User-centered Spaces: Part 2

In my last posting, I introduced the new Learning Commons areas at the Georgia Tech Library & Information Center, and how these new renovations assisted with user tasks.  In this post, I will provide my thoughts and reflections on this space…

One of the most effective methods for determining how users utilize the space is  simply taking a step back and observing how they interact. In our hyped-up, fast-paced, “git-r-done” culture, we sometimes miss out on important details when we rush to implement things before questioning…is this what users really want, or is this what vendors and articles tell us users want?  Because each library has its own user community, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

In the fall of 2008, Charlie Bennett, Commons Coordinator at the GA Tech Library, utilized observation methods to take objective measurements such as how many students were using the commons, what kind of computers they were using,  how they tended to group together, etc. For example, he noticed that many students brought their own laptops; this indicates a different grouping dynamic than having students huddle around a library desktop computer.

Charlie also engaged in more common data collection methods, such as distributing surveys and hosting a forum where users could post their comments. However,  one of the most interesting data collection methods Charlie utilized was placing a whiteboards next to a group of sample chairs that students could sit in and evaluate.  Each chair had its own whiteboard and marker where users could write comments about each chair such as:  “This chair is very comfortable” or “This chair color reminds me of puke.”  I found this method innovative because it brought the data collection  right into the user’s environment, rather than asking a student or faculty member to take time out of their busy schedule and go to a survey link or web forum. It reminded me a lot of the whiteboards that undergrads would post on their dormitory doors for people to leave them messages and comments; this has also extended into the digital realm with tools such as Facebook and Twitter.

Overall, the use of multi-modal data collection methods are very beneficial to ensuring a positive user experience in a STEM library commons. Charlie has taken great care and consideration with making  sure the Commons is a peaceful, user-centered space. The GA Tech Library is a very busy place where students will often spend hours studying, or simply taking a snooze break in one of the library’s comfortable chairs.  Students and faculty in a science and engineering institution work on many long-term and collaborative projects, and the library is a beneficial tool in helping these users with their research and education.

For more information on the GA Tech Library and Information Center commons:

Library Commons Main Page

Library Commons Project Documents

Main Page for GA Tech Library and Information Center


12 Comments on “User-centered Spaces: Part 2”

  1. Great review. I was also interested in what kinds of studies or data collection were done before building the space on which I focused. Mr. Bennett seems to have done a lot of work to not just build an innovative space but a space that library patrons can truly use.

  2. Shannon Morrison says:

    I like hearing about leave the comment on the whiteboard.

  3. Donna Wilkinson says:

    Mr. Bennett seems to have made every effort to accomodate the library’s users.

  4. Joyce McFadden says:

    You did an excellent job on this report! It seems like the theme of the day is collaboration areas and places to eat. GA Tech is lucky to have a librarian who is creative about needs assessment.

  5. Kelly Statz says:

    It’s so important to know your users and not take advice from those who have never been in the library but think they ‘know’ what users want. It seems like GA Tech put a lot of thought into this project to make it user-centered. Incredible that they went all the way to chairs that users want!

  6. Cari Meggyesy says:

    Laura, I enjoyed reading your thoughts about Georgia tech.(Your whole blog has such a calm feel to it! Maybe it is the jellyfish picture! Nice energy!)

    I am impressed by how the commons coordinator utilized several methods of data collection to determine how best to serve the users. I like that one method was actually just simple observation. Real-time surveys via the white boards is a great idea. Students are much more likely to participate if it is easy!

  7. Lisa says:

    You are very thoughtful in the comments regarding your chosen library. I also think that the Commons Coordinator did a thorough evaluation of the use of his library. Making observational assessments of users of a space is as important as data collection.

  8. Jeff P. says:

    Sounds like a very a interesting project, and one that they put quite a bit of thought into. I like the idea of the whiteboards and the chairs. Anything that helps the users feel more connected to the space and the decision making process will help with the library’s success in the future.

  9. Debbie Sweeney says:

    Very nice blog, and sounds like a neat space. Thanks to your blog I would love to see it in person. I like the flexible lighting! Mr. Bennett had several great ideas – keeping the dropcords (you can never have too many outlets!), and using whiteboards to record comments.

  10. L Katherine RobinSun says:

    ok…I’m absolutely OVER THE MOON, Miss Moon Rising with those “Snap Shot” thingies. So cool..and i want to know how to do that.

    I love the way Charlie is focused on creating such a user-friendly environment. I think it is brilliant to have movable furniture..and the computers-in-use screen must be a real time-saver. The “white board survey” is also brilliant! But, we should have thought of doing something like that in schools, years ago…Would have saved them from the type of deep carved graffiti I grew up with!

    I have seen the Ga Tech library, and it has a very good feel to it. Charlie has done wonders to make it a very inviting environment.

  11. Angela says:

    It is really nice to see a librarian who really cares about the users and what they want.

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