Tag Archives: users

The Anthropologist’s Tale: A Caution – Donna Lanclos #open17

Anthropologists get to do the work they do because someone lets them in. Listen, collect, collate, interpret, and tell stories. Stories are data – ways of representing and interpreting reality. She studies the ‘village’ of academia, investigating the logic behind the behaviours in academia – students, academics, others.

Example of bowdlerised version of Chaucer’s “Wife’s Tale” when she was in high school – she wanted the real story. Also as a folklorist, very aware of different versions of stories. There’s meaning not just in the story but in the fact that there are different versions. Who tells the tale informs how it’s told.

Early anthropology work was literally a tool of the Man. Finding out more about a people in order to colonise and control them. Eg “The Nuer” by Evans-Pritchard. Franz Boas ‘the father of anthropology’ when native American groups were the object of study because people believed they were ‘disappearing’ (a framing that ignores the agency of colonisation). In WWII armchair anthropology by Ruth Benedict informed post-war occupation strategy of US in Japan. Margaret Mead worked in Samoa and other people in the Pacific – many issues around whose stories she told and why. But her purposes shifted from institutional control to understanding. Wanted to make the unfamiliar familiar and relatable. Also to make the familiar unfamiliar – so people can look at things they’ve always done and wonder why.

Moving to libraries. Andrew Carnegie (as a retirement project from his life as a robber baron) founded lots of libraries all over US, UK, NZ, basically everywhere – to impose his ideas of what communities should have. There was an application process – communities wanted to be associated with the respectability and power. Libraries as colonising structures. And assumption that if you don’t put a library there, don’t establish a colonial government, there won’t be anything. It ignores what’s already there. There were people long before there were libraries.

Colonising impulse in libraries:

  • When she presents on student behaviour (googling, citing Wikipedia, not putting materials in IR) she talks about motivations, conflicting messages people get around these, the ways these things make sense to people where they are. And gets the question “So how do we get them to change their behaviour?” Wants the idea of what’s “best” to fall away. Listen to what people, understand why.
  • When she proposes open-ended investigations, eg day-in-the-life studies, geolocating emotions across various institutions and look at the pattern of their lives. No particular question or problem in mind, just wanted to know what it looked like. But often got asked, “How will that help me solve [very specific problem]?” Exploratory research isn’t about solving problems, it’s about gaining insight.

You don’t do anthropology to shift how they do library things; you do it so the library can shift its practices. How do we listen? How do we change? Study people not to control, but to connect. We don’t want to be the colonising library! We may think we’re powerless, but have so much more power than our users, so have a responsibility to be careful.

Approaches beyond ‘solutionism’:

  1. Syncretism: cobbling together, where you can see the component parts. In libraries, users already have a fully formed set of practices. They’ll make room for new ones if they’re useful. We should expect to be taught by them, as we teach them, what libraries mean for them.
  2. Decolonisation – listen to users, make space so the definition of what a library is emerges from the community. (cf Linda Tuhiwai-Smith’s “Decolonising Methodologies”)
  3. Community – not just responsible to users but to the whole community. (Public libraries are good at this.) Anthropological approaches can help if moving away from colonialism.

“Trying to predict the future is a really neat way of avoiding talking about the present.”

Journey mapping approach – Maxine Ramsay #open17

Enhancing library services with a journey mapping approach
“Journey maps illustrate customers’ stories.” – Kerry Bodine. About user experience – not just the step by step process but also user’s emotions over time. We often make a lot of assumptions; journey mapping is a way to find out what’s really happening from the user’s perspective.
Journey-mapped all 500 students at an intermediate school, especially interested in:
  • taking shoes off at door
  • usage of OPAC
  • use of AccessIt’s OneSearch system for database search

Created a stylised journey map template to prompt where feedback was wanted. Explained to teachers how it’d work. Trialed with one class, then refined as had to explain to students it wasn’t a test. Hard for students in this age group to give their own opinion without knowing what librarians “want them to write”.

