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Library User Experience

students studying in Cornell Library
Student UX Assistants

Each year the Assessment + User Experience Librarian hires, trains and supervises a team of students who shepherd the libraries' user research projects. The team learns a variety of research methods, including website usability and focus group facilitation, and becomes involved in every aspect of our projects, beginning with defining the tasks and scope of each study, facilitating sessions, analyzing results, suggesting changes, and presenting their work to library stakeholders. Read about recent projects in the AUX@Swarthmore blog.

LabX = Library Advisory Board (for UX)

LabX has been on hiatus since the spring of 2020, a result of pandemic disruption. While I facilitated online focus groups with students and staff  in the spring of 2021 as part of our Digital Reserves Assessment project, additional focus groups with students on other topics didn't seem wise. All of us were overwhelmed!

Before the pandemic, the libraries selected up to 20 students each academic year to join an advisory board, which gathered monthly to address a theme or question. While the libraries were not always able to provide what students requested, (sorry - no beanbag chairs!) the groups raised many actionable items and appreciated our interest in listening. One student said

A sample of implemented changes that began as LabX suggestions:

  • Improved wayfinding signs in McCabe Library, coordinated by color
  • Library of Congress Classification subject guides at the point of need posted at ends of stack ranges
  • Signs to communicate acceptable noise levels in group study areas (written by the group)
  • Change in the traditional coffee + snacks study break time from 10pm to 8:30pm
  • Libraries website reorganization via card sorting exercises
  • Feedback on Tripod
  • Streaming media provided by the Libraries
  • A wider variety and greater number of charging cables for electronic devices
  • Electronic study room signs at the point of entry to indicate when the room is reserved

The growing experience of the Student UX Team will shift how LabX works in the future. Most importantly, this will become a peer led experience. We've discussed whether the team should facilitate a standing group of students who indicate interest in participating throughout the academic year, or whether we should recruit a fresh mix of students for each topic, or whether we might find a way to combine these audiences in order to hear from students who care enough to invest their time and ideas in the libraries as well as students who do not consider themselves to be library users.

The Suggestion Book

Several years ago we placed a simple, wire-bound notebook of blank pages near the circulation desk as a suggestion book. The book has become a heavily used instrument of communication between students and the librarians who might help them. Comments range from suggestions of things to add to the collection to complaints about the HVAC or requests for a wider, healthier variety of snacks at the evening coffee break. Librarians respond using different colors of ink. Some "conversations" last for days.

McCabe Suggestion Book