libUX: Improving user experience in libraries within UK HE

Here’s a report (pdf) we wrote for SCONUL on future user experience of libraries in the UK Higher Education sector.

Notably, the work here includes a small ethnographic survey of UK HE student perspectives on the constraints and affordances of e-libraries by Dave Randall of Unique Adequacy Ltd. We recommend more work of this kind.

From the executive summary:

This report surveys some of the changes that are affecting or will affect users’ experience of library systems (libUX) within Higher Education.

Factors germane to libUX are surveyed in a changing landscape section of the report. These include hardware and platform issues; most importantly, library system use will be changed markedly by adoption of mobile technology, in part driven by decreasing cost and increasing hardware capability. Discovery is a problematic issue for future libraries; their traditional role in providing search facilities is being undermined by global search services including Google and Google Scholar. Further, the increased prominence of electronic resources (including e-books, online serials, and Open Educational Resources) will change the ways libraries need to operate.

It is proposed that various measures need to be put in place to ensure that libraries can respond to these changes. These measures include implementing libUX roles within libraries, including providing training to develop staff placed in these roles, meaningful involvement of users in the development of future library systems, and appropriate funding.

Results of a small ethnographic survey of school leavers and university students and their perceptions of reading, study, and university libraries are included as an appendix.

The report was commissioned by SCONUL, with funding from JISC.

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One Comment

  1. Posted October 2, 2012 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    An addition to the report might be local digital content (as in digitised or collected born-digital, where the local institution is responsible for preserving and making the objects or collections available online – although OERs come close)

    This is likely to be an increasing focus for libraries (as other areas such as licensing and discovery recede).

    UX concerns in this space are (or have been for us) with long-term management and discovery, but also with the usability of the objects or collections themselves (where can we surface our collections online? What research methodologies can we support? What cross-collection journeys are useful? How do digital collections relate to other library collections/systems? How do requirements differ for teaching? And also object-functionality questions, like: how do high-res images render and zoom? What functionality do multi-page text objects require? How do we present maps? Can we provide collections of objects rendered onto a map overlay? And so forth…)

    So this is UX of the library as publisher of content, as well as the other roles you cover.

    And just to say I entirely agree with your recommendation about library UX staff roles. For me, UX is the counterpart to digital preservation (another area of library skills under-recognised, until recently) and somewhere it is vital for libraries to invest.

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