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Library User Experience

students studying in Cornell Library

We conduct user research regularly via a variety of methods:

  • Usability sessions
  • Card Sorting
  • The Library Student Advisory Board and User eXperience group, LabX
  • Web analytics
  • Interviews
  • Focus Groups
  • An actively used Suggestion Book in McCabe
  • Observation
Student UX workers

Each year the Assessment + User Experience Librarian hires, trains and supervises 3-4 students who pass CITI certification and work as research assistants facilitating usability sessions for our web-based tools. UX students staff monthly drop-in sessions in a variety of locations (not limited to the libraries) using home baked treats and study break activities like LEGO, crafts, and button-making as incentives.

Depending on the strengths and interests of UX workers, they are encouraged to hold usability sessions with faculty too and may also be trained to conduct interviews and facilitate student focus groups. 

LabX = Library Advisory Board (for UX)

Each fall, the libraries select up to 20 students to join the board, which gathers monthly to address a theme or question. While the libraries are not always able to provide what students request, the group has raised many actionable items and appreciates our interest in listening. One student said

A sample of implemented changes came from 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
  • Clarity communicated about acceptable noise levels in group study areas (via signs 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
  • A wider variety and greater number of charging cables for electronic devices

A sample of things more challenging to implement, but for which I'll advocate:

  • A study room designed and furnished entirely by students without an institutional architect or college facilities staff
  • Electronic study room signs to indicate when the room is reserved (anticipated Fall 2019!)
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