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Tag Archives: service design

1/ Experience Protyping for a Library to the Elderly

Recently a comment that was added to my Library Outpost entry that is worth expanding upon. A user posted a link to the Wiki from his service Design class, and it turns out one of the student projects is a new service model for a Library to the Elderly. The service itself is pretty great, here’s a summary for those who haven’t already clicked through:

In shorts terms the use of the service is a following. The users can access the service, when it is offered in their nearby area. They order the requested materials by filling out an ordering form. The user hand in the ordering form at the sub point and within a couple of days, the users can pick up their materials at the sub point. The library retrieves and packs the requested orders and make sure that they get delivered to the sub point. The delivery is taken care of by an elderly assistant, who is hired by the library. This elderly assistant goes to the nearest library or book bus stop, picks up the ordered materials and brings them to the sub point and distributes them When the users are returning the materials, they hand it in at the sub point for the elderly assistant to bring it back to the library.”

I think the thing that really got me excited about this page was the diagrams. They are absolutely beautiful, and they do such a great job communicating the service from different points of view. In service design they call this sort of storyboarding experience prototyping. Read a definition from servicedesign.org. As libraries worldwide reassess the way they distribute information and media in the 21st century, experience prototyping is a useful tool for determining what works and what doesn’t from the point of view of all the different stakeholders. Have a look at a diagram from the page:

2/ An Event This Week

Going on Tuesday with Maura the Librarian to hear Michael Gorman, James G. Neal & Maggie Jackson “The Book Is Dead! Long Live The Book!” at The New York Society Library. Psyched, this should be a good one, I’ll be sure to post some thoughts afterwards.

3/ Microfinancing as a model for collection development.

This is an idea that popped into my head this week that I’m pretty excited about, one that I started kicking around with the Playful Librarian, Panoplyculture, and my buddy Adam who is launching LittleShoot. What if a public library reconsidered collection development using a microloan model? Imagine a site that works similarly to Kiva, but instead of offering microloans to entrepreneurs in developing nations, you offered books and media locally to people who need them? Say a kid in Brooklyn really wants a new manga book or something, but its always checked out at the public library because its new and its hot. He could create a profile and a wish list on the site, and then potential donors could browse the site looking for the person they wanted to help out. The donor then finds this kid and his wish list and in a few clicks purchases the book through Amazon, it gets shipped to the kid, and then when the kid is done with the book it is returned to the library (if it hasn’t bee totally destroyed) to add to the collection. The whole transaction counts as a circ for the library, and in essence really takes building the collection back to the community on an indvidual basis. In my opinion, one of the reasons Kiva works so well is because psychologically donors want to feel like they really connected with an individual, one that they see and can understand through a profile and pictures. Its the personal connection that makes the difference. This NY Times article talks about tech with a social mission; earlier today library tech champion Linda Braun tweeted “Do you think libraries can learn anything from Mozilla and the Internet Archive” in reference to the article; perhaps building a platform like this for libraries to add to their existing collection development models would be a possibility?

4/ Everything else

Here’s all the other things that have been keeping the mental gears turning this week. This is the blog version of a run-on sentence. I’ve been meaning to talk about how awesome I think Aaron Schmidt’s Social database mockup is over at Walking Paper. C.C. Pugh over at This is Here offered me an interesting comment the other day that I believe relates nicely to Aaron’s concept.

“Is it possible to bridge the physical and digital information areas? The emphasis is that discussion is on building a personal data-set, and from all manner of miscellaneous procedures. It’s tools will be handy, but desire paths are specific and intentional. Libraries are object-centered social spaces, but their social objects aren’t books; they’re the links between books.”

(of course with Aaron’s mockup we are talking about articles, not books- but the point remains the same) Just to be clearer about what desire paths are, look to the Playful Librarian again:

“Desire path is a term used by landscape architects to describe those informal dirt walkways worn into lawns or fields by people finding the shortest distance between two points. This is such a wonderful phrase and like most wonderful phrases could be appropriated meaningfully into other contexts—like, for instance, information science, which counts among its primary mandates information pathfinding.”

