The UX Odyssey: Improving and Enhancing the Library User Experience
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Christine Andresen, MLS
Instructional Design Librarian
Liaison to the School of Dental Medicine
William E. Laupus Health Sciences Library
East Carolina University

Note: This was originally presented as a poster at the 2013 Annual Conference of the Medical Library Association by Christine Andresen.

Overview

How can we make our library better for our users? Several employees at East Carolina University’s William E. Laupus Health Sciences Library began asking themselves this question during the 2012-2013 academic year, thus a task force was born.

Background

The Laupus Library User Experience task force, made up of interested faculty and staff at the library, charged themselves with improving the overall library user experience with engaging resources and services, and enjoyable student-focused events. The first steps were to objectively analyze our current user experience and examine our user space needs. The task force found that users were very willing to share feedback about how the library could be improved, and used this information to prioritize projects.

Projects to Enhance the Library Building

During the 2012-2013 academic year, the task force successfully completed several projects to enhance the library’s resources and services, while keeping budgetary restraints in mind. The first project tackled by the User Experience task force was to replace one of the outdated microform technology stations with three computers for users to search the library catalog, place study room reservations, and contact librarians for help. Locking the computers to access only those three portals prevented any user from spending hours at the workstations browsing Facebook or watching YouTube videos.

One of the chief complaints the library got was a lack of food and beverage options. A drink and a snack vending machine were acquired at no direct cost to the library, and have since been replaced with larger versions because they have become so popular. Another well-received improvement involved implementing a room reservation system for our small and group study rooms using customized, open-source software. Laupus Library has always had a first-come, first-served policy for our study rooms, and adding the system allowed users to reserve rooms in advance. Another recurring complaint was the lack of signage in the library, which made it difficult for users to find the rooms they had reserved. Wall decals were purchased to direct users to all the major study room areas and classrooms in the library building.

Student-Focused Events in the Library

At East Carolina University, the Health Sciences campus is separated from the Academic campus by several miles, making it difficult for students to participate in events. The Laupus task force recognized this as a problem and endeavored to provide enjoyable experiences for students on the Health Sciences campus. Working with a small budget, the task force provided free coffee for students using the library during exams, a small gesture that was greatly appreciated by students and has since been repeated each semester during final exams.

In addition, the task force partnered with the East Carolina University Student Activities and Organizations department to host several special events for the health sciences students. In the Spring semester, an event called “Food ‘n’ Fun Break” is held to give students a break from their final exam studies. Over the past several years, the event has offered pizza, snacks, beverages, and games. During the Fall semester, a cookout is held by the lake on the Health Sciences campus. At this event, dubbed “LakeFest,” the task force members offer free food, outdoor games, music, and more for health sciences students. These events have been very well received, and the attendance and participation continue to increase each semester.

Conclusions

Starting a user experience task force at Laupus Health Sciences Library has been a challenging and rewarding experience. After gathering a group of like-minded employees who care about making the library more user friendly, it was easy to populate a list of projects to pursue to work towards accomplishing our goals. Improving the library experience is an ongoing process, and the Laupus Library User Experience task force continues to evaluate user needs and make enhancements to library services and resources.

Our advice? Be patient, accept failure, and celebrate accomplishments!

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