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.
We are nearing the end of the course and have focused in on eyetracking and usability. Through the reading and videos I learned what equipment is used and how to set it up. I was surprised by the Tobbii eyetracking technology because I assumed it was something large and not so mobile or flexible to use while conducting an eyetracking usability study.
I work as a library technician at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and we have a saying at the circulation desk, “people don’t read”. Our patrons are running around focused on other things and do not read signs (this is why we don’t post any) and sometimes do not listen to instructions. The textbook reading hit the nail on the head when the author discussed the way people look, but don’t necessary process like the example when you are looking in the fridge for the ketchup and don’t actually “see” the ketchup bottle even though your eyes did actually look at the bottle. I find this phenomenon fascinating and I am excited to learn more as the week progresses with my understanding of the results of the heat maps and provided data regarding the library page.
The past two weeks were devoted to creating a mobile testing environment in an existing lab set up. Because mobile usability is so important to a company’s livelihood now that the vast majority of customers are visiting the site via mobile means they must take into account the way users access the website to ensure users are able to complete transactions and find company information easily and accurately from a cell phone or tablet.
I discovered usability testing for the mobile environment isn’t as straightforward as usability testing for a regular computer or a laptop. You have to take into consideration the different gestures, the different environments and the different pressures that may be put on a mobile user. The user may be in bright light, in a rush or unsure of the gestures required to use a specific website. Creating the means of capturing the mobile screen, gestures and facial expressions during testing isn’t easy. I followed the ingenuity of our readings and opted for a chip clip and rubber bands to tie my two cameras feeds together in an effort to capture as much information as I could in a mock mobile usability lab.
This assignment allowed for creativity and practice with professional writing with a detailed executive summary and report on our set up for a mobile usability lab.
This week we looked at the multiple ways libraries can utilize technology to protect patrons and resources. Protecting patrons’ personal information from identity theft through malware or viruses while on public computers is a feat that many libraries are struggling with. Protecting the library technology is also important to help save money and keep patrons safe from unprotected computers.
Libraries must team with in house technical teams and campus wide offices of technology to help keep technology policy up to date. A library or campus wide computing policy is a good way to handle cyber crime and attacks (purposeful or not) on the technology and patron data. Recently we had a cyber crimes incident in the library I work at. Thankfully because of our written policy and standard operating procedures the person was referred to campus policy and the computer was taken for investigation. Had effective surveillance, security and alert procedures not been in place what could the library have done? The textbook and reading discuses many ways to keep the library and our patrons safe with high tech options as well as low budget, person focused ways to prevent intentional and un-intentional attacks on hardware, software and data. Written policy that is communicated to patrons is the first step. Updating hardware with the current software is the next and providing professional development to IT professionals who handle the malware defense is a great way to ensure the library stays on the defensive to protect resources and data.
In addition to professional development the careful task of purchasing security technology for the library on any budget helps protect people and resources. RFID tags and metallic “tattle tape” are two options for securing library materials and alerting staff if an item is taken out of the library without being properly checked out. The system costs for 3M workstations, security gates and RFID tag creators, readers and self check machines are costly. The library needs to weigh the pros and cons of these systems and determine if the initial cost will benefit their budget in the long run. RFID tags provide an easy way to complete inventory and quickly and accurately check out materials to patrons. RFID tags contain data regarding the book and can be desensitized upon check out by staff or a self check out machine. Our library ran into budget constraints in 2009 and decided to no longer purchase RFID tags for new collections, this was an easy money saver at the time because the library was paying approximately $2 per tag, with almost 2 million volumes the savings would add up quickly. Then in 2012 when the library finally ran out of tags and books were coming to the self check out machine or to the circulation desk there were some issues that arose. We had to purchase separate sensitizers at $1500 a piece for each workstation to re-sensitize the tattle tape in items without RFID tags, our stacks manager had to purchase separate inventory devices and complete inventory by pulling books off the shelf to scan the barcodes instead of running a wand across the entire shelf and we had to put four 3M self check machines in storage because patrons could no longer successfully check out materials on their own as the machines could not handle items with out tags.
Looking at the long-range budget plans should be priority when attempted to secure library technology and resources. Planning for the future of technology and patrons’ needs ensures tight library budgets are not going to waste. Preparing written policy and informing staff and patrons of the policy and the standard operating procedures allows the library to ensure safety of data and library hardware.
This week we began researching the needs of mobile users and some ways usability experts have worked on designs for testing websites and interfaces on mobile devices. Because usability testing and gesture capturing on mobile devices is so different from capturing computer screens moderators have created some innovative ways to capture the movements of users on webcams and even resorted to household chip clips to cement their designs. The importance of usability testing for mobile designs has rapidly increased with the decline of personal computers. Gartner’s projects a 7.3% decrease in personal computer sales through 2017 (1.). Many access the internet through mobile means because it is convenient for them while others access the internet through a mobile device because they cannot afford a luxury item like a laptop or pc.
As I design my mobile usability lab set up and capture method I have to think of gesturing and how best to view a participants movements as they navigate a website. I found one of the provided resources interesting because UXD’ers act as if this is common knowledge, but the websites I go to on my tiny iPhone 4 screen in no way follow these design principles (2.). UXmag discusses the common gestures, the size of click ability and the thumb range that is appropriate for most websites. I find many websites do the exact opposite and have the navigation up top like a traditional desktop version of the website would have. Testing the mobile usability and following through with a design based on the recorded data is the first step in ensuring you have satisfied customers who are able to complete transactions via their phone or tablet.
