Usability. Great buzzword in libraries right now. I think we’re not at all certain what it all means, but we care about it…
I’m thinking about usability in libraries from the perspective of usability everywhere. What do I mean by that? Two examples.
I shop online a lot, because I live in an area where my brick-and-mortar shopping options are limited. And so that means I shop from my couch. And when I shop from my couch, I am always filled with glee when I can PayPal something, or use my Amazon account, because it means i don’t have to get up to go find my wallet to enter a credit card number. Does that mean I’m lazy? Possibly. Does it mean that I have more loyalty to sites that allow me to shop with the fewest inconveniences? Absolutely.
I’m also writing this while sitting in Hancock Airport in Syracuse, sucking up free wireless. That? Is awesome. I’ve gotten used to paying between $8 and $15 per day for airport wireless, and while I’ll do it if I need to work, I don’t appreciate it. Free wireless makes me smile, and like flying out of Syracuse. However, I’m also sitting crosslegged on the floor next to a pillar. I forgot to charge my laptop before I left home, and the only power outlet I can find in this terminal is nowhere near a chair. Fine. I’ll sit on the floor; I don’t actually mind, given that I’m going to spend the day on airplanes. But a chair would be nice.
And so. Back to libraries. What extra steps are we putting in the way of our users getting from point A to point B that aren’t onerous, but might be inconvenient? Do those steps have to be there? And what are we missing when we think about services our users want and need? Are we providing wireless but no power? (That works as a metaphor, but sad but true, it also works very well literally in many of our aging facilities.)
I ponder, as I sit on the floor.