Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Qualitative Research into User Needs

Naomi Harrison recently shared a couple of interesting pieces from SirsiDynix OneSource with me. They are about seeing the library as the user sees it, something that is of great interest to us in the Olin Library at the moment.

The author, Mary Lee Kennedy of TKG Consulting advocates using persona, "characters created from a composite of data that emerges from traditional market research, the collective experience as narrated by users and non-users themselves, and observations of user and non-user behavior to understand groups of users." (Kennedy.) This makes me think that a persona is more than the mean of a particular demographic segment. It contains that kind of information, but also a lot of qualitative information that makes it richer and deeper than demographic statistical data. I am sure it is not incidental that it probably also makes TGK's market research more accessible and palatable to a statistically unsophisticated audience.

Kennedy's second article focuses more on what she has learnt from her market research. I particularly like this list.

"Users expect the following:
  1. Easy access using their library or government issued ID.
  2. Friendly conversation with a library staff member who knows how to help them.
  3. Materials found easily where they are expected to be, including easy access online.
  4. Use of as many items as needed.
  5. Collection and building in good physical condition.
  6. Web site that is easy to use.
  7. Lots of choices, including diversity in format, language, and topics.
  8. Awareness and advisement of upcoming events.
  9. Friendly, personable staff." (Kennedy.)

Kennedy's research was conducted in the context of public libraries, but I don't see much on that list that does not apply to an academic library like the Olin Library. So, how do you think we are doing at meeting those nine expectations? Are there other expectations that you think a library like Olin should meet?


Anonymous said...

Though I very seldom hear any complaints about the library, I have occasionally heard some criticism from patrons about "materials being found easily, where they are expected to be." This includes books, DVDs, and periodicals.
I don't know whether this is a question of the patron needing more information or whether the library needs to better address the problem of missing or misshelved items. Maybe both?

Maria-Cristina Nieves said...

Number 10 on Kennedy's list should be the assurance of a quiet and calm environment. I understand that the noise pollution of cell phones and mp3s make it nearly impossible to retain silence in all areas of a library. But in the case of the Herndon Public Library, it is in deseperate need of an area sectioned for quiet study. After all, it is a library.

In reference to Olin Library, I think one of the things I come to expect from an academic library is functioning technology. I'm not sure whether this applies to the Olin Library or OIT, but the laptops available for checkout could use a refresh. Basic, wordprocessing laptops are more than enough for students checking out laptops. But, their ability to load and connect to the internet quickly is essential. I spend more time waiting for the laptop to boot up or finding OIT personnel to help me connect to the internet than I do actually doing my research.

Qualitative Market Research said...


Qualitative research is a method of inquiry appropriated in many different academic disciplines, traditionally in the social sciences. Qualitative research also involves the analysis of any unstructured material, including customer feedback forms, reports or media clips. Thanks...