As you come into the foyer, thoughts include:

  • too full, smells bad, keen to find a good book, taking off shoes OK, taking off shoes a pain, untidy – note that negative feelings about taking off shoes seems much higher for year 7 than year 8

Exciting part was the actions as the result of the report

  • eg scrapped the ‘no shoes in the library’ rule.
  • Promoting IP address for catalogue as mural on the wall
  • Found students not confident searching catalogue so extended catalogue teaching so now goes into classrooms to teach it.
  • Students found it hard to navigate around lots of furniture so freed up some space
  • Trialed a self-issue desk but it didn’t work and wasn’t totally reliable so scrapped that but introduced extra student librarians to free up queues of student

Lessons learned:

  • Focus on one aspect of student experience / one user goal, not entire experience
  • Good to see what the pain points are
  • Students reacted really well to immediate changes


  • collaborate – who will you work with to trial the approach? consider working with people trialling it in other sectors
  • decide – which user goal / journey will you focus on, and which user group (or non-user group) will you target
  • map – what tools and resources do we need? develop simple templates, or set up video diaries – just think about how you’re going to collate at the other end; and think about resources for recruitment
  • analyse – how will you use the data/evidence; how will you present it (and recommendations) to others in the team;
  • act – what resources do you need to implement any changes. When you’re seen to act on feedback it reinforces that you’re user-centred, makes them more likely to participate later and gives them greater ownership of the library
  • evaluate – the information collected, the process, the impact of changes

(Or could use Matt Finch’s “Who/What/Where/When/How” process.)

Could also journey map the ideal experience and then identify the gaps.

Cats, Content, and Community by @homebrewer #ndf2012

Cats, Content, and Community: a year of long tails on walerart.org
Nate Solas (@homebrewer), Walker Art Center
Nate is the Senior New Media Developer and Head Technologist at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, MN. In that role, Nate leads the team responsible for back-end development and database work for all Walker web properties: walkerart.org, artsconnected.org, and mnartists.org.
A technology leader at the Walker since 2003, Nate has helped shape the direction of the institution’s web presence and developed strategies for multidisciplinary content online. In 2011, Nate and colleagues launched the new Walker Art Center
website, walkerart.org. Awarded 2012 Best Innovative/Experimental Site and Best Overall Site by the International Conference of Museums and the Web and nominated for a Webby Award, the site has been hailed as a ‘game-changer’.

In this talk, Nate thinks about cats, content, and community: a year of long tails at walkerart.org. Launched at about the same time as last year’s NDF, the site caused a stir felt as far away as Wellington. What made it unique? And how can its success be measured a year on, once the lustre of launch has worn off? What difference has the site made on the internal culture at the Walker and to its local audiences? And what of the cats?

New website a significant approach from brochure-style, marketing-based, to a content model. Nina Simon described as “not about the Walker Art Center. It is the Walker Art Center in digital form”.

More measuring. Less guessing. –both to be more transparent and more accountable.

Walker recognised as multidisciplinary contemporary arts centre. Wanted to drag web presence along with the physical.

Site is content-centred – more like museum than website. No longer an island on the internet. Why content-centred? World is changing. Taking message to audience, telling our story. Add context to conversation about arts.

Betting: People will engage if you provide content that delivers value. We can do this in physical but not good at transitioning to web or retaining it.

Heat map of views – people don’t always scroll down but often do – and of clicks – hotspot right at the bottom: “jobs”. People do scroll if they’re looking for something!

Pull in art news from elsewhere (big sites and small), changes throughout the day and keeps the page fresh. We don’t try to trap people – we’re not the destination – we let them go. Minnesota arts news, artists’ voices, archives connectable with current events — all this is on homepage which is very long, scrollable. Like a magazine

Many users just want to get in and out, only want to know the hours so put that at top left. Visit menu is on every day – hover over and it shows hours and map. Similarly on mobile hours and today’s exhibitions show up at the top.

