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Listening to Users: The Role of Assessment in Changing Library Space to Meet User Needs. ARL Library Assessment Conference September 26, 2006 Kimberly Sweetman & Lucinda Covert-Vail. Today’s Presentation. NYU Bobst Library renovation Assessment measures Outcomes

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Listening to Users: The Role of Assessment in Changing Library Space to Meet User Needs

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Listening to users the role of assessment in changing library space to meet user needs

Listening to Users: The Role of Assessment in Changing Library Space to Meet User Needs

ARL Library Assessment ConferenceSeptember 26, 2006

Kimberly Sweetman & Lucinda Covert-Vail

Today s presentation

Today’s Presentation

  • NYU Bobst Library renovation

  • Assessment measures

  • Outcomes

  • Assessment measure repurposing

  • Creating a culture of assessment

  • Conclusion

Listening to users the role of assessment in changing library space to meet user needs


  • LibQual+ results

  • Multiple assessments

  • Public culture of libraries

  • Users define the space - interactions, activities

  • Consultative, iterative process

  • Public relations, user outreach

Bobst library renovation

Renovation opened Fall 2004

4 floors renovated

User spaces w/undergraduate focus

Staff spaces

Reference center



Group study rooms


Computer classrooms/labs

Consultation rooms

ADA compliance

Bobst Library Renovation

User assessment

User Assessment

  • Web-based user preference surveys (pre and post renovation)

  • User activity survey

  • Advisory and focus groups

  • LibQual + -- 2002 and 2006

User preference survey 1

Developed in conjunction with architectural firm

Posted on library website


Focused on specifics of library use

Sought opinions on

Preferred workspace

Visual environment

Privacy & security

Navigation & signage

Lighting & acoustics

Furnishings & equipment

Library ambience

User Preference Survey #1

User preference results

User Preference Results

  • 330+ respondents “self-reported” their preferences

  • 61% students & 24% faculty

  • Primarily daily or weekly library users

  • 45% indicated library DID NOT meet their needs

  • Technology --wireless, power outlets

  • Food

  • Group and individual use

  • Library personality: quiet, comfortable, clean,well-lighted space

User activity survey

Self-reporting v. observation

Anecdotal, staff opinions

Library as social space

Relation between users & physical environment

Tools for working, studying

Spatial analysis

Observational sweeps 3 times/day

Variables including seating, location, possessions, activities

Design & pretest


Furniture choices

Group v. individual

User Activity Survey

Focus advisory groups

Bobst Renovation Advisory Committee -Students, faculty & librarians

PSAC & FAS Library Advisory Committee

Undergraduate & graduate focus groups

Test conclusions from observation studies

Review LibQual results

Test layouts, furniture, technology conclusions

Naming conventions

Focus & Advisory Groups

Design issues

Design Issues

  • Value-engineering

  • Physical layout

    • seating arrangements

    • social v. individual, solitary space

    • study space

  • Technology access

  • General ambience/environment

  • User preferences and behaviors

  • Lighting

Post renovation assessments

Post-renovation Assessments

  • Revised web survey - service improvements, added power, food choices, outreach

  • LibQual+ 2006 - shift in library as place perception

  • Exit data

  • User activity observation study

Repurposing the user activity study

Repurposing the User Activity Study

  • Quality of Life Committee (QLC)

    • Summer 2004

    • Charge included developing new food, drink and cell phone tolerance policies

    • Charge included assessment and adjustment

Repurposing the user activity study1

Repurposing the User Activity Study

  • QLC had not taken baseline measurements

  • User Activity Study served as an acceptable baseline

    • Instances of food and drink lumped together as “rulebreaking”

    • Cell phone baseline not comparable, but cell phone use not problematic

User activity study

User Activity Study

User activity study simplified

User Activity Study (simplified)

User activity study changes


Seating Type

Group Work

Library Materials

Personal Materials

Computer Use


Cell Phone (possession)


Seating Type


Drinking (covered)

Drinking (uncovered)

Cell Phone Use


User Activity Study Changes

Qlc uas results

QLC UAS Results

  • Library use in renovated areas increased 35%

  • Users complied with cell phone policies

  • Food and drink non-compliance reduced in most areas as a result of new policy and QLC efforts

  • Overall instances of food and drink rule-breaking reduced from 20% to 13%

Qlc outcomes

QLC Outcomes

  • QLC became a standing committee

  • QLC has continued assessment activities & adjusted campaign

  • Roving Library Assistants hired

  • Additional benches installed in cell phone approved areas

  • QLC one example of our move toward a culture of assessment

Toward a culture of assessment

Toward a Culture of Assessment

Work-Groups teach measurement & assessment methods to staff while bringing people together around a “problem.”


-Study the efficacy of the book search process

-Plan a project to install security tags in 600,000 volumes

-Plan the Roving Library Assistant program

-Plan a departmental open house

Towards a culture of assessment

Towards a Culture of Assessment

WG Outcomes: Not only do problems get solved, but early data suggest that as a result of participating in a work group:

  • Staff develop an appreciation for using data to make decisions

  • Staff are more comfortable approaching coworkers they met through a work group

  • Some staff are more comfortable approaching coworkers in general, even those they did not meet through the work group



  • Renovation was a success

    • Bobst Library received the 2005 class legacy gift

    • “Light, state-of-the-art and most importantly, inviting…[and] so far, NYU has gotten it just right.”

      • WashingtonSquare News



We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us

--Winston Churchill



  • We not only improved our space, but also began to improve our library culture:

    • We learned how to listen to our users

    • We learned how to critically evaluate our programs and services

    • We learned the value of using data to inform decisions

    • We are slowly but surely spreading these lessons throughout the library

    • Staff involvement in renovation, QLC and work groups has both helped to change our culture and evidenced our changing culture



To Paraphrase Winston Churchill:

We asked users to help us to shape our building, now they are helping to shape everything we do.

Listening to users

Listening to Users

Thank You

Kimberly Burke Sweetman

Lucinda Covert-Vail

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