Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pulse Points: Libraries in Action

Presenter: Tony Tallent, Director of Boulder Public Library

Tony Tallent was at the big opening for the ImaginOn, a LEED certified hybrid library/theater space (he said big buildings require big openings), when he overheard a conversation with one of the donors, who asked, "Is this a library?"

Ever since, he's explored how to create remarkable experiences for the library user.

Recommended: Bruce Temkin's blog Customer Experience Matters, and in particular, the mini-book called "The 6 Laws of Customer Experience."

Necessity is not only the mother of invention, Tallent claims, but the mother of pathways. Boulder's main ibrary is a long, 92,000 square foot facility built in stages over many decades. So how does one create a good user experience in a big, rambling building?

They decided on an approach that "all goes back to the heart of the library." Their model centered around "Pulse Points"  - getting people to engage with areas of warmth or interest along the pathways through the library.

They looked at the library's spaces with a fresh eye. For example, they took a spot near the elevators - described as the sort of spot where everything goes to die (essentially, a junky storage area), and crafted it into a space that's very empty - and "very open to what could happen".

P.U.L.S.E. Think:

Party - What is it about parties people love? Surprises, excitement.

Unusual - Celebrate the odd things. For example, make a display of the huge books. These may seem routine to librarians, but they seem unusual to the users. This can apply to programming, too; BPL hosted Home Movie day in the transformed space by the elevators. People brought in old movies, which got projected onto the screen (painted onto the wall.

Little - A small happening can have a great deal of impact. 

Seasonal - At least 4 times a year, change out something visual in the library or find another way to change the experience.

Entrances (and exits) - Pay attention to these. What is the experience, here? Don't innundate your entrance with literature and fliers.

Additional Tips
  • Use the language of other agencies, such as, "Live at the Library - Coming Soon!"
  • Let users leave their mark. For example, have your signs and posters made with a coating designed for dry erase markers, and invite users to write on them. For example, ask a question ("What inspires you?") and let them respond.
  • Leave some connections for users to discover for themselves.
  • Keep users wondering/wandering and moving through building.
  • Create experiences with no closed doors.
  • Create experiences that users will just happen upon.
Tallent offered a prize; Email him at yestoknow at gmail .com for a photo of a mysterious gift box.

Tony Tallent's blog: Yes to Know

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