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Service Design for Libraries


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A brief report from a unique service design research trip to seven university libraries in the Czech Republic. Almost fourty librarians took part and travelled more than a thousand kilometers during the journey.

It was organized by team from Masaryk University to promote best practices and discuss latest design trends.

Published in: Education, Technology
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Service Design for Libraries

  1. 1. Lessons from a research trip to seven majorlibraries in the Czech Republic
  2. 2. Back in 2011, the team of young academics the country in search of better servicesat the Masaryk University in Brno, Czech interface.Republic, was exploring the ways of how toengage local librarians and bring them The goal of the journey was to experiencelatest management trends in a different the librarian services from the customerway than lectures and e-learning. perspective. This perspective was thought to enhance the more traditional process-Their flagship activity, the PARTSIP project, oriented view of the public services.that focused on connecting the community Moreover, the goal was to exchange bestand enlarging its knowledge base, was practices used across the libraries bydelivering sound results. A numerous discussing them right in the midst of theworkshops, conferences and guest lectures servicescape2.established a new way of looking at thetraditional field and spurred unusual waveof creativity among the librarians.However, the team wanted to bring theexperience and learning even closer topractice. Inspired by Joe Heapy and SophiaParkers pioneering book Journey to theInterface1 (Demos London, 2006), theydecided to start a real journey and travel1. Translated into Czech in 2011 as Cesta za lepsim 2. Servicescape, or service landscape, refers to therozhranim. Available for free download under Creative environment where a service is delivered to a customer asCommons license from services often come as complex experiences that are delivered across numerous channels like buildings, personnel, computers, paper forms etc.
  3. 3. The journey took four days in May 2012 A guided tourand more than a thousand kilometers weretravelled during that time. As a next step, a short tour through the library would be guided by the librarysSeven major Czech libraries were visited director and/or a service designer with theduring the journey, all spread across the goal to discuss the best practices andwhole country. These included Masaryk challenges in a particular environment.University Campus Library in Brno, Library Most often a customer journey approachof Tomas Bata University in Zlin, library at was adopted to uncover the process ofthe University of Ostrava, Library of using library services from users point ofPalacky University Olomouc, the Research view. From the very beginning, the groupLibrary in Hradec Kralove, National was taking pictures and notes and insightsTechnical Library in Prague and finally the from the tour would be then typicallylibrary of the University of West Bohemia discussed during the transfer to the nextin Pilsen. library between the participants.A series of lectures and workshops on Further methods: World Café Mobiletopics like marketing, innovation,webdesign, UX, service design and project Further methods would be used tomanagement accompanied each of the facilitate the knowledge transfer andvisits. exchange of best practices. For example, during the transfer on the bus, a mobile version of the World Café method was tested3.Expert workshops Librarians were asked to specify oneA typical stop during the journey would challenge he or she was facing or anfirst deliver a two-hour workshop to the innovation that they were thinking oflibrarians facilitated by an expert in the implementing. Then they got 3 minutes tofield. discuss the issue with the colleague they were travelling with.Martin Kopta, UX designer and researchfrom, most popular search After they brainstormed a possible solutionengine in the Czech Republic, introduced and shared experience, they switched theresults of an ethnographic research roles. After six minutes, one of the partnersconducted in one of the libraries. Later a changed the seat with the person sittingworkshop on interior design was delivered behind them and a new round of discussionby Olga Biernatova from Guerilla Readers. began. Not only this offered librarians aJiri Pavlik and Jana Matejkova from numerous perspectives on the explained what implications they were thinking about but it was also awill the emerging e-book market have for great tool for networking.the libraries. Adam Hazdra from SouthMoravian Innovation Center and freelance 3. World Café is a method used for brainstorming andservice designer explained various discussion during conferences with few up to severaltouchpoints the library service consists of hundreds of participants. It splits the audience into groupsand showed what personas can be used for. and let them rotate from one table to another during timed intervals. More on the method is available at
  4. 4. .
  5. 5. People with disabilities may also face difficulties when entering the library. At one stop we spotted trash bins placed inResearch on user needs and behaviour is a front of the entry door for the handicapped.vital part to designing services for libraries.It offers deep understanding of motivations On the other, library in Hradec Kralove, forand problems students and other readers example, gives users a great support asface. When conducted properly, it can also regards accessibility and environment. Notbe a way to engage users and boosting only it enables anyone to enter the librarytheir confidence in the services. and use the books without any form of registration, but it also gives the public freeAs we have observed, Czech libraries often access to internet and softwareadopt very formal ways to research, applications such as MS Office. The journeyconducting a satisfaction survey every one through the library is also designed to saveor two years looking mainly for recent time and to facilitate the most commonissues that readers face. Moreover, on-line task users do such as returning books justuser behaviour is scarcely tracked and after the main entrance or through theanalyzed. bibliobox.However, as Ladislava Sucha from MasarykUniversity pointed out in one of theworkshops, there is a range of othermethods that can be successfully applied in As the journey across