In June 2015, Josephine McRobbie, Josh Boyer, and Andreas Orphanides set up a "pop-up user interviews" booth at the D. H. Hill Library. We solicited participants to share their likes, dislikes, and “hacks” related to the D. H. Hill Library. Participants described a variety of experiences using D. H. Hill Library. The bookstacks were described as a favorite “hidden” study space, but one lacking the modern furniture and the attention to detail of the lower levels. Users appreciate the D. H. Hill Library’s relaxed feel and helpful staff. They described the importance of quiet study areas, comfortable seating, and appropriate seating for group study. And users suggested that the promotion of technology lending “peripherals” and unusual items could be improved.
This study is an experiment in short, open-ended user studies as a "temperature taker" of user like, dislikes, “hacks”, and concerns. It asked the following:
- What do we do best at D. H. Hill?
- What could we improve, or what’s confusing about using our library system?
- Your cousin is going to be a freshman next semester - what do you tell them to get the most out of the library?
What We Found
As the scope of the study design was very broad, we received feedback in a variety of areas.
Bookstacks as Haven
"When studying for a test, go to the stacks. There are less distractions and people up there. You don't get distracted by people you know walking by."
Numerous participants described the upper levels as a haven for private and quiet study.
Upkeep of Bookstacks
"It feels like an invasion of space when using back-to-back cubicles [in the stacks]. Maybe put them a foot or two further apart to feel more comfortable?"
Users described concerns with upkeep and outdatedness of furniture in comparison with the more "seen" areas on the first and second floors.
Technical Amenities of Bookstacks
"Having more outlets nearby would help because sometimes you have to change cubicles to reach them."
Users expressed a desire for more numerous and more conveniently placed electrical outlets in the upper level carrells.
"The elevators are also kind of hidden, so it makes the stacks a little less accessible."
Numerous users noted that they found physical signage to be inadequate to assist them in finding the upper levels of the building and all available amenities. One described the vending machine behind Ask Us, which is not advertised but certainly utilized once one finds it.
"Comfort is a huge factor because it is distracting when you are studying and you are shifting because you are not comfortable."
Numerous users described the glass learning commons tables and the Ball Chairs as prized study, relaxation, or socializing spaces in D. H. Hill.
Contrast to Hunt
"[Hill] looks like a library, it has that old bookish feeling where you can sit down and linger, you can sit down and work for 8 hours."
"Hunt Library is more modern and colorful, it has its own benefits but I feel more comfortable here."
Some users described D. H. Hill as an environmental contrast to the Hunt Library that can affect the style and focus of individual study.
Promotion of technology
"I didn't know exactly what I could get from the Ask Us desk. It wasn't really publicized. I would say ‘do you have this?’ or ‘do you have that?"
Several users described a lack of understanding of the full profile of Technology Lending items.
Consideration of Learning Difficulties
"It'd be nice if the private study rooms were available to undergraduates or at least undergraduates with disabilities. I have Attention Deficit Disorder, so concentration in a busy room can be an issue. But if I had access to a private room like that, if I had access that would be a big help."
One student discussed his diagnosis of ADHD and explained his difficulty studying in large or crowded areas in the library.
Positive Impressions of Ask Us Staff
"If you have any questions, there's someone there at the desk as soon as you walk in the library - use them! As soon as you go up the steps, use the help desk, if you lose something go to the help desk, just always use the help desk, basically."
6/10 participants volunteered positive experiences with Ask Us staff. No participants described neutral or negative experiences with Ask Us staff.
Recommendations and Changes
- Rearrange bookstack carrels to optimize outlet availability.
- Train student staff on rounds to report on broken, messy, or otherwise unappealing areas in the bookstacks.
- Consider solutions for quiet study spaces for students with disabilities.
- Develop promotional material for technology peripherals and unusual lending items.
- Improve signage that directs users to upper levels, vending machine, and bathrooms.
- Develop promotional images and signage for study spaces in Bookstacks.
- Deploy additional tables for small-group study in open seating areas.
We solicited participants near the Ask Us center in the lobby of the D. H. Hill Library. Participants signed up with one staff member, while the other conducted the interview and distributed $5 coffee gift cards to participants. Participants stayed between 5-15 minutes.
10 participants, male and female. One graduate student and nine undergraduate students.
Study design and detailed results available upon request