Posts filed under ‘UA Libraries’
I’m the product manager for our library website, and over the past few months I’ve learned that it’s actually pretty easy to gather user input. It’s data that’s extremely important and should guide your website decisions, but so many of us neglect to do it in any frequent, systematic way, often due to fears of time and budget constraints.
Well it doesn’t have to be that way, especially if you are fortunate enough to have a physical location & therefore your primary audience all around you. Here are two methods for gathering quick and dirty user input:
5 Minute Intercept Usability Testing
Spend 20 minutes coming up with your key tasks you want to test and scenarios in order to test them (I recommend Steve Krug’s Rocket Surgery Made Easy for a quick read on this). Grab a laptop and some candy bars, and preferably a colleague to take notes, and then go out in the world to solicit volunteers. If you are on a university campus, it’s super easy to find students willing to trade 5 minutes of their time for a candy bar (king sized, of course). The student union after lunch won’t ever fail. I’ve been able to conduct 8 tests in the course of an hour or two. And learned so much in the process.
10 Minute Card Sorting
This method is often used to guide an entire website’s navigation, but it can also be used to test sections of your website. It’s a great method for testing your own assumptions about how your audience thinks about your content; you can use this technique to come up with an organizational structure that makes sense and labels that are more meaningful. Don’t get bogged down coming up with perfect descriptions of content or the ideal labels you want to test. Treat it as an iterative process. This week we’ve been testing all of our “help” content. We began the first round with open card sorting using 28 cards; more were added when we realized not every type of content was captured, and others were taken away when we realized they were confusing. We then added labels and now do a blended version of “open” and “closed” sorting where we show them the labels after they’ve established an organizational structure to see if any labels make the most sense given their structure. Similar to usability testing, you can find users willing to trade minutes of their time for a candy bar. We’ve actually found that students enjoy the activity, as well. They like the library and like knowing they are contributing to improving our website.
I’d like to hear if others are conducting similar sorts of user testing on a dime. Intercept usability and card sorting are the two I’ve had success with. We have also managed to recruit faculty members to conduct some more formal testing later this month (we offered them lunch). I hope to continue to conduct testing on a regular, systematic basis. In an ideal world, all of our serious website decisions should be based on user input.
As most librarians know, last week was Banned Books Week, and I was involved in a number of events in the library and in collaboration with the Progressive Librarians Guild – UA Chapter. See our library news story on how we celebrated.
First, we installed an exhibit in Research West. Almost all of the books were lent by library staff and students, leaving our own collection available for circulation during this important week. We covered the four glass exhibit cubes in black cardboard, caution tape, and warning signs, with small peep-holes for those daring to view the challenged literature. Already, we have had a great response from students. In fact, several people have said that they have never seen the exhibit so busy with people stopping to take a look! We certainly got their attention.
UA News decided to publish a story on our events, and then we even got the university’s UATV and Daily Wildcat interested, who interviewed me and did a story on the week’s events:
As mentioned in the video, we had an event (held last Wednesday night) which included a film screening, a “Read Out!” and a panel discussion. It was well attended with participants ranging from students to professors to community members. About a dozen participants went to the podium to read from challenged books as part of the Read Out, and following I performed a Pecha Kucha titled, “Challenging Censorship: Libraries as advocates for freedom and democracy.” Concluding the program was the panel which included two librarians and one English professor, who discussed issues ranging from dangerous publications about bomb-making to historically challenged classics to LGBT literature being banned in college classrooms. Audience members engaged in Q&A with the speakers, and everyone seemed to enjoy the evening which wrapped up soon after 8pm.
Last Friday, I presented at the LOEX Annual Conference with colleagues Leslie Sult and Yvonne Mery. The title of our talk was, “Developing an Online Credit-bearing Information Fluency Course: Lessons Learned.” We reviewed how we developed, implemented, and evaluated the undergraduate Skillful Researcher (UNVR195a) course. To get some backgound, you can take a look at my post from last April when the class was first approved.
We had a good turnout, and the audience actively participated by asking questions and sharing their own experiences. It seemed like a very timely topic, as many other instruction librarians are going towards both online teaching and credit-bearing courses.
