Researching Usability

Posts Tagged ‘library 2.0

In order to get a picture of the mobile library landscape, the mobile offering from a variety of academic institutions has been investigated. The aim of this is to understand what institutional libraries are currently doing to provide mobile services and identifying those services which The University of Edinburgh could benefit from.

North Carolina State University

NCSU have created a mobile library website which looks similar to a mobile application. The design is very similar to smart phone interfaces and this gives the website a modern look. Services which the library provide in addition to the catalogue include room booking, an instant messaging chat system with librarians and PC availability. Interestingly they also provide more unconventional services such as group finder and live webcam feeds. The group finder section helps users locate study groups in the library and the live webcams make it possible from users to monitor locations of the library remotely, including the cafe. It has been reported that the webcams generated over a third of mobile page views in the first 8 weeks that the mobile services were introduced suggesting that the webcams can be very useful to users (Meier, 2010).

Amsterdam University Library

Driek Heesakkers recently presented the case study of Amsterdam’s mobile library strategy during CILIP’s Executive briefing day, Becoming Upwardly Mobile – can libraries rise to the challenge? Amsterdam University Library‘s short-term mobile strategy resulted in a mobile web presence from a budget of €1500. This interim mobile library website provides a number of services including access to the OPAC, a simple search interface, a link to the library’s social networking page on Twitter, information on library opening hours, location, contact details and PC availability throughout the library. In addition to these basic services, the catalogue provides a simplified advanced search feature with a drop-down menu and access to the user’s library account. The interface of the search is simple with basic information in search results.

Huddersfield University and University of Bath

Huddersfield University have taken another approach to providing services on mobile devices. Using QR codes in and around their library they are able to provide links to digital information. This includes digital copies of print journals, links to mobile friendly videos and other useful digital resources. The QR codes appear at the end of book shelves, signage and on printed hand-outs. They even provide a QR code with a video on using the print credit machine (see image below). Although this technology may not be well-known among students it does have the potential to bring useful resources to students through their mobiles. As smartphones become more common place, the barrier to this technology is likely to be significantly lowered.

The University of Bath have also been using QR codes in their library. Their project explores the idea of using QR codes to help users locate items more easily by launching a map of the library on user’s mobiles. They also carried out a cross-institutional study which revealed that students are becoming more aware of QR codes and find the idea of using QR codes very appealing.

Image credit: Andrew Walsh, University of Huddersfield

Cambridge University

Cambridge University is one of the other UK university’s mentioned on M-Libraries wiki that have developed a mobile friendly site of their digital library. The mobile site focusses on allowing users to search the catalogue and access their account on the move. Notably they also highlight the benefits of logging in to the site for extra benefits including renewing items on loan, make and manage requests and build a list of items that can be emailed to any address. This would be particularly useful for research students who might otherwise write down their search results onto paper. The catalogue search is fairly simple with the addition of thumbnail images of book covers where relevant. Other useful features which are provided in the item details include a link to the Google Books preview of the full text and a map highlighting where the shelf mark is located within the library. Clearly some thought has been made to consider what information user’s need on their mobile when designing the site.

A comparitive analysis of  library mobile services in use in higher education was conducted by California Digital Library. They found that mobile library services fell into five categories 1. Library mobile website; 2. text messaging services; 3. mobile catalogue search; 4. access to resources, and 5. new tools and services. Simple information such as hours, direction, map, news and floor plans are common in many mobile library websites. Jeff Penka from OCLC supports this idea when he commented at CILIP’s Executive briefing day that “The library catalogue isn’t the only service (users) want to access via a mobile, they want to find out which computers are free, paying fines, deal with reservations, see opening hours too.”

Catalogue search is also a popular mobile service which is provided by academic digital libraries. This supports the findings from a survey conducted by Cambridge University which found that 55% of respondents were in favour of bring able to access the library catalogue from a mobile phone (Mills, 2009).