Does Aaaron’s “FindBook” concept take us a step closer to observing, measuring, and learning from people’s information desire paths? I say yes it does. Take a look at his mockup:

Moving on from that, I’ve started digging into some social media marketing strategy stuff, since everything we do is only useful if we find the right way to put it out there and reach people with it. This is unfamiliar territory for me, but partly because I’m currently about to embark upon a redesign mission for a major website, and partly because “web 2.0” is just plain the web at this point, its time to learn a thing or two. Have a look here at a fascinating post on Socialized that describes the difficult transition to this 2.0ness in the marketing field. I wonder how we could measure the effectiveness of something like Aaron’s FindBook if our mean of collecting usage data is antiquated and not relevant to the social web?

Finally, as we try to bridge the digital and the physical in creating services, I was really excited by the book Designing audiences, in which Katie Salen (video game designer) creates a physical avatar situation in meatspace with her Karaoke Ice project. Katie says that in creating the project “we asked ourselves, ‘How can we combine the notion of karaoke as a participatory medium and the notion of character-as-interface'”. The solution? This crazy mute squirrel character that drives around an ice cream truck and facilitates good-times karaoke on the go. Sadly the site I linked you to doesn’t do the idea justice, I suggest taking a look at the Designing audiences book, where she speaks with Erik Rodenbeck of Stamen, Stefan Bucher of Daily Monster, and Ze Frank of lotsa stuff.

One last thing: check out Matt Webb’s presentation and blog entry about Snap, which basically acts as a web interaction aggregator. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it all. Til next time…

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This totem pole-style monstrosity of a chart you are looking at represents the perpetual beta state of good service design. I’ve snagged and manipulated Jesse James Garrett’s beautiful chart, The Elements of User Experience. Download the original pdf here and marvel that this was done in the year 2000. Garrett was clear that his picture is incomplete, that it does not “account for secondary considerations” and that it “does not describe a development process”. Just for thrills and in the crudest of ways I tried to add that dimension to his chart; the iterative development process is illustrated with repetition. Enjoy.

This is going to be slightly in broken English since its a new idea… but I think its worth developing. My earlier post, “Lets build a prototype” received some worthwhile criticism. But I think I have a new and improved idea…

Here’s the basic premise- like this Kuniavsky guy says, devices are service avatars.

  • phone > phone service
  • ipod > itunes store
  • kindle > amazon store

This train of thought is what originally led me to think we need to build a library device. But that is wrong. We already have a device, it just lacks embedded information processing power. Its the library card.

(actually many have information embedded already in a magnetic strip, it just needs to be expanded upon)

There’s no reason that content needs to be delivered and dispalyed on your device in a physical computing environment. Instead, your library card contains your profile, which has preferences (even information content- ebooks, mp3s, whatever) that are updated either manually or automatically every time you use it to access library content. This could mean that you offload your information profile and preferences- you keep it on you, physically on your library card- and then you reload it to the library system when you are using the library, in a library facility or remotely. You own your information shadow and keep it privacy protected, physically. You can display it or share it at will, when you are logged in via your card.

This of course requires building a social aspect into library OPACs, and integrating that w/ any database access. But its all doable.

Its time for the library card to evolve and have increased funtionality. Lets make it a worthy service avatar.

  1. update:
Just wanted to note that adding functionality to a library card doesn’t need to get all deep and social-networky and whatnot to be useful and important. What if the card could just function as a disk or flash drive, just so that patrons could store docs on it? If nothing else this increased functionality justifies taking the issuing of library cards a little more seriously. It even makes a library card desirable in a whole new way, perhaps the first step to creating library “service envy”?

Another update:
I was talking about library “cards” in this post, really just because of our familiarity with this object and its design mappings.  But it should be clear that when you change the function of an object, you change the form of the object.  If we add functionality to library “cards”, they no longer need to be card-shaped, right?  The “card” takes on another form, maybe a keychain, a flash drive, a bluetooth device, or some other library-specific, branded device or service avatar.

This is a long posting, but its the most important thing you are going to read on my blog. So read it, OK?