Here is our powerpoint to give you an idea of what we talked about, I hope others find this helpful and share any comments:
We also had a handout with a list of things to Try and to Avoid in online instruction, which I’ll share here:
|Try It||Avoid It|
|Establishing and following course objectives||Designing as you go|
|Keeping tutorials short||Trying to put everything in one tutorial|
|Keeping text to a minimum||Overusing text|
|Using smart graphics||Using images that are purely decorative|
|Including audio||Overusing PowerPoint|
|Using provocative discussion questions||Making assignments the discussion questions|
|Including self-assessments||Depending only on quizzes for students’ assessment|
|Participating in discussions||Assuming students will participate in discussions on their own|
|Grading discussions||Having optional discussions|
|Writing clear directions||Assuming students will know what to do|
|Paying close attention to course navigation||Over-depending on the navigation in the CMS|
|Responding to students promptly||Assuming that students do not need immediate feedback|
|Listening to feedback||Ever thinking you’re “done”|
|Preparing for a significant time commitment||Assuming teaching will be less work because it’s online|
Citizens all over the United States are turning to their public libraries for books, computers, and children’s programming.
Take a look at this MSNBC story here.
As a land grant institution, the UA Libraries also serves our local Tucson community. In these tough times it’s more important than ever that we remember our land grant mission. We provide our community users with access to computers, books, cultural events & exhibits, and electronic information resources that can not only enrich their lives, but can get them the information they need to be successful even in these tough economic times…
I wrote a post awhile back attempting to compare these two software products that can be used for creating interactive screencapturing videos. I spent months learning the ins and outs of Camtasia, creating a number of videos that are now being used in the library. Now we have Captivate keyserved, so I finally have it on my computer and have had a chance to spend time with it and get to know it a little better. Conclusion? Captivate is much easier, cleaner, dynamic, and creates a nicer final product than Camtasia.
We had a training open to all library staff earlier this week on Captivate. Here is what we have determined:
- Captivate projects are easier to edit: you can copy and paste slides, delete and add sections, & extend time frames in a much easier manner than in Camtasia. In Camtasia you can screen draw and select mouse options before and during the recording phase, but cannot change this in editing mode. You have to start over. Captivate lets you play with these options afterward. So if you mess up during recording, you don’t have to start all over again.
- Captivate saves you time: this is a smart software, and can actually add captions for you based on what you’re doing on the screen (like “click X,” “you are now on X page”). These are easy to alter or delete if you like, but if you want them this will save you a lot of time.
- Captivate quizzes are pretty: well, prettier than Camtasia’s. And you can actually preview them without publishing the project.
- Captivate allows interactivity: this is a big one, and one I mentioned in my previous post. You can select an area on the screen and the user has to click it to continue, or take them somewhere. Allows a lot more customization than Camtasia’s “hot spots.” There’s also a new feature in Captivate 3 called “branching,” where you can make your product even more dynamic as users go to different places and discover different things.
This doesn’t mean to say I’m writing Camtasia off completely. I do like it’s easy ability to record audio with powerpoints, and I like it’s preview screen which Captivate is lacking (have to select “preview” to see what the project looks like in motion and any changes you’ve made). That said, an intern at the library this summer spent 2 months messing with Camtasia trying to make a tutorial on searching for newspapers using Access World News. She was very frustrated, particularly with the screen drawing and audio quality. She spend less than a week with Captivate and made a nice, clean, professional product: http://www.library.arizona.edu/help/tutorials/courses/jour/accessworldnews/Tutorial.htm. That’s enough to convince me in the Captivate vs. Camtasia debate: Captivate Wins.
So my library recently went through a restructuring, and on the Undergraduate Services Team where I work we’re gaining two former science-engineering librarians, and losing one of our outreach librarians as well as our graphic designer. I am one of two new permanent librarians on the team, just hired a month ago. To help facilitate the transition, we had two days of teambuilding where we broke down all the work our team does and organized it into categories – outreach, instruction, training, reference & information commons, and the website. We were each placed in one or more of these categories based on our experience; I was put in outreach, reference & information commons, and training. Surprisingly I wasn’t put in instruction even though my job description is very heavy on instruction (I actually was put in there then removed because we had too many people there as it was & I was in too many groups). Then we went off in our groups to discuss that work and come up with a plan for how it’s going to get done.
