At MPOW, we had a meeting with a group of engaged and academically successful students this weekend, to talk with them about the libraries and how they interact with the libraries. They told us things that I’ll spend a lot of time thinking about, including:
- They don’t read websites, they click on the links that will get them where they’re going. No one had noticed the news blog posts that are RSS-fed into our front page, because that’s not where they were going — so they don’t even look at the sidebar.
- Metasearch across subject-related databases = exactly what they want, as long as it does relevance ranking. Too many search results isn’t an issue for them, since their info-gathering behavior is built on a Google-based model in which you evaluate results but expect the best to be near the top.
- More than metasearch, they want a portal that they can log in to, and have content blocks that they modify and personalize. As in, Student A wants a JSTOR search box and a list of the books he has checked out with a prominent Library Hours announcement, while Student B wants the list of education websites that we have next to a metasearch box for teacher education resources and a schedule for the group study rooms.
- They wouldn’t mind if we were in Facebook, just “not too much, so that it’s annoying.”
- Everyone likes our group study area, but there were suggestions of “some plants, or more artwork, so it’s, like, just nicer.”
- Everyone likes the (IMHO, godawful) square study carrels because “they block out the visual distractions”.
- There was a general consensus that we need to do better outreach to non-library users — one student commented that she comes to the library to study, but had no idea we offered some services we mentioned, and she wishes she had known sooner.
- Our signage needs updating.
Two hours, a home-cooked meal at a librarian’s house, and a LOT of valuable information gained. A lot. While I could have guessed some of what they said, some of it would never have occurred to me. I mean, seriously, those carrels, if you ask me, are horrid. But they like them, and use them, and think they’re good. Who knew?!
Try it at your place. See what you learn.