Earlier this week, The New York Daily News ran a story describing how budget cuts are preventing Brooklyn Public Library from opening an innovative new service point in DUMBO, Brooklyn. I developed this new service model with BPL over the past two years; it began as a project while I was student at Pratt Institute and became my job to pursue and develop it at the library. While the project remained an active pursuit for Brooklyn Public Library, it made sense not to discuss the details of the service model, the potential locations, and the incredible impact it could have by bringing library service to communities that have been largely neglected. Now, in light of the alarming lack of funding support from the city, and in recognition of the fact that building a 21st century public library is neither a closed nor a proprietary act, I feel compelled to share the details with the greater library community in hopes that this work can be used anywhere, by anybody. With any luck, a stand-up community figure in Brooklyn will recognize the importance of this venture, and perhaps they can find it in themselves to donate the necessary funds to support these efforts and build social capital in their neighborhood. New York Public Library received a 100 million dollar donation last week. WHAT ABOUT BROOKLYN PUBLIC LIBRARY???  We are NOT the same system!!!  10 million dollars, or even 3 million dollars given to Brooklyn Public Library could open up and staff quite a few library Outposts. Each of these Outposts would have a tremendous positive impact on their immediate community; each of these Outposts would serve to strengthen Brooklyn as a whole.

So what is this Library Outpost model I speak of all about, anyways? Here it is in bullets:

• Strategic location. The Outpost is a small space in a commercial area, a business improvement district, or a transportation hub. Rather than bring the patrons to the library, the Outpost brings the library to the patrons.

• Extended service hours. The Outpost will be open from 8AM until 10PM, giving the community access to library materials, exhibitions, and programs during the times most convenient to them.

• Collection available via online holds system. Rather than providing a localized browsing collection, the Outpost will connect users to all library materials via the catalog.

• Reference service. Outpost staff will provide exceptional reference services using online databases and internet searching strategies. All reference sources will be electronic.

• Wireless access and digital library content. The Outpost will be a comfortable WiFi zone to work in from a table or play in from a lounge chair. Through patrons’ portable devices they can access digital content via the library website.

• Programming and Exhibition space. The Outpost will feature exhibitions that pair the library’s collection and services with art related to community interests. The space will also be flexible enough to accommodate performances, lectures, concerts, discussions, even meals during evening hours.

Now the longer explanation:

Library Outposts are storefront library service points, no more than 1500 sq. ft. in size, centrally located in busy commercial districts or near transportation hubs. The storefront presence makes the Outpost agile and adaptable to the particular features of each community, providing fundamental library service and serving as a gateway to the full range of programs, classes, and events offered throughout the larger service ecology. The space is easily transformable; one moment a silent reading room, another moment a performance art space, another moment a forum for a community group meeting. Storefront library facilities have been attempted in the past with limited success, but the Outpost model takes advantage of emerging technologies to reconsider the distribution of library content and materials (you know, like books, DVDs, etc.) and invent itself as something entirely different. Presently a few libraries offer similar services: Houston Public Library has a few small, tech-heavy locations, Contra Costa Public Library offers material vending machines in the BART stations, and with the generous help of the Gates Foundation, New Orleans Public Library has opened some storefront facilities that have been received enthusiastically by the community. The Outpost model combines these practices and takes them to the next level.

With the rise of the Internet as the primary public information transfer medium, library patrons have a new set of expectations. Just as clothing shoppers size up their potential new outfits in an online environment, just as antiques enthusiasts scour eBay for the bargains they once found at flea markets, library patrons now browse online catalogs for the materials they once hunted for on miles of shelves. For many library patrons the browsing experience has already become a virtual phenomenon rather than a physical reality. While this shift emerged slowly at first, library catalogs are quickly becoming more and more user friendly. Online reserve statistics collected across the county support the popularity of this virtual browsing trend. Between open source products like LibraryThing for Libraries, OpenLibrary.org, and the Google Books API, virtual browsing is becoming simpler, access to catalog records is getting easier, and physical collections are being exposed and utilized in more ways than ever. Libraries need to embrace and welcome this change as an opportunity to provide new, unique service delivery, and we need to adjust our physical spaces accordingly.