So now I find myself being pulled in all different directions. Officially, just because you’re in the planning group for a certain category of work doesn’t mean you’ll actually be doing that work. But it’s hard to avoid it. And outreach is huge. There are 3 of us in this group and it looks like the 3 of us will be doing a lot with outreach. (Not to mention the fact that we’re changing seating arrangements in the office based on our work and I’m in the “outreach” group). Which I don’t mind because I really enjoy it, and actually even asked in my interview about if I would get to participate in outreach and was told “probably not.” Ironic, since this appears to be turning into my primary function. And while I’m not in the instruction group, I am teaching two sections of the Skillful Researcher this fall and have heard rumors my name is being proposed for a number of instructional types of work that needs to get done. I’m definitely big on the educational technology and have worked a lot with this in the past 8 months which I’d like to continue to do; I also love being in a classroom. And I am also interested in taking on a new role of looking closely at learning spaces and ways we can improve them. Not to mention reference & information commons & training.
Pretty soon our team leader will be sending out what all the groups have come up with for their categories of work, and team members get to share which ones they are interested in. The ultimate decision for who is doing what is being coordinated by the team leader. I realize I need to focus my energies, especially as a new librarian. And I want to avoid getting overwhelmed and losing quality in my work. At first I thought outreach was what I would most enjoy. Then I got into instruction and really liked it, and applied for this position believing instruction is what I was going to do. Reference and training is a place where I have a lot of experience and the background to do pretty well, and I can see how these can be improved which is really exciting to me. So now it’s time to do some soul searching and figure out how I want to focus, and I need to do it fast… yikes!
This past Friday we held the 3rd annual Amazing Library Race: Desert Edition at the UA’s Main Library. We broke previous numbers and had 210 participants show up, including students, staff, faculty, and community members. To learn more about this event and how it all works, see my post from last year.
As an organizer this year, I spent all morning helping with setup and coordinating volunteers, then was a floater during the actual event, and helped with take down. By the time the Amazing Happy Hour started at 5:00 I was completely exhausted. But it was well worth it, and here’s why:
- Participants really learned a lot about library resources and services. They also learned about how to navigate the 5 story building, which is often intimidating – not to mention confusing – for newbies.
- It is the only event held in the library where we have this substantial number of participants who are our primary audience. Exhibits, lectures, and other events don’t even come close. The energy that’s present up and down the library stacks is something you really only get to see this one time a year.
- Marketing a lot this year has made the event known to the campus community. Even those that didn’t make it to the event itself very likely heard about it. We had hundreds of table toppers in the student union that week, and posters around University Blvd. where students are constantly passing by. While we only reached a small percentage of our audience during the actual 2 hour event, we reached many more in other ways.
- This event promotes an image that the library isn’t usually known for. Libraries and the people that work in libraries are fun. And approachable. And we want to help.
- Those that work in the library get to all come together to make this event possible. I coordinated over 60 volunteers to staff the stations & help with set-up and take-down. It’s a great opportunity to work with people you don’t see every day and don’t otherwise get to work with.
- Word of mouth is powerful. I think this event is extremely important, and hope those that joined us that day share some of what they learned with friends, classmates, and colleagues. The actual impact of this event is difficult to measure, but I truly think it has the potential to educate library users far and wide about the many services we offer.
A few things were organized differently this year:
- Rather than having a raffle at the end of the event where we later contacted prize winners, we gave away all of our prizes during the actual event (with the exception of the grand prize – an IPod). To win prizes, students completed an activity or played a game. 4 prize stations could be found along the trail, but they weren’t advertised to avoid those stations getting backed up. Those that were successful could pick from a list of prizes. As time went on, obviously, the list got smaller. All prizes were gone soon after 2:00. The prize activities were:
- Media Station: Play “Scene It?“. This could be answering a question about a movie clip, placing films in the order in which they were released, or guessing what movie an image is from.
- Middle Eastern Studies Collection Station: Capitals of the Middle East. Pick a slip from a hat, where there would be the name of a Middle Eastern country’s capital. Correctly state the country’s name and you win. (We had a map displayed of the Middle East to help out a bit).