This week we looked at materials relating to digital reference and providing access through digital means to provide good customer service to our patrons. Website usability and ease of access is an important goal of web designers and content providers. Software like Drupal allows staff to update and manage website content in real time without web design staff intervention. Allowing staff to update the website in an easy way ensures the content is up to date for patrons and gives staff control over their areas of expertise. Providing remote access to online databases through a proxy or vpn is another consideration libraries must ensure functions correctly and allows patrons to easily connect to resources from the comfort of their home or office. Offering remote access set up virtually is a great way to help patrons gain access to library materials even when the library is closed and circulation staff are unavailable. An important point the textbook points out is that designers need to think about how patrons are accessing the website and what different resources will they be looking for when the access the website from the library, from home or on a mobile device. Designing content and layout based on user needs and community standards ensures patrons can easily find what they are looking for.
Usability testing and user needs analysis are two things that are worth the time and effort to complete. Even small usability tests with library patrons (non-staff) will help show designers the glaring flaws with the ease of use if the library website. Designing content and access points around users rather than around staff helps ease frustration from patrons who want to be able to log in to their online account to renew items, request inter library loan, access articles and find library hours. Completing a user needs analysis provides staff with valuable statistics on usage of library links and materials, looks at the areas patrons need more information or training in and can give staff ideas on how to promote the digital presence of the library. The text discusses different marketing techniques libraries use to get patrons to the library website in the first place. Marketing in a variety of formats will depend on the user base. Marketing the website on social media, in blogs, and with community outreach events can help expose users to the collections and services available online. While marketing helps users find the website, usability helps keep patrons coming back.
Providing reference in a variety of ways is beneficial for busy patrons. At UNLV we provide in person, telephone, email, text and chat reference. Our current chat platform is LibraryH3lp. This service offers both application software and cloud based capabilities. The software converts texts and chats to instant messages in one interface so staff can easily respond to users questions. I think one consideration for digital reference is to ensure the organization has a policy for what they can and cannot answer via text and to make sure privacy policies are strictly enforced via non encrypted services. At UNLV we are switching to LibAnswers by SpringShare for our chat and FAQs.
This chat service allows for easy data collection and queue’s texts and emails for workflow distribution with real time status updates that go to lead staff. This new chat software is fully cloud based and allows for canned responses to basic questions. For example if a patron chats or texts the library a question about hours the system sends an automatic message with our current hours. The system also alerts the patron if the library is currently closed, these chats and texts will go into a workflow queue for assigned staff to answer upon opening. This will be an awesome future because our current chat service receives angry and frustrated texts from overnight patrons who don’t realize our business hours include digital services as well.
Providing various means of easy access to materials is our primary goal. Technology and digital access points allows patrons to get what they need when they need it on their terms. Usability, marketing and education for patrons helps increase the use and helpfulness of the website and electronic presence of the library.
This week we looked at access and technology. The assigned textbook chapters give a quick overview of technologies and social media that is currently popular in libraries. Each week I am pleasantly surprised by the textbook because it seems very up to date and gives easy to understand descriptions and the history behind popular library technology. According to the reading and materials there are many things to consider when designing technology access and types of designs chosen for a given community. The ways libraries utilize popular technologies is based around the given user group and can change quickly based on the users’ needs.
Ease of access is an important factor for libraries when they are discussing what type of policy they will have with regards to public technology and internet access. Public libraries are more focused on open access with time limits to allow users with a fair chance at using library computers while academic libraries can be choosier with whom they allow internet and computer access. In the early 2000s when the University of Nevada, Las Vegas first opened the doors to Lied Library, all users were allowed on the computers and they had full internet access. With more and more becoming available online the library was full of outside users rather than students. Finally the library decided it needed to focus the technology access rights on students, staff, faculty and paying alumni members so that those completing research for the university were able to access the resources and most importantly the limited supply of computers. Public users have open guest wireless during business hours and can create patron accounts to check out limited materials. Giving students priority was an important step in the library’s policy formation because it showed our users we are here to help them succeed with their education and research goals.
Access for users with disabilities is another important topic to consider when choosing technology for the specific group of users in the community. Having a variety of adaptive technology software and hardware with staff members who are trained and confident in using the available technology is very important. We have a dedicated staff person who helps patrons with the provided adaptive technology and this staff person has trained our twelve or so computer help desk student assistants as well so access to these technologies or access to assistance using the technology is not limited to her work schedule.
Keeping the digital divide in mind when considering a specific user group is important for libraries to consider. According to the textbook only about 57% of adults in the US own a laptop, but about 88% own a cellphone. Many library users are gaining access to library materials and the internet through a mobile device rather than a pc or laptop. This needs to be taken into account when access policy and websites are designed for users. Many users visit the library to bridge this access divide as so many agencies now require electronic forms to complete things such as: job applications, government assistance, homework assignments, etc. Allowing a wide user base access to at the very least guest wireless internet access helps bridge the gap between the technology haves and the technology have nots.
Thinking about ease of access and thinking about who in the community should be accessing particular technology resources is a valuable tool for libraries to look at when considering policy. In the case of academic libraries limited access may be better for students who are paying library fees and tuition to have resources accessible to them, while tax payers need more open access at public libraries across the county.