A list of resources relevant to mobile library services have been collected and compiled into a Delicious links folder. These links are open to everyone and I encourage you to add other resources I may have missed. Thanks

As mentioned in a previous blog, a review of how libraries are currently engaging with Web 2.0 was proposed as part of the ongoing research for Workpackage 2. This is not currently top priority for the project which means the blogs will be published over a period of time. However, this first part of the review introduces the data gathering method and some of the current theory of attitudes towards Twitter.

MinXuan Lee  wrote about the 5 Stages of Twitter Acceptance in her side-show, ‘How Twitter Changed My Life’. She effectively describes the range of behaviours typically displayed by people to represent their experience of Twitter. Each stage, Denial, Presence, Dumping, Conversing, and Microblogging, map attitudes towards Twitter before using it, through to its use for ‘true microblogging’.  Users can often identify with these stages at some point during their experience. Rightly or wrongly, some users may only aspire to ‘dumping’ and not have the desire to ‘converse’ or write a microblog. This review hopes to find out what stage of acceptance Twitter libraries are currently at. Furthermore, the findings will suggest which libraries are more successful on Twitter and the reasons behind it. This will provide other libraries with an idea on how to get the best from Twitter and ensure that it meets their needs.

Information was gathered on a random sample of libraries with existing Twitter accounts. The accounts were predominantly provided through the Libraries and Web 2.0 Wiki and CILIP’s Twitter Libraries List. Thirty libraries were selected which had their own dedicated Twitter accounts. Any accounts which served a wider audience such as a council were not included. Data was gathered on each library using between 22nd and 26th March 2010. Using this tool in addition to Twitter it was possible to gathering the following information:

  • Number of followers
  • Number following
  • Number of lists user’s have created
  • Number of tweets to date
  • Does the library retweet content created by others?
  • Does the library reply to tweets?
  • What Twitter clients does the library use to create tweets (in order of use)?
  • Date joined Twitter (month/year)
  • Does the library have a Facebook page?
  • Does the library have a Flikr page?
  • Does the library have any other social media accounts, if so what?
  • Does the library have their own blog or news feed with comment facility?

The initial data was gathered and placed on the UX2 wiki page for everyone to access.

A number of questions arose while conducting the research which will be discussed in future blog posts. More questions will hopefully be added as they arise:

  • Do libraries advertise their Twitter account (and other social media pages) elsewhere e.g on the library website?
  • If libraries have few followers, is there a reason for this? If so what?
  • What are the most popular Twitter clients used among libraries?
  • Is the level of engagement among libraries related to the type of twitter client they use?
  • To what extent do libraries ‘Converse’ using Twitter?
  • Which level of ‘Twitter Acceptance’ are most libraries aligned to?
  • What should libraries do if they want to engage more with people on Twitter?

Some initial findings are that many libraries are using Twitter mainly as a broadcast medium and less as a microblogging medium. Also that a high number of libraries are still using to communicate and not 3rd party client managers.

I’ve decided that since reading the excellent blog by Social Media Officer, Nicola Osborne, I have been inspired to start writing a weekly round-up of news/events/topics/discussions that have interested me. It will help me track my own research and hopefully be of interest to others.

World Usability Day (WUD): 12/11/09

Although this year’s theme was sustainability, the general purpose of WUD is to raise awareness of usability. So in that spirit I wanted to share some great usability related resources which I refer to frequently and that do a great job spreading the word:

  • UX booth: a blog with guest posts from people throughout the usability community.
  • UX blog: a blog from a usability professional, Barry Briggs who frequently posts links to other useful resources on the web.
  • IxDA: has a discussion forum on all things usability and new topics are frequently posted on Twitter to follow.
  • A List Apart: Very well known in the design community for producing great articles from some of the most prominent professionals around. Topics are not restricted to usability but also cover design, code and business.
  • UX Exchange: Relatively new to me, this is a simple UX Q&A site that aims to build a community lead, authoritative resource on the User Experience disciplines. Post a question and get an answer back fast.

