Session Description

This interactive workshop will facilitate attendees in practice and discussion of three user experience research techniques -- cognitive mapping, cultural probes, and observational studies. Implementing user-experience data collection techniques such as these can inform library decision-making focused around users’ actual experiences and needs.


Cognitive mapping, cultural probes, observational studies, ethnography


May 12th, 11:45 AM May 12th, 12:45 PM

Evidence-based librarianship: Methods for researching user experience

Grand Maple Ballroom

Designing experiences for library users requires an understanding of the people, as well as the situations involved in those experiences. When developing library services, this understanding is important in order to consider how the services can fit within constituents’ practices, how they can complement existing user workflows and learning strategies, and how they can reflect and build on their users’ identities. A data-driven, evidence-based approach to librarianship is becoming increasingly important.

Additionally, libraries are increasingly tasked with demonstrating their impact and contributions towards institutional priorities in the wider higher education landscape. To that end, the presenters’ institute created a unique position -- the Experience Design Librarian -- to take a targeted approach to designing, delivering and assessing meaningful user experiences. This position also explores connections between library usage and academic success measures such as retention, achievement and graduation rates, all in an attempt to deliver human-centered library experiences.

This interactive workshop will highlight three user experience research techniques that the presenters have begun to implement -- cognitive mapping, cultural probes, and observational studies. These approaches are all based in ethnographic research methodologies. A quick and interactive exercise, cognitive mapping involves asking users to draw mental representations of an environment to uncover their perceptions of it, as well as their habits and patterns of use and non-use in relation to the space. Cultural probes consist of a packet or kit given to participants to interact with the artifacts within as a method of data collection to understand their needs and behaviors. This method encourages participant engagement and explores unanticipated uses that the researcher may not have considered. Observational studies involve the researcher observing and recording the locations, movements and behaviors of people or items to uncover the usage habits and patterns within a space. These three techniques can be easily modified and incorporated in the libraries of conference attendees to help gather data around the experiences and practices of their users.

The presenters will explain the three techniques along with their experiences of them before facilitating attendees in practice and discussion of the techniques. Upon completion of this session, conference attendees can expect to be able to incorporate these techniques in their own libraries. We argue that libraries can and should consider implementing user-experience data collection techniques to inform decision-making and practice in order to help focus services around the actual needs of users.


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