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Demystifying Ethnography: Exploring Student Use of Library Spaces
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Demystifying Ethnography: Exploring Student Use of Library Spaces



This presentation was given at the Minnesota Library Association 2010 Annual Conference by Julie Gilbert, Amy Gratz, Anna Hulseberg, and Sarah Monson. Please note that all images are copyright to the ...

This presentation was given at the Minnesota Library Association 2010 Annual Conference by Julie Gilbert, Amy Gratz, Anna Hulseberg, and Sarah Monson. Please note that all images are copyright to the Folke Bernadotte Memorial Library at Gustavus Adolphus College, with the exception of images on slide 37 (Image Association). These images are creative commons licensed and belong to their respective creators: Dalboz17, chris5aw, jisc_infonet, and Christopher Chan.



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Demystifying Ethnography: Exploring Student Use of Library Spaces Presentation Transcript

  • 1. Demystifying Ethnography: Exploring Student Use of Library Spaces
    MLA 2010 Annual Conference
    Julie Gilbert, Amy Gratz,
    Anna Hulseberg, and Sarah Monson
  • 2. Session OVERVIEW
    Study: how students use library space
    Why ethnography?
    What we wanted to learn
    How we gathered data: multiple methods
    What did we learn, and what’s next?
    You as library ethnographer
  • 3. Library as physical and virtual space
  • 4. Why Ethnography?
    What exactly is an ethnographic approach?
    Emphasis on qualitative
    Use of multiple methods
    Interviews, surveys & focus groups
    Participant observation
  • 5. Ethnography and Libraries
    Previous studies
    Foster and Gibbons, Studying Students: The Undergraduate Research Project at the University of Rochester
    Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries (ERIAL) Project
    Ethnographic objectives
    Elicit student-focused data
    Understand and accommodate academic needs
  • 6. Our Research Questions
    How do students make use of existing library spaces and services, both physical and virtual?
    What improvements could the library make to better meet the needs of students?
  • 7. Methods
    Semi-structured Interviews
    Linguistic Listing
    Photo Diaries
    Image Association
    Focus Groups
  • 8. Managing the Research Process
    Research team
    Library staff and students
    Varied skill set
    Project plan
    Responsibilities and deadlines
    Communicating with library staff
    Planning ahead (data analysis, implementing changes)
    Departmental mini-grant
  • 9. Recruiting Participants
    E-mail invitations
    Table tents
    Library VIP room
    Print vouchers
  • 10. Survey
    Starting with a Broad Base
  • 11. Survey
    • Surveyed students about use of library’s physical and virtual spaces
    • 12. Quantitative and qualitative questions
    • 13. Mainly open-ended questions
    • 14. Survey affected design and recruitment for subsequent activities
  • Survey: physical space
  • 15. Survey: virtual space
  • 16. Interviews
    In Students’ Own Words
  • 17. Interviews
    Semi-structured format
    Focused, open-ended questions
    Recording and transcription
    Student interviewer - Lindell scholar
  • 18. Examples of Interview Questions
    Basic Questions
    What is your major?
    How often do you use the library?
    At what times do you use the library?
    Why do you use the library?
    Physical Space Questions
    Where is your preferred space in the library (1st, 2nd, 3rd floor)?
    Do you use the library for individual study? Where do you place yourself?
    Do you use the library for group study? Where do you place yourself?
  • 19. Linguistic Listing
    Learning the Students’ Language
  • 20. What is Linguistic Listing?
    Listing words or phrases that belong to a particular category
    Example: What comes to mind when you hear the word “library?”
    Such as: Books, Study, Information
    Responses to open-ended questions
    What is your favorite space in the library? Why?
  • 21. Why Linguistic Listing?
    Used to elicit concepts and perceptions in people’s (library users’) own words
    Example: “circulation desk” v. “front desk”
    Used to measure consensus among words and categories
    Is the word “periodicals” associated with “journals?”
  • 22.
  • 23. Mapping
    Where do Students go in the Library?
  • 24. Mapping
    1 week, 5 mappers, 3 times a day, 3 floors
    Mapped exact location and number of students in a given space
    To find out which spaces are used, when they are used, and which spaces are not used
    Compare findings with survey responses
  • 25. 2nd Floor, 10am
  • 26. 2nd Floor, 3pm
  • 27. Compilation Map – 2nd Floor
  • 28. Photo Diaries
    Around the Library
  • 29. Photo Diaries
    Show us how students view and use the library space and resources
    Photos can show us more than the students say
    Designed to deepen the knowledge gained through earlier methods
    Photo prompts selected based on questions asked in survey and linguistic listing
    Most prompts designed to help us learn why students use the library in addition to what they do here
  • 30. Photo Diary Prompts
    Your favorite place
    Your least favorite place
    Something you can’t imagine the library without