So I’ll explain the biggest mental leap associated with the Outpost concept first, the piece that really makes it unique: the Outpost has NO LOCAL COLLECTION. Every single piece of print material (with the exception of magazines and newspapers, and those can be eliminated digitally in a different manner) is an item that was requested online for pickup at the Outpost location. This in turn frees up 1500 sq. ft. of library space for programs, exhibitions, classes, movies, concerts, community meetings, serving coffee, and virtually any community-building, social capital-creating activity. The library of the 21st Century has to maintain a physical presence, but that presence cannot always be in the form of a well-organized, publicly accessible book warehouse.

Now, before any librarians freak out and scream, “NO! People still want to browse through stacks of books!” I want to make it abundantly clear that the goal is NOT to replace all traditional libraries with library Outposts. An Outpost is just one node in a network of different physical service points. Just as the car-culture era bookmobiles didn’t replace library branches, neither will Outposts. The important thing is getting these little service nodes into the community in the right places, and giving people as much as we possibly can out of them. Location is everything in the urban environment. When I began developing this idea I was using Brooklyn as a case study, I’ll continue to do so here, and I am confident my readers will see how this can be implemented in any urban public library system.

It is also important to understand that urban communities are in a constant state of flux. Demographics in Brooklyn change rapidly and it is difficult to provide needed services with a limited budget and aging facilities in fixed locations. This presents a challenge for the library. Many of BPL’s branches were built in the first two decades of the 20th century; since then entire communities have moved, disappeared, shifted, and grown. Library facilities have not been able to follow the people as community centers and business districts migrated to new areas. Many large, beautiful public libraries are located in desolate and remote corners of their neighborhoods. Regrettably, the working adults who live and labor in the rapidly developing communities have moved out of reach of the Brooklyn Public Library. They have become potential patrons rather than active patrons. This is unacceptable; the public library’s mission as a democratic institution supporting universal self-initiated education demands a highly visible central location.

At the same time that our neighborhoods have changed physically, Brooklynites’ expectations of service hours have rapidly altered in recent years (I believe this is a safe assertion nation-wide, particularly in urban areas, as well). When banker’s hours still meant something, citizens were accustomed to waiting in line to receive necessary services. Today, we expect stamps, cash, train tickets, Metrocards, even groceries to be available whenever we want them and with minimal human interaction.

I’m going to show you a few maps of Brooklyn’s neighborhoods to use as examples of urban shift, but I’ll use DUMBO as the primary example. These communities are unique but they have each experienced dramatic demographic and physical changes in the last ten years. All lack accessible library services in their revitalized areas. It is crucial that the public library tracks these changes and serves these people, and it is crucial that the library is provided with adequate funding so that we can do so properly.

dumbomapblog7.jpg

DUMBO, for those not familiar with Brooklyn, is the area Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. It is a fascinating neighborhood known for its arts community, particularly architecture and design, but everything else as well. Just 10 years ago DUMBO was a drastically different place, filled with empty warehouses, industry, and many, many rats. The rats are probably still there, but there isn’t much empty space in DUMBO now after the enormous urban renewal effort that has occurred. DUMBO is literally a different place, and you know what their community lacks? A library. There is no library in DUMBO, and to hike to another library requires navigating through highway and bridge ramps and a solid 25 minutes of your time. An Outpost in DUMBO would give the community immediate access to the library’s entire collection, AND it would serve as a program and exhibition space for a specific audience.

Another interesting example is the area that the real estate folks are calling “Greenwood Heights”. Greenwood Heights is the fastest growing Mexican community in Brooklyn. The streets are always packed, and a major express subway hub makes for quite a bit of foot (and auto) traffic. New schools are being built. The nearest libraries, as you can see on the map are farrrrr awwwway. This is another perfect opportunity to provide a new service to a new community. Perhaps the Outpost is reconsidered as a computer center in this location? I quote this figure in every other blog entry I write, but AGAIN, the Pew Internet study concluded that 2/3 of all people coming to the library come to use a computer. A Greenwood heights technology center, combined with Outpost-style material delivery could actually give users what they need. It’s a perfect exercise in user-centered design: listen to what the users want and then provide it for them.