Search includes spelling corrections. “More like this” features even if doesn’t link only to own website. “404 not found” and “Server error” pages show materials from collection. Events page includes animated confetti; one exhibition page has a bees appearing at 7-second intervals.

“Huge webteam” — well, compared to what? The team is this big because something else is smaller. Not rolling on money, it’s a tradeoff. Wanted to run as a content hub but didn’t have staff. Managed to get a new hire. Much development then presented in-house and got feedback….

What designers say: “This isn’t quite finished yet.”
What clients hear: “Oh good, there’s still time for them to add our programme above the fold.”

Need to entice locals as well as engaging those who can’t visit.

Is it working?
Yes. Visits up 35% (year to year). Immediate shift when site launched – 200% increase of people going straight there by typing in address. People staying for 3 pages are up 30%. 50% more visitors return within 2 weeks. International visits up 32%. Paid gallery admission up 12% – nothing to do with the website – or does it?

What about content? Harder to compare year over year. But can say it’s hard being a content producer – “shaking the content tree” going to departments to try and get content to put online. 6-8 pieces of content per day. Includes links to other sites which aren’t written but are read and approved to link in. A couple of original pieces per day.

Assumption that articles would have long life on line but hadn’t tested this.

Long tail of usage of individual bits of content. Looked at individual bits to get graphs, overlaid all and got a long tail. How many pageviews would we be getting in the longterm? Calculated as 1.5views/day. Turns out for their content usage in head (first 2 weeks) = usage in next 9 = tail (usage in next year). Interestingly when page is fresh people glance at it; but when less fresh, people who get there spend more time on it. At the longtail – after about 80 days – it’s less “Please read this thing we wrote” and more them searching out a resource they need.

Ran same analysis on blogposts. Blog content getting less usage. Why? Articles written better? How do you measure this? One measure is the Flesch-Kincaid measure, counting syllables in words etc. Found when blogposts are well-produced – peak at grades 12-13 – it’s used in the longtail. (OTOH there’s a spike at grade 6-7: this turns out to be things the internet loves, eg top ten lists, interviews with artists, and technology how-to posts.)

External search drives the long tail especially where it’s quality content; people need it.

Online community exists in the intersection between authentic and interacture. Eg on every page include the weather. It says, “We have a building.” Shared experience, even if just the weather, is a pillar of community.

Use Facebook comments with the new site. Scan list and look for question marks.
But don’t get comments on their events pages. Why? Shows graph of 90 days before event and 90 days after: the long tail goes the wrong way – leads up to and peaks on day of event. The day after the event you have to search to find the page. Might as well not exist – but people are interested in this. They are looking for it. Maybe want to talk about it. What if after the event we gave them an opportunity to discuss it? Light it up with links to everything we know about artists, become a hub for discussion. –This is the biggest gap on their site right now.

Big tip: cat videos. Irresistible. Wondered what could we do with an open field? Screened an hour’s worth of internet cats. 10,000 people came, spilled out onto freeways. Number of pageviews on day of festival doubled compared to day of site launch. OTOH it turns out that cat lovers aren’t fans of contemporary art. However people landing on catvidfest page make up 3% of all visits to the Walker site. A few people do explore the site a bit (though they may just be lost).

But you can’t trick people. If they came for the cats, don’t try to make them look at contemporary art. Leave it around the edges. If they want it they’ll find it.

Highlights Rijksmuseum – a mobile-first site. Mobile site has three things in navigation; website has three things in navigation. Will this be successful? If so, who’ll be the first to flat-out copy it?

Stop inventing, start iterating.

Don’t just copy unless you can add value. If someone else is doing something well, just link to them. Get back to the basics of what only you can do that no-one else can do.

Q: Impressed by making web its own thing, not just copy of physical.
A: Need to recognise a big chunk of world is interested in this but won’t come to build it. How do we balance serving local audience with distance audience especially with limited budgets? Depends on what you care about – make sure you measure that.

