Wow this semester has flown by! This week we looked at the environment and needs that support the technology within the library. Thinking about the physical environment that supports the technology needs of users sounds simple enough, but requires some research on the staff side to discover what infrastructure details are missing to support the technology and in turn support our users.
The textbook discusses the physical considerations of the space: furniture, outlet placement, lighting, room layout etc. This all may sound simple enough, but paying attention to the fine details will make or break a space. Here at UNLV we have conducted several space studies for our users to determine where to get the most bang for our buck with enhancement projects. The space studies included time lapse photos, staff observations, service desk tracker data, etc. The team discovered many things that needed to be addressed in our young building that was first opened in 2001. Students sit on the floor and move very large, heavy, wooden furniture around based on outlet locations. The lack of power and flexible seating became a huge concern. The team hired construction and design firms to address these issues. We now have soft, light, movable furniture that can be adjusted for the needs of patrons. Electricians are working on moving more power and data throughout the building and our designer brought in hundreds of pieces of furniture with power outlets built right in.
In the late 1990’s when the building was first designed and construction was underway the designers had no idea that the boom of portable electronics and the need for 10x the amount of power outlets would become so necessary for our students. Our population for the most part commutes to campus and spends quite a bit of time camped out in the library between classes. The need for power outlets to charge cell phones, tablets and laptops is immense. Adding this power and the ability to move furniture closer to outlets is something that seems so simple has made a huge impact. We no longer are receiving endless complaints about the lack of functioning outlets at the service points and students are not crouched on the floor waiting for their iPhone to get some juice before class. Researching the needs of users then putting in the necessary updates to the physical space helps meet the technology needs of our users.
Writing a technology plan that meets the needs of users and plans for the future of technology is necessary in ensuring the relevancy of the library. Planning technology budgets far in advance based on observed needs helps the organization budget funds properly and keep the numbers out of the red. The last step suggested by the textbook is to evaluate the technology on the floor after it has been purchased. Is the technology meeting the needs of users? Are users actually using it? Accessing the success (or failure) of a new technology purchase is a fundamental step that I think many organizations fail to complete. I am curious if my institution evaluates our current technology or new technology after it has been purchased and placed out on the floor. We recently purchased a small amount of Apple iPads to test check outs at the circulation desk. We will have the students complete a short survey when they return the item to see what they used the tablet for, if it met their needs and what if anything could help them with assignments. I am excited to see this data because many other schools in our region have tried a robust tablet check out program that has failed miserably. We hope to find out what students are using the tablets for and if programs or applications can be added to make for a richer experience using the iPads. I think the major downfall of the tablet checkouts will be lack of printing, since currently we only support printing from a linked pc or laptop.
Supporting the physical space of the library through technology and needs assessment ensures the library will continue to be a “go to” resource for community users, students and staff.