    Something you don’t think should be here
    Your preferred solo study space
    Your preferred group study space
    What your study space looks like when you’re working
    Your most common destination
    Something you’ll miss when you graduate
    Something you want to change in the library
    A picture to show to a “prospy”
    Someplace you’ve never been before
    A place in the library where you feel lost
    Where you ask questions
    Library activity
    Something unique (to our library)
    Something you want more of
    Most popular space
    Least popular space
    The computer you use most often in the library, showing its surroundings
    Your favorite search tool
    A resource you rarely use
    Something you have a question about
    Why you come to the library
  • 31. 7.What your study space looks like when you're working:
    What does this photo say about you?
    “Like to have everything in front of me.”
  • 32. 13. A place in the library where you feel lost:
    What do you think we could change to help you?
    “Occasionally the reference section seems daunting”
  • 33. 14. Where do you ask questions?
    What sort of questions do you ask here? Why here (over another location)?
    “I ask questions at the reference desk when I need help. If I can’t find something or need a book behind them as well as with citations for papers. I go here because they tend to know the most.”
  • 34. 1.Your favorite place :
    What do you like about this space?
    “I love [the] comfy chairs facing the windows of the 2nd floor of the library because the chairs are comfortable, there are still tables to place necessary caffeinated beverages and if you need a distraction from studying, you can look at the great scenery.”
  • 35. Image Association
    The Ideal Library
  • 36. Image Association
    Designed to elicit how students envision an ideal library
    Prior methods had focused on use of the current space
    Used Flickr® as a platform
    Created an account students shared to create galleries of their ideal library
    Asked the students to include comments explaining why they chose specific images
  • 37. Image Association Prompt
    Create a collection of images depicting your ideal library. Think about what you do, or would like to do, in the library, and find images that look or feel the same to you.
    Be as creative as you want – your ideal library doesn’t need to look anything like the current library. The sky is the limit!
  • 38.
  • 39. For more see: flickr.com/photos/fbml_space_study/galleries/
  • 40. Web Focus Groups
    Students in the Virtual Space
  • 41. Web Focus Group 1
    Brainstorming exercise:
    What do you want to see on a library homepage?
  • 42. Web Focus Group 1
    Brainstorming exercise:
    What do you like / not like about the current library homepage?
  • 43. Ideal Website Mock-up
    Main exercise: Design your ideal library homepage from scratch
  • 44. Web Focus Group 2
    Brainstorming exercise:
    What was new to you when you started college?
  • 45. Web Focus Group 2
    Brainstorming exercise:
    Tell us about a recent research project & what sources you used?
  • 46. Web Focus Group 2
    Main exercise: Create a guide for incoming first-year students about how to use the library website for research.
    “Depending on the requirements you may need to use different types of sources such as books or articles or websites so try to use a variety in your papers”
    “Within each database think of the overall assignment and purpose of the paper and come up with specific words to use in your search”
  • 47. How Did We Analyze All This Data?
    Very carefully!
  • 48. Data Analysis
    Overall patterns & themes
    SPSS for Surveys & Photo Diaries
    Quantitative analysis
    Coding schema
    Frequency tables & cross tabulations
    Debriefing with student academic assistants
    Focus groups & Interviews
    Photos, videos, transcriptions
    Research retreat – discuss data as a whole
  • 49. Findings
    Students want natural light, more tables, more private study areas, more group study areas, a café, and better tools to navigate the library
    Students want a website that is visually appealing, dynamic, simple, and well-organized
  • 50. Action Plan
    Recommendations to library committees
    Website task force
    Ongoing data analysis
    Implement changes
  • 51. Activity
    You as library ethnographer
  • 52. Part 1: Current Knowledge
    What do you already know about how patrons use your library’s physical and virtual spaces?
    How do you know this? What evidence do you have?
  • 53. Part 2: Research Questions
    Scenario: Your library receives a grant to hire an ethnographer to study your patrons’ use of your library’s physical and virtual space over the course of a year.
    What would you like to explore about use of your library’s space?
    What would your primary research questions be?
  • 54. Part 3: Methods
    How are you going to find the answers to your research questions?
    Pick one of your research questions and design a specific method you might use.
  • 55. Interested in doing a similar study?
    Here are some recommendations:
    Use student researchers/focus group leaders
    Be well organized but be prepared to adapt!
    Be creative – things don’t always go as planned
    Project Plan(s)
    Recruitment – start early!
  • 56. Thank you!