My team of three designers was challenged to create a digital product to help the library strengthen its reach. The assignment was vague (again, this was a study project) - we were essentially told to just brainstorm on how libraries could attract more visitors in the digital age.
“Today we are in the midst of a tremendous shift in the way Americans consume literature and other content, but one thing has not changed — the library must continue to play a central role in providing open and free access to information and ideas.”
- Huffington Post
Through our research, we discovered that users have a lot of respect and trust for a library. However, many of them hardly used library services. This dissonance between what users believed and how they acted led us to the creation of a browser extension: ResourceFull. The extension helps our users to find trustworthy library resources at their convenience, that they may not have known were so accessible.
To figure out who we should include for competitor analysis, we looked at a library mission statement to see what their true value proposition was.
“We welcome and support all people in their enjoyment of reading and pursuit of lifelong learning. Working together, we strive to provide equal access to information, ideas, and knowledge through books, programs, and other resources. We believe in the freedom to read, to learn, to discover.”
- Chicago Public Library
So, a library's main purpose is to provide access to information, ideas, and knowledge. We thought that search engines and book stores fit this concept, so we did a SWOT analysis using Google, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. The competitors' weaknesses are either paid access or lack of curation of materials offered.
Amazon - paid access
Google - too much information, lack of credibility
Barnes & Noble - paid access, limited to books
In addition to our SWOT analysis, we spoke with six librarians in a variety of roles. We chose libraries with different sizes and locations to give us a better general picture.
“Young professionals are the hardest group to reach. Once they are out of college and until they have kids, there is not much that interests them in the library”.
- Gina, Digital Resources Manager at Boulder Public Library.
Lots of our key findings felt like things that were out of our reach (making budget changes, for example), but Gina's comment stood out to us. It was something we could definitely relate to, and felt like a gap that could be bridged. To understand why young professionals aren't utilizing their local libraries, we conducted a survey with 108 people (variety of ages), and interviewed 6 (young professionals). We didn't just target people who don't use library resources; we also wanted to know what people that were using their libraries found useful.
At this point, it looked like people believed the internet can offer most of the information needed, along with being more convenient.
“I think one of the things that keep me using the library is that you can really trust the information that is there. Or I can compare it more objectively to the information I’m getting from other sources”.
“There’s just too much to keep up with right now. It’s busy. Yeah”.
The social butterfly
“I stay pretty busy.”
Henry's journey. * simplified for presentation purposes
As a team, we decided to dig deeper into the credibility advantage. Additional research helped us to define the following cognitive dissonance:
Why do millennials believe the library is credible, want better information, but not use the library?
The internet is a great resource for providing information quickly, but it’s not always credible. Young professionals need a flexible, reliable and fast way to learn more about their interests from sources they trust.
At first, we thought that the solution should be mobile (website or app) since most young professionals seem to spend a lot of time on their phone. But libraries typically have websites already, and that wasn't helping to address this problem. And it would be unlikely for someone to download an app for a library that they don't already use regularly.
We were trying to attract new visitors to the library. Young professionals already read a ton of blogs, articles, etc in their browser. A browser extension would let libarries showcase related resources they have on topics that a user is interested in/reading about.
Users interested in a topic can search via the extensions to find relevant resources.
If a user’s search returns no results, they can send a request for the libarary to curate information for them.
Usability Test Results
To cut the story short I have omitted a lot of details. If you have any questions or would like to see a particular artifact, please, do not hesitate to contact me at: email@example.com