Q: Metaphor of intersection – what about revisitation? Audience might be able to come (physically) once a year but maybe not three times a year. Barrier of charging may reduce visits.
A: Not sure if web presence has impacted this. Local traffic hasn’t changed much – still want to know how to get there, when they’re open.

Q: Have you brought any of the online into the physical?
A: No but have thought about it and a possible space. Tempted to even just throw website up to let visitors know but space not consumption-friendly.

Q: Plans for resurfacing content from the long tail? Eg annual, biannual events?
A: We do – “from the archives” section on homepage, “here’s more like it” section, search.

Q: Events page with long tail ‘the wrong way round’ – is the marketing making effort to get more interaction including before event?
A: Don’t want to put more resources than needed to sell out!

Q: Do you have comments on collection pages?
A: No space for that to happen. Has seen comments in a separate tab which hides them and ruins the point. Would be most compelling in connection to an exhibition.

Q: Any thoughts on how to advocate for value of the size of the team going forward? Is it sustainable – any post-success pressure to now reduce size of team?
A: Yes, always pressures. Some grace period now, giving them time to educate, lobby, sustain development. “So much of job not just doing the good work but defending the good work.”

Links of Interest 30/3/2012 – article linker, impact factors of open access journals, and more

Customer service
UConn Discovers What Students Want From Their Library – too complex for a pull quote, follow the link for a summary.

Two solutions for increasing the usability of that blasted Article Linker page:

Open Access
JQ at the University of Oregon writes about High-impact open access journals and includes some invaluable tables of OA journals ranked by SJR, SciMago, and Eigenfactor impact factors. These (sorted by subject) could be useful for promoting OA to departments and to students graduating from university who still want to keep up with research.

Positioning Open Access Journals in a LIS Journal Ranking looks at OA journals in the library science field:
This research uses the h-index to rank the quality of library and information science journals between 2004 and 2008. Selected open access (OA) journals are included in the ranking to assess current OA development in support of scholarly communication. It is found that OA journals have gained momentum supporting high-quality research and publication, and some OA journals have been ranked as high as the best traditional print journals. The findings will help convince scholars to make more contributions to OA journal publications, and also encourage librarians and information professionals to make continuous efforts for library publishing.

Data curation
Demystifying the data interview: Developing a foundation for reference librarians to talk with researchers about their data
As libraries become more involved in curating research data, reference librarians will need to be trained in conducting data interviews with researchers to better understand their data and associated needs. This article seeks to identify and provide definitions for the basic terms and concepts of data curation for librarians to properly frame and carry out a data interview using the Data Curation Profiles (DCP) Toolkit.

Subscription statistics
Subscriptions in Context (powerpoint) is a clear and elegant presentation for University of Central Oklahoma library faculty liaisons on all the factors the Serials department considers when evaluating subscriptions.

Just for fun
A Library Society of the World thread began, “Gregor Samsa awoke from uneasy dreams to find he had been transformed into a monstrous librarian” and went on from there.

Links of interest 11/8/10 – open access, accessibility, statistics and more

Open Access


  • Char Booth writes about e-texts and library accessibility including a great quote that “ebooks were created by the blind, then made inaccessible by the sighted.”
  • NZETC has just posted about the 1064 works in DAISY format available in their collection for people with print-related disabilities. (DAISY = “Digital Accessible Information SYstem”)

Library statistics


  • The first year of research on the Researchers of Tomorrow (pdf) study finds that “in broad approaches to information‐seeking and use of research resources, there are no marked differences between Generation Y doctoral students and those in older age groups. Nor are there marked differences in these behaviours between doctoral students of any age in different years of their study. The most significant differences revealed in the data are between subject disciplines of study irrespective of age or year of study.”
  • Assessments of Information Literacy collects links to infolit tests, assessments, rubrics and tutorials available online.
  • Christina Pikas lists a Rundown of the new [database etc] interfaces this summer. There were some surprises, including a ScienceDirect/Scopus merger apparently due August 28…

[Edited 12/8 to fix broken links]

Thoughts towards universally applicable usability guidelines

Inspired by spending a few minutes trying to work out how to open a ringbinder:

Write out and/or diagram simple instructions for your product.

