others might look for devices loaded with the software by exploring other spaces in the Libraries and looking for the “special computers” or would prefer to use their personal computer.


Where do users go to seek help with software or programming?

  • When looking for assistance with software or programming, 9 of 28 participants would turn to Google first to look for answers. Other participants might seek help via a combination of other methods, as listed below:
    • Watching video tutorials on YouTube

    • Asking classmates or friends

    • Seeking help at the Ask Us desk

    • Searching through Stack Overflow

    • Searching the software’s supporting website

    • Asking their professor/TA

    • Departmental tutoring


Recommendations and Changes

  • Add maps to the software pages on the website detailing where each of the computers loaded with a specific type of software are located in the Libraries in addition to general location descriptions.

  • Consider adding tutorials, guides, workshops, or additional help links on each of the software pages to highlight and raise awareness of the Libraries’ data and software-related services.

  • Explore the idea of adding links for downloading software to personal devices on the software pages.

How We Did It

We conducted brief usability tests with 28 participants in both D. H. Hill and Hunt Libraries lobbies near the Ask Us single service points. We set up the Tiny Café at D. H. Hill, Jr. Library in the morning and at Hunt Library in the early afternoon. Participants stayed between 5-10 minutes to complete testing and interviews and were incentivized with coffee and pastries. One staff member recruited patrons as they passed by. A second staff member facilitated the session, while a third recorded notes and asked occasional questions.

Tiny Café is an idea we have enthusiastically borrowed from the University of Arizona Libraries, who borrowed it from the University of Houston Libraries and from Penn State University Libraries.