I also came across a blog by Dana McKay on this year’s WUD theme which discusses the connection between usability and sustainability.

Library 2.0 Community

I joined Ning’s Library 2.0 community online yesterday and although I’ve not had much time to look through the site in detail, it does look like a promising resource for information, discussion and networking with like minded people.

BBC Digital Revolution: open source and collaborative documentary

Perhaps later than others, this week I discovered that the BBC are in the process of creating a documentary about the internet and are using a suitably interactive process to produce the 4 part series which will be aired in 2010. If you happen to be in London this weekend they have an event going on which aims to test the way the internet effects us. For more information please visit their site. It sounds really interesting and something I would love to attend if I wasn’t so far away. If like me you cant attend then there is lots of other stuff to check out on their site including film clips which you can not only watch but also download and edit. One interview which I was particularly interested in was that from Twitter creators, Biz Stone and Evan Williams. Something which they pointed out in their interview was that Twitter is essentially ‘Recipient driven communication’. This is a great term to describe Twitter and the fact that users decide what information they wish to receive and not the individual/company/corporation providing the information. This for me is one of the defining things about Twitter and the reason I think it has become so popular and consequently so powerful.

JISC mailing list: Web2

If however you still like your information pushed to you through more traditional forms such as email, a new JISC mailing list had been set up recently on the theme on Web 2 and its uses in libraries. I joined last week and have already started receiving emails with links to some useful information (one example being the Library 2.0 community above).

Twitter Re-tweet beta

This week people started tweeting about the Retweet functionality that was being trialled by Twitter and it wasn’t long before I got to test it myself. Yesterday however it was pulled by Twitter while they try to fix a bug. Anyway while it was available there seemed to be a lot of grumbling about the fact that users can’t edit their Retweets at all. This on the surface sounded crazy, the majority of people like to add their own value to Retweets and I could predict that many users would shun Twitters attempt at this service and continue using their own system through their respective client manager. However after reading an article on the subject from e-consultancy I realised what Twitter is trying to do. Quite often when users add their own comments to a tweet, character real-estate quickly becomes a problem and the users have to make an executive decision of what to delete from the original tweet. This quickly degrades tweets and consequently they become more difficult to track. Twitter could be trying to address this issue by removing this problem from tweets, leaving more room for content. However, I didn’t get the chance to try the Retweet function before it was promptly removed by Twitter so the jury is still out on this one!

Twitter Lists: filtering out all the irrelevant noise

Last week Twitter lists were the talk of the Twitterverse because they had finally been rolled out for everyone to use. At first it seemed quite novel to have a new feature but I quickly began to wonder how useful lists were in their current incarnation. Lists seem to be a way for individuals to categories groups of people they follow on Twitter, similar to groups in Tweetdeck. The group can be named anything and only be edited by the creator so if you find yourself in a list you don’t agree with there is little you can do about it, something which has been touched upon by others in the past. Additionally, if someone visits the group stream, there could be a large proportion of tweets which are unrelated to the group name. For example, although I am a usability analyst, not all my tweets are related to the subject. Thankfully I came across a blog which provides instructions on how to solve this problem by creating a hack to filter groups by a hashtag. This is a good short term solution but something I hope Twitter start to seriously think about as it could have a huge impact on the success of lists.

In plain English: Cloud Computing

Finally I wanted to share some brilliant videos which do a great job of explaining technology in laymen’s terms. They are by a company called Common Craft and their most recent edition is ‘Cloud Computing in Plain English’. They also have some other  useful videos on Twitter, Web Search Strategies and Social Media (which is a personal favourite because it uses a brilliant ice cream metaphor to explain the concept). Next week there is a free webinar from TechSoup which will be interviewing Common Craft, Mary Beth Facciolo from the Colorado State Library and Carolyn Blatchley from Cumberland County Library System in Pennsylvania to hear how they are usign these videos to support the needs of their community. If you are interested in registering from this event then sign up with TechSoup. bookmarks

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