Monday, November 8, 2010

The Emotional Design of Libraries

Michael Lascarides a Digital User Analyst from New York Public Library presented an excellent presentation on how New York Public Library used an emotional usage survey to determine usage in their libraries. Mr. Lascarides, with an e-commerce background, was able to provide his library the ability to perceive the library as a user and not a librarian, which is important in ensuring the library remains an important space in a quickly changing culture.

By studying usage, Lascarides was able to determine that 87% of catalog usage was from off-site, not in the library, thus proving that within the past couple of years mobile usage was increasing due to devices like smart phones and ipads. Thus, libraries need to consider how the can remain relevant and keep up with technology.

He points out that being free won't save your library, studies have shown that people rather pay for a good experience if the free experience isn't good. But if your free experience is good then that is better than a good pay experience.

To determine what patrons want from their New York State Public library he and his staff conducted physical and online surveys of patrons to determine why they use their libraries. Their study focused on the Main Manhattan library and the Mid-Manhattan library (the highest circulating library), which are across from one another. They realized from their studies that emotions are at the core of libraries. The way people perceive their libraries affects their usage. People tend to be drawn to the libraries that appeal to their emotional needs: some are attracted to the seriousnious and grandness of the Main library while others are attracted to the busy, loud, and informalness of the Mid-Manhattan library. They found that librarians should never assume things about users. Many may assume that the loudest patrons are students but studies found that students are drawn to libraries as a place to study while business people are 3x more likely than students to be drawn to loud social spaces. Also they found that business people and tourists are more likely to be high-tech patrons compared to students.

Patrons were asked "If all research content was online would you still use the library?" over 80% said "yes!"

Lascarides ended his presentation with philosophical suggestions:

1. If you want your library to become or remain successful: be an inspirational setting.
2. Be a physical space to go to.
3. Concentrate on experiences that be duplicated elsewhere
4. Push the tension between privacy and social space/experience
5. Become conversent, give and receive. Don't be just a "fortress of knowledge."

-- Lea Domingo

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