libraries progressed,libraries such as focus groups, the importance of personnel engagementethnographic research or user workshops. was emerging as a key element of a greatMore importantly, research can be carried service. This includes not only theout more often and informally. librarians but other customer-facing providers such as the security. At one stop, we watched a security person disrupting a rehearsal of a theatre performance inServices consist of several levels, starting librarys foyer. On the other hand, when thewith accessibility. If a service cannot be library in Ostrava faced negativefound or is inaccessible to users, any implications of staff departmentalization,advanced value-adding features are they launched a program to let employeesmeaningless. try jobs of the others. This significantly boosted understanding of the deliveryFor example one of the libraries we visited process and also gave people more insightrequired user to go through five into each others roles.touchpoints before they could reach any ofthe books making access to service very Moreover, libraries often tap into thedifficult. Moreover, brand new users can knowledge and creativity of its students. Inregister only behind the check-in which Hradec Kralove the library created a grouponly registered users can go through. This of students that help it with organizingparadoxical situation is resolved by adding events and web-based marketing. Also asa digital terminal that prints time-limited our own brief survey during the trippaper enrty tickets. showed, about 75% of the students were
  6. 6. willing to share thoughts about their vision did for desktop. It realized students wereof how the library should be designed. coming to mobile web for information on opening times and contacts so its mobile website features these prominently.Whereas the physical user journeys aremapped well in the libraries, it is not the Finally, openness was a theme thatsame when comes to services offered via resonated throughout the whole journey.the Internet. Analysis of user needs and Not only it is about the accessibility tobehaviour is done only partly or not at all users as discussed above, but it alsoand sites are often not optimized for any includes open two-way communication.other devices than desktops or notebooks.Also, little is known about the actual National Technical Library rents individualbehaviour of digital visitors and so the web study boxes to PhD and Master students forstrategy often ends with a pretty-looking the whole semester, offering great privacyhome page. And yet - as the ethnographic yet access to all other services. The libraryresearch conducted by Martin Kopta and in Ostrava provides students with a self-Olga Biernatova revealed - connecting the operated coffee machine and cups,digital with the physical is often the key to demonstrating the trust it has in its user.delivering usable service. The Olomouc library has a very relaxed rules when comes to student behaviour onThere are exceptions, though. The library its premises - and it has continually veryin Celetna in Prague, for instance, adopted high rankings when comes to userdifferent strategy for mobile access than it satisfaction.
  7. 7. Librarys function has changed significantlysince Internet was adopted as a globalplatform for information exchange andsharing. A convincing answer to where During various workshops numerouslibraries are heading and how they will touchpoints for user interaction werelook like in future has not been given. identified. These included physicalHowever, during the research trip we environment (lightning, chairs, tables,discussed several contemporary counters, self-check machines, books),approaches that help navigate the changing other tangible touchpoints that support thelandscape. service (registration cards, official letters, reader guidelines, back office) and also digital interfaces (website, search engine, mobile access, e-mails). Moreover, it is front-line staff that puts all theseThere is no question that physical touchpoints to work and facilitates serviceenvironment, or Servicescape, affects one’s delivery.perception of a service. After every libraryvisit people were using terms like airport, From this perspective, a simple service ofsupermarket or bank to describe how they lending books turns into a complexfelt during the walk-through. If there endeavor which requires a lot ofshould be a proper parallel of what a management and design focus when user-library should feel like, it would be a living centered approach is to be Libraries are often seen as bureaucratic institutions whose operation is bound byThe idea of library being place of relaxation rules and hierarchy. Breaking into thisand living was proposed by Olga world with fresh ideas and creativity is notBiernatova during one of the workshops an easy task, yet it is a one that is notand it has been discussed by the impossible as we have seen during the trip.participants at many occasions since. If weconsider the time that students andreaders spend at libraries, it is reasonableto design the environment in the way that Finally, as more and more time is spent on-makes people feel like home. It doesn’t line, libraries shall seek delivering morehave to be necessarily a radical change of services using digital channels. However,the physical space. Or as Olga pointed out, during the trip we saw unfriendly userit is the small daily things like custom interfaces of library catalogues which arelightning, comfortable chairs and mirrors critical to library service; almost nofor example that make the difference. optimization for mobile devices was carried out and websites are created without proper content strategy. Nevertheless, when a library turns to digital space for service delivery, it makes one large step towards the user and it can also tap into larger audience.
  8. 8. We will be happy to get in touch and sharemore insights from the trip. Please do feelwelcome to reach us at the followingcontacts. , head of the KISK Department at Masaryk University at , project manager at PARTSIP at , consultant at South Moravian Innovation Center and freelance service designer at adam.hazdra@gmail.comFurther information and resources:Official website of the trip blog was launched as a platformto share thoughts and insights during thetrip are available from PARTSIPFacebook group Created by Adam in 2012 under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC 3.0) license as a possible inspiration to otherlibraries. Please do feel free to translate the document toany local language.