grwdheightsmapblog.jpg

Finally, what about Kings Plaza mall? Other libraries, for example King County in Washington State, offer services in shopping malls. What if we offered an Outpost or computer center here? Again, we go to where the people are.

kingsplazamapblog.jpg

I hope this all makes sense, if you got this point in reading you may have recognized that some of the text was cut-and-paste from the many, many iterations of this concept I’ve gone through. I really believe that this model, or similar versions of it represent one aspect of the future of public library service. I’m not even going to pretend this represents some kind of all-encompassing holistic solution to the many challenges faced by urban public libraries, but it is a start. The operating cost of one of these facilities is a fraction of the cost of operating a full-sized branch library: that alone is a solid argument for efficiency. Potential benefactors: donate to the Brooklyn Public Library, demand innovative services. The librarians have the solutions but we simply cannot afford to put these ideas into action. Brooklyn deserves the best.

I’ve been putting a lot of thought into user experience and service ecologies at the public library lately. The very nature of what public libraries do necessitates a much more complex investigation than a normal “customer service” scenario would. Developing empathy-driven service for a population of stakeholders as diverse as the entire borough of Brooklyn is a daunting task! Anyways, I’ve been doing a lot of research/reading, so I think that for a little while my blog entries will speak mostly to this subject for a little while.

Marshall McLuhan speaks of technologies as extensions of the human body or mind that modify one or more of our physical or mental abilities. A telephone is an extension of the voice and the ear. A hammer is an extension of your arm and hand. A skateboard is an extension of your feet and thus your ambulatory abilities. McLuhan also points out that every extension also creates an amputation. I like to think of Newton’s 3rd law of motion here, paraphrased as every action has an equal and opposite reaction. This phrase that has been drilled into our heads since elementary school science class really does a nice job illustrating the effects of a technology on a larger information ecology. This is really the basis for ecology thinking in general: anything you add to one part of an ecology subtracts from another. Ecologies are always shifting to maintain equilibrium. Here are a few examples of amputation I pulled from someone’s website:

“An example of an amputation would be the loss of archery skills with the development of gunpowder and firearms. The need to be accurate with the new technology of guns made the continued practice of archery obsolete. The extension of a technology like the automobile “amputates” the need for a highly developed walking culture, which in turn causes cities and countries to develop in different ways. The telephone extends the voice, but also amputates the art of penmanship gained through regular correspondence.”

Reserving library materials online for localized pickup has been a huge tech-enabled access triumph for public libraries over the last 10 years. I feel pretty comfortable saying that the number of materials patrons access in this manner continues to climb every year at all public libraries, but if there are exceptions out there please tell me. I’ll add that I think this is great: anything libraries can do to make their collections more accessible is desirable. But if every action does have an equal and opposite reaction, if every technological extension has its amputative counterpart, then we need to be aware of and reactive to such a scenario.

A library website is very much a service extension for the institution, and any services made available via the web can also be regarded as extensions of “traditional” library service. Consider the amputations that run counter to the library’s extended presence on the web. Decreased foot traffic (which we then offset by creating a “push” to physical services from the website). Decreased foot traffic also means decreased physical browsing (we are trying to offset that amputation by creating browsable OPAC interfaces). It means less peer-to-peer interaction as well (we try to offset this one with 2.0 web tools). All of that said, if it becomes ubiquitous for people to reserve their books online, where in our carefully collected statistics will we see the amputation or decrease reflecting the extension or increase in that type of material circulation?

I am a strong advocate for responsibly implemented new technologies in public libraries, in fact I think our future relevance depends on it. A thorough analysis of our complex service ecologies, considering both quantitative and qualitative data is becoming increasingly urgent so that we can better understand the relationship between our extensions and amputations. Further, a thorough analysis is not enough: we need to be prepared to react to our findings and actually change based on the results. The Pew Internet project, which is more data gathering than a thorough service ecology analysis, found that 2/3 of all public library users come to the library for internet access. Great. Happy to hear it. Are we going to DO anything about it????