  1. If the instructions take more than three steps, your product isn’t usable; redesign it.
  2. If the instructions don’t actually match your product, quit smoking the good stuff on company time and write/diagram them again.
  3. If users need both the written instructions AND the diagrams, then the product is more-or-less usable, but not user-friendly.
  4. If users need the written instructions OR the diagrams but not both, then the product is somewhat user-friendly, but not sufficiently so as to justify entitling the instructions with “For easy operation”.
  5. If users don’t need any instructions, THEN the product is user-friendly.

Other thoughts?

Links of interest 11/6/09

University of California Berkeley Library have redesigned their animated tutorials page to be “more visual, navigable, and less, ahem, u-g-l-y, while giving users a means of providing a bit of feedback on the tutorials to help us evaluate and prioritize them.”

LexisNexis NZ has a new Twitter account. (And have I mentioned Springshare’s account where they post about updates to LibGuides?) Ooh, and the COSC department, another new Twitter account, have just plugged the library’s online exam papers.

The User is Not Broken manifesto has its third birthday.

The National Library of Wales is Flickr’s 26th Commons partner. “The key goals of The Commons on Flickr are to firstly show you hidden treasures in the world’s public photography archives, and secondly to show how your input and knowledge can help make these collections even richer.” See how users can add information in comments and notes (hover your mouse over the image).

Why academic libraries need to be user-centric

It often seems like public libraries are leading the way with user-friendly websites. I think it’s too easy for academic librarians to say, “Well, it’s different for them: their users are kids and teenagers and the general public. Our users are academically-inclined young adults who should be able to cope with learning the Proper Way of Doing Things.”

The problem is the other difference between public library and academic library users: a public library user is a user for a lifetime. An academic library user (barring the few who go on to research and lecturing) is a user for, say, 3-5 years.

Academic library users don’t have time to learn how to do things the “Proper Way”. They’re too busy writing assignments and working to pay for their next electricity bill. And why should we waste our time teaching them the “Proper Way” – only to have to teach the same lessons to the next year’s intake, and the next, and the next – when we could just fix our interface to let everyone get on with doing it the Easy Way?

Non-English blog roundup #10

Bibliobsession has posted a set of slides on Towards Library Ecosystems (French). It begins with an introduction to web 2.0 then points out, “A collection doesn’t exist without its users and its uses.” (slide 61) It goes on to discuss the library as an ecosystem: “creating links with other ecosystems in order to benefit from network effects which guarantee it a social utility”.

Bobobiblioblog (French)

  • asks medical students if they’ve used Wikipedia – pretty much all have. Have they edited it? None – “Ah, no, once, a timid young woman whispered that she’d corrected a spelling mistake in one article.”) Bobobiblioblog wonders whether “the general rule is perhaps to have a consumerist attitude towards Wikipedia – using it without participating in it”. [I don’t think it’s necessarily as bad as that – remember the general 90-9-1 theory: 90% use it, 9% contribute occasionally, 1% contribute regularly.]
  • writes about adding an institutional filter to PubMed so that users of MyNCBI can filter their results to those that their institution holds. [Alas, when I try to register for MyNCBI I get 404 file not found, so I can’t play with this myself.]

Vagabondages (French) points to “liquid bookmarks” (Japanese).

Kotkot writes about sustainable libraries (French), asking what sustainable development might mean in a library. The post includes a list of ideas like turning off screens overnight, using rechargeable batteries, reduce tape consumption on books, double-sided printing, create a comfortable bike shelter, etc.

Bib-log (Danish) announces the Roskilde public library mobile site.

Benobis lists French genealogy resources (French).

Via Klog come the steps of digital preservation in 1 slide (French).

De tout sur rien (French) suggests getting our users to scan book covers to go into a cross-library pool particularly if vendors put restrictions on us using theirs.