- Reference Desk Station: Knock Down a Librarian. My wonderful colleague Forrest let us borrow his librarian action figure which we set up on a table with a backdrop of reference materials. You stand behind the line, are given a ball, and get one shot to knock her down.
- Express Check-Out: Find a Bookmark. You select a book from a cart of books about desert survival. If the book you pick has an Amazing Race bookmark in it, you win.
- We also had some new stations this go around:
- University College. This is located in the Integrated Learning Center (ILC) right off the courtyard where we have our final station of free pizza, soda, & eegees. Undecided students, which is much of our audience, are a part of this college and receive advising here. Keith Rocci – who is also our partner in crime for the Skillful Researcher course – staffed this station and had students answer riddles to win a ton of prizes that they had purchased.
- Reference Desk. This was a station before but it was combined with the Presentation Practice Rooms; this time it stood alone so it could focus more on the reference services provided at this site.
- Maps. We added this to the microforms station, which is in the same section on the first floor, so students could pick between answering a maps question (based on maps on display) or a microforms question (based on microforms on display where they had to use the machine to find a certain news story). We also displayed a number of globes, including globes of the moon and astronomical globes, which many library users don’t even know that we have.
- We invited students from SIRLS to volunteer for the event. Two did, and after helping handout flyers around campus they got to staff the stations, promote library services, interact with librarians, and have some fun participating a large scale orientation event.
- And we’re working harder to get feedback, so we can prove to the library that this event is worth the time, effort, and money that goes into it. We took CatCard numbers at the opening station so we can gather details on who participated. We are also going to send out a Survey Monkey to gather better feedback from both participants and volunteers. This is all in addition to the feedback form all the participants were asked to fill out during the race. My hope is that once we collect this data, we will have a stronger argument for why this event is important, why it should continue to be supported in the future.
NOTE: video from the event coming soon…
I have been offered a permanent position as an Undergraduate Services Librarian at the University of Arizona Libraries. This is actually – essentially - the position I have been filling on a temporary contract since January. It’s still an Assistant Librarian level, and it’s for the most part the same work I have been doing with instructional design and educational technology. There are a few differences, though:
- I am permanent, so I don’t have to worry about where I will be come December. Wahoo!! This also means I can work on more long-term projects. Things like grant projects, event planning, and cross-functional groups where members serve a term of a year or often more.
- I am continuing-eligible, which means in 5 years I submit paperwork to become an “Associate Librarian.” This requires scholarship and service – things like publishing, committee work, etc. Shouldn’t be too hard. I’m already on the ACRL Committee on Ethics and have two potential papers in the beginning phases. I’m actually excited to get to do this sort of thing and be encouraged to do it. A few years later (although often many years later) I can go up for the ”Full Librarian” title, which requires you be nationally recognized as contributing substantially to the field.
- I get paid less! Silly, right? It’s all about timing. Supposedly, in January the median pay grade was $300 more per year than it is now. So I’m going to get a little less per paycheck. Bummer.
Overall, how do I feel?
- Excited. There are a lot of things I really enjoy about working in this library and especially in Undergraduate Services. Developing online learning objects and classes. Reconfiguring reference services. Teaching undergraduates. Developing curriculum. Creating outreach opportunities. Working collaboratively. Working independently. Being creative.
- Surprised. Last December I was convinced that I would be moving somewhere outside of Tucson. This isn’t because I didn’t like the location or the library, but staying didn’t seem realistic. For one thing, it’s unusual to move from a classified staff position to a librarian position. Most new hires have some outside library experience, almost always professional librarian experience. Plus I was in a position where I could move – there are many more opportunities outside of Tucson, so I figured that is what would happen.
- Reflective. Who would have thought? I started as a student shelving books in 2003, to see if libraries is where I wanted to end up. I held a number of student positions, then in 2005 became a part-time Library Specialist the same time I entered library school. I then went to full-time Library Information Associate then Library Information Analyst in access services. I moved to the temporary Librarian position this year and now landed a permanent Librarian gig. Pretty cool…
I presented this to the library on Friday so thought I’d share it here: