Monthly Archives: March 2015

Week 9 Reading Reflection

Using a hammer should be easy because the goal is to drive a nail, not figure out how to use a hammer.

(Kapp, 2012, Malone’s Theory of Intrinsically Motivating Instruction section, para. 3)

People turn to libraries sometimes for fun goals, sometimes for serious goals. Sometimes they seek community, sometimes knowledge. One thing that is common across all of these goals is that people are focused on their goals and not on library procedures. To the extent libraries can “get out of the way” and provide a seamless experience, we can serve our members better.

As the quote above illustrates, people don’t pick up a hammer and want to spend time learning how to use it: they want to drive a nail. Neither do they think, “oh goody, a chance to learn a new database interface.” Especially now that search engines like Google provide a very simple interface, people are impatient with a lot of “interface” getting in between them and what they want. Complex interfaces, borrowing policies or card eligibility that is hard to find out and/or hard to understand all can “get in the way.” Library members don’t want to be “made to think,” at least not until they have found the content or program that they desired in the first place (Krug, 2006).

User research is a critical way to find out what is “in the way” of library members. It is easy enough to say we need to get out of the way, but hard to put ourselves in members’ shoes in order to see what is in their way. We may take for granted knowing borrowing card eligibility rules, or that the local weekly paper prints a list of our programs but our website doesn’t, or how to use the OPAC or what the procedure is for requesting a meeting room.

Something else common to most libraries is the fact that the actual users are often a subset of the potential users. Teoh mentions the importance of interviewing non-users to find out what could convert them into actual users (Teoh, 2014?). Reaching out to people who are underserved is a critical part of fulfilling the library mission, and in-depth research like interviews can help any library will uncover hidden obstacles.

Surveys can only tell us so much. As Schmidt notes, “Surveys can be useful for getting a sense of people’s stated preferences (often different from their actual preferences) but rarely go deeper” (Schmidt, 2010). People might say they want to be able to reserve a room, they’re less likely to say, “I’m totally confused by the process of reserving one, and I think I’d rather be able to do it with a web form than a phone call, since I have to try and do it while my toddler is napping, or after library hours when the kids are in bed.” Conducting in-depth user research (such as interviews) can uncover contextual information that help us make tasks easier. We need to know what members need to (1) be successful in life and (2) successfully use the library (Schmidt, 2012). We need to know what users need and desire, and we need to know what the library is doing specifically that either encourages or blocks them from being able to obtain this. Or in other words (with apologies to Suz Tzu), “Know your users and know yourself, in a hundred searches you will emerge victorious.”


Kapp, K.M. (2012). The Gamification of learning and instruction: game-based method and strategies for training and education. San Francisco: Wiley. Retrieved from;jsessionid=57AA0CD25A18ECC2528E9FB245BC7502?lang=eng

(note about this reference: this ebook seems to have been removed from the SJSU library so it may have been made available specifically for the Gamifying seminary and removed afterwards)

Krug, S. (2006). Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability. Berkeley, CA: New Riders Publishing.

Schmidt, A. (March 1, 2010). Learn by asking | The user experience [Web magazine]. Library Journal. Retrieved from

Schmidt, A. (October 3, 2012). Persona guidance | The user experience [Web magazine]. Library Journal. Retrieved from

Teoh, C. (August 1, 2014?). User interviews – A basic introduction [Web log]. Retrived from


Bibliothēca Personae

I developed personas for a middle school library and a graduate business school library.

Middle School Library Persona Development

Right now I am volunteering in the middle school library, so I made some “middle school library” personas. Demographically they are all in a narrow age band, and they all have the role of “student.” There are however a variety of reasons they use the library.

For a lot of kids, the library is a “safe space” where they can have a concrete activity–reading books, doing homework, or checking out a chessboard to play. Many students prefer it to the more free-for-all activity of outside free periods. These students don’t always check out books; for them the library is more of a community center with a more controlled environment and closer adult supervision, and that gives them a sense of security. This is especially important to the students new to middle school. Making sure there is plenty of space to sit and read or to play chess is important for serving these students, as is maintaining enough supervision so that they feel safe and comfortable. (Since electronic devices are banned during the school day, happily we don’t have to worry about having enough plugs!)

Some students are voracious readers and want more new books all the time (graphic novels and manga are particularly popular). Some students struggle to keep track of which books they have out and when they are due. Middle school is a key stage of becoming responsible for keeping track of all your own “stuff.” Students often ask me what books they have out, and a few have asked if they could access their library record from home (they can’t). The library catalog can be accessed at home from a web browser–but only for searching the catalog. Students cannot log in to check what books they have out or when they are overdue. Seems like it would be a useful service to let them check what they have out while they are at home and can look for the books. The school has a system to check all homework assignments and grades online, seems like it would be mighty useful to add library circulation too!

It’s easy to just slip into thinking that libraries are a place where we have books. Creating these personas helped me think about why the library is important to students, and think of possible ways to improve the experience.

Business School Library Persona Development

I worked in a graduate business school library right after college, so I chose that as my second library. My experience was a while ago so this persona development involved a little more guesswork.

MBA students are pursuing professional degrees, not research degrees, and a lot of their work focuses on course reserves and classwork. (Ph.D students would have a different set of needs and goals, and if I were really developing personas for this library I would probably develop a different persona to represent these more research-oriented graduate students). Also, MBA programs focus a lot on career development so career and prospective employer information is pretty important to them.

Amongst faculty, the younger, tenure track (but not tenured!) faculty are under a lot of competing pressures–teach, publish, and since these younger faculty are also more likely to have young families, somehow balance family life with work. Ubiquitous library services are going to be very important to this group.

On a lighter note: Just for the heck of it, I gave my personas names based on a major characteristic: Chelsea plays chess, Michael loves manga, Steven is interested in sustainability, Portia is a professor. My husband walked in while I was working and saw me with a web page open to “girl names that start with CH.” He looked slightly alarmed and said “Um…is there anything you need to tell me?” Heh. So, for your perusal, here are my “babies.” I am so proud of them, *snif!*

Riverside Middle School Library Personas



Johnson Management Library Personas



Contextual Inquiry at Public Library

I decided to visit a nearby public library for my contextual inquiry.

Newspapers/Magazines Area

I was in the library late morning/midday on a weekday, and it was pretty busy. This is the first time I have visited this library. When I entered the library, I first went upstairs to the children’s area to see if my friend (fellow library student) was working. She was there but the children’s area was swamped (a toddler program had just finished and many people were staying to hang out longer. It seemed too crowded to observe (not to mention that I thought an adult without a child observing and taking notes in the children’s area might make people uncomfortable). I greeted my friend but went back downstairs to the main level. This level was busy but not as crowded.

On the plus side, the library has a lot of computers that patrons may use. On the down side, they have so many it was hard for me to find a place to sit that did not have a computer already! There were not many comfy chairs in the “main” area and few tables without computers (there are comfy chairs distributed deeper in the stacks, making them less optimal for observation, but probably good for quiet reading). The teen area had comfy chairs as well as empty tables and chairs (as well as a large sign declaring TEEN AREA FOR AGES 12-17 ONLY). Despite the busyness of the library it was totally empty, causing me to deduce they actually enforce this policy. The only other area with empty tables was in the Newspapers/Magazines section (also labeled “Laptop/Wifi Area” by hanging sign). Most tables had people at them but I found one empty where I could sit and face out viewing most of the main level. I was able to closely observe the Newspapers area and had a more distant view of the reference area, circulation desk, main entrance, and restrooms that were right next to the main entrance.


  • Almost everyone in this area was an adult. I observed one teen and two stroller children who each passed through briefly with a parent.
  • The tables in this area were made to sit 4-6 people. Most only had one or two people; people distributed themselves to empty tables when possible rather than sharing a table. Most patrons on the main level appeared to be there by themselves, the exception was a teen and an older man who appeared to be there together, with the teen playing on his tablet and the older man reading the newspaper.
  • About two thirds of the patrons had electronic devices. About half of the devices had visible library labels and were loaner laptops, the other half appeared to be their own devices. One teen sitting with an older man had a tablet, the other devices were laptops. Those who did not have electronic devices were mostly reading magazines or newspapers.
  • There are several dedicated library computer terminals but very few people used these. One woman with a child in a stroller came in and sat down at one terminal. The child (about 15-16 months old) began to fuss and the mother started talking to her cheerfully while trying to continue her computer task. “We’re just going to do this real quick and then we’ll be on our way.” An older male patron got up to leave and on his way out smiled and waved at the child, who stopped fussing. The mother smiled at him and said “Thank you.” She finished her task within a couple of minutes and left.
  • I observed many different staff members passing through; they tended to walk quickly and purposefully and looked busy and intent on something.
  • One adult male patron was pacing back and forth in the reference area the entire time I was there. He occasionally would shake something in his hand that sounded like a rattle or maraca.
  • Several people came to get newspapers or return them.
  • One man with a cane walked into the area and an older woman rose to greet him and suggest they go somewhere else; presumably this was an appointment of some kind, using the library as a place for meeting. They left the area.
  • The restrooms just inside the main door were in almost constant use. There were two single bathrooms, one labeled for men and one for women. Most of the people using the restroom came in the library, used the restroom and then left immediately. One man entered one of the restrooms and remained there for so long that a staff member from the circulation desk went to check on him as people were waiting. Their conversation was too quiet/far away for me to hear but did not appear disruptive (still can’t be fun to be the staff member who has to go and get the patron out of the bathroom).
  • An elderly woman came in and looked for a newspaper. She was talking out loud, apparently to herself but it was easy to hear her. She began by saying “Well, let’s see if I can find it this time.” She was squinting, shaking her head and saying “Monday, Monday, Monday” (presumably finding the previous day’s papers and not the current day, Tuesday). She then gave an audible, heavy sigh and walked away. She did not approach any library staff for assistance but wandered away through the library, again muttering audibly “They take it and sleep on it, every time.” She wandered back in about ten minutes or so, this time she muttered “Monday, Monday” and then “they take it and sleep on it.” At this point a male patron returned with a paper and offered it to her. She thanked him and set the paper on the table, and stood there to read it for about 5-7 minutes. Then she went to put it back and could not find where that paper went. At this point I noticed that the labels for the newspaper titles were in very small print. I had been trying to observe unobtrusively but at this point I got up to help the woman find the place where it went, “Excuse me, ma’am, the Daily Review is here.” She thanked me and put it back and then stopped to tell me about the newspaper issue (“They take the newspapers and sleep on them, I can never find today’s, it’s the same guy every time.”) I smiled sympathetically.


There seemed to be a large number of staff present, but they were always walking purposefully somewhere. I wonder if the library could be improved by having staff circulate more slowly, possibly making eye contact with people who looked up, smiling at them. Many people won’t “interrupt” busy looking staff but might be willing to ask a question of a staff member who did not look like he/she was charging somewhere much more important. Some of the pain points I observed might be observed simply by encouraging staff to move through the library more slowly and with an open, approachable attitude.

There seemed to be some tensions here stemming from the library being in a downtown area where poverty and homelessness are issues. The library is a relatively safe place to use a restroom or to spend time without being hassled to “move on.” I did not witness any disruptive behavior but some tensions appeared. As mentioned above, the restrooms were in constant use, mostly from people who enter the library only to use them.  I noticed that when I went upstairs to visit my friend in the children’s area, the bathrooms up there were labeled “Family Restroom” with an accompanying sign that states “These family restrooms are reserved for families using the Children’s Area. Please ask for the key at the Children’s Desk. Adult restrooms are located on the main floor of the library.” When I first saw this I was a little taken aback at the locked restroom, but after sitting downstairs and observing the constant use of the main restrooms, I realized this was probably a way to ensure that restrooms for small children stayed clean and available to them.

The man who was pacing nonstop in the reference area was not disruptive but his behavior was unusual and might make some patrons uncomfortable. Fortunately, people seemed to either accept or ignore it. I’m challenged to think of ways to improve this: on the one hand, people reading and working should have a quiet space for doing this. On the other hand, the man’s behavior was only odd, and he quite possibly faced harassment if he loitered in the downtown areas outside the library. Balancing these issues is probably a major ethical dilemma for public libraries in many areas. Some libraries, including the San Francisco Public Library, have a social worker on staff to help patrons who seem to be in need of it, but Hayward library may not be large enough for this kind of staffing. Pain points like this are difficult to address since they involve societal conditions beyond the library and I acknowledge they may be quite difficult to address. Even without a social worker, however, if library staff could make a point to greet and simply touch base with people, they might have an opportunity to help refer people to local services (which hopefully they are aware of). Getting to know people might also make it less awkward on occasions when behavior becomes disruptive and you need to ask it to stop. For some libraries, the issue of poverty and homelessness is a central problem grappled with by their community.

The newspapers were popular with the seniors at the library and were the other pain point I observed. The woman I observed was very annoyed and yet did not ask for any help. A circulating staff member, as I mentioned above, might have noted her situation (since she wandered around for several minutes), or more generally might be able to ask patrons who seemed to be done with their paper if another patron could have it. Another way to alleviate this pain point is to order more copies of the daily newspaper, or even to place the most popular papers at the information or reference desk to maintain some librarian control over the copies.

Before leaving I went back upstairs to chat with my friend for awhile. I mentioned the newspaper issue to her and she said “Oh yes, that’s always a bone of contention. We only get one copy of each paper and people get them and seem to hoard them.” It seems to me as if a fairly small expense (get more than one copy of the major newspapers!) could alleviate this pain point. I realize multiple newspapers probably don’t have much archival value once they are outdated, but given the popularity of newspaper reading with the senior patrons, it might be worth it (and this pain point is far easier to solve than major social issues).

Another possible improvement might be in the furniture. Very few people used the dedicated library terminals, and almost all the open tables were taken, usually by only one person. Providing some empty desk stations, or tables with carrel-like divisions, where individuals with their own devices could work might be more practical than large tables for many people. Almost all users were individual.


This was very eye-opening. In particular the issue of poor or homeless patrons made me realize that some of the issues public libraries face are very intractable ones. How to improve something over which you have minimal control is difficult to imagine, and yet to be a part of a community means trying to help the community with real community issues.

I also realized how important it is to really observe what goes on in a library. Library staff may not realize the unapproachable aura they give off by charging around looking rushed. They may be willing to help people–and regular patrons probably feel comfortable interrupting them, but new patrons may not.

Wood wrote, “Our mind-set is that people are really just like us, and they’re really not” (Wood, 2013). I saw this reflected in the newspaper issue, which is one I did not at all anticipate. I don’t read newspapers at all, and I confess when I heard the woman muttering about not being able to find today’s paper, the thought ran through my head “So what? Websites are always today’s news.” Newspapers are clearly very important to some community members, however. Quite possibly this is a situation where “something is more than itself” (Wood, 2013). For some the ritual of going to the library and reading the newspaper may well be an important way to connect with others and be part of a community, even in just a small way. For the poor and homeless the library may be more than a library–it is a place where they can meet a basic need for a bathroom or just be safe for awhile without needing a reason to account for their presence. This was an important reminder of how much the library can mean to someone who does not have many “safe spaces” to choose from.


Wood, G. (March 20 2013). Anthropology inc. The Atlantic. Retrieved from



Journey Maps for Castro Valley Library

Chris G’s service safari to H&R Block really got me thinking about how we can ease the pain of “necessary evil” user experiences. In the case of libraries, one of these would be paying overdue fines. Shameful confession: in the excitement of research papers and science fairs recently, my kids have accrued some overdue book fines, so I decided to make my journey to my local library to pay them. Normally I prefer to do that online rather than make a special trip, but it seemed like a good opportunity to see how the library handles a less-fun user experience. Some users will not feel comfortable using an online system to pay fines, so it is important for libraries to handle this well in person.

Realistic Journey Map

Realistic Journey Map - Paying Overdue Fines

Realistic Journey Map – Paying Overdue Fines

Realistic Journey Map

I found that the library handled this pretty well. I presumed that library members may be a little anxious or stressed when paying overdue fines–not intensely so, but it is a task most people would prefer not to have. I was pleasantly surprised at how it was handled, although I did find a few places for improvement.

First I went to the library website to check branch hours and to find information about paying overdue fines. This was one of the areas that could be improved. Branch hours were easy enough to find, but under the “How do I” section of the website I found only “Pay my fines/fees online.” People who wish to pay in person may not think this applies to them. The information that you can also pay in person is buried in a paragraph on the “Pay my fines/fees online” page. There is probably an assumption that “everyone” knows you pay fines at the circulation desk, but this may not actually be true of all library users.

Driving to the library and parking was fine. As I walked in, I saw two people ahead of me helping each other with the doors and smiling and exchanging greetings. This gave me a good feeling about the friendliness of the place. I held the door and also exchanged greetings with the person behind me. This gave the impression of the library as a friendly community place. Although the library doesn’t control all patron behavior, they certainly set the tone for the library and influence the general behavior of patrons.

I went to the circulation desk (I thought it was a reasonable assumption that a person with overdue fines would already know where the circulation desk was–in any case, it is very prominent on the left as soon as you walk in). The one problem here is that the circulation area is mostly self-check stations, and the staffed desk is somewhat hidden, furthest from the door. The staff member sits behind a tall desk and if the self-check stations are busy may be blocked from the entering patron’s view. There are no signs to indicate “Circulation” or “Pay Fines” here.

There was one person ahead of me so I did not have to wait very long. Several people happened to come in right behind me and a second staff member came out from the library office to help with the sudden influx.

The librarian I spoke to was friendly and pleasant, as well as matter of fact. People may feel slightly embarrassed paying fines so it is important for librarians to set them at their ease. She was discreet by turning her screen slightly and showing me the amount on the screen, which would be a nice gesture for people with very high fines who were embarrassed about it. She was also able to combine both fees from the boys’ cards into one transaction (which you cannot do in the online fine system). While running my card there was a very small delay which she explained, saying “I’m just waiting for the one you need to sign.” When finished, she smiled and said “There, you’re all set!”

I had allowed about 10-15 minutes for this task and actually I was in and out within 5 minutes. I was pleased with how quick and efficient it was, with the librarian’s pleasant demeanor, so this was mainly a positive journey.

Improved Journey Map


Improved Journey Map -Paying Overdue Fines

Improved Journey Map

There were two main areas where the library could improve. The website information could be more clearly presented. Navigation should clearly indicate information about paying fines by any method, and the fines page itself should be updated to provide information for both methods of payment. The page should be written better for the web with headings, bullet list for accepted methods of payment and so on. (Not relevant to my journey map but interesting to note is that the information for paying fees online tells users to “click the My Account button.” This page could be improved by providing a direct link within the content of the page.)

The furniture arrangement and signage for the circulation area could be improved to make it more clear where you go for help, and to make the staff seem more approachable. On the whole, however, this “necessary evil” was well handled by the library.


Service Safaris

I used this assignment as an impetus to go a couple of new places around here that I have been meaning to try, but hadn’t gotten around to. I wanted to approach things with fresh eyes so it seemed important to go places I haven’t been.

Hayward Book Shop

Hayward Book Shop Exterior

Hayward Book Shop Exterior

My first safari was to the Hayward Book Shop, an independent bookstore that sells both new and used books. My 4th grader wanted a book or two about Frida Kahlo for the women’s history month essay his school does. My  6th grader is doing a “genre challenge” at school where they read books from 7 different genres (while we have “fantasy fiction” well covered here, we were underrepresented in categories like realistic fiction and science fiction–at least, books in those genres for a sensitive 11 year old to read). They have sustained silent reading sessions at school and they have to have a book–ideally a nice light paperback since they make them carry so much other stuff it is ridiculous. I thought I could score some inexpensive books for both boys.

I did not take the children with me. I would probably have bought more books than I already did if I had. They are well aware that asking for books is mommy’s weak point.

What was the goal of this service and was it met?

My goal was to find some books for my kids–not specific books, but I had some genres in mind and hoped they would have a decent collection and I would be able to browse and find something.

My goals were definitely met. I came out with a large stack of books for the kids. Yay!

Was this experience overall positive or negative?

The overall experience was very positive (I mean, it’s a BOOKSTORE!!) They could throw the books at me after I paid for them and I’d probably still think it was positive. (Note: They didn’t do that.) There was a good selection of books, it was fun just looking around, and I left with a good haul at a price that pleased me since most of them were used, and yet in very good condition. (Slightly negative aspect: my husband saying “Did you just go and buy MORE books?”)

What was good about the service?

The new book selection was modest but good (caved and got the new Neil Gaiman book for myself!). The used book selection was quite extensive and I was quite pleased at being able to find several things I felt the kids would like.

What detracted from the experience?

The only real drawback was the website (too wordy, too busy) and my attempts to get information on how to get to the store. It wasn’t REALLY difficult but it was a little bit hard to find the location/directions. Although I know Hayward, they recently redid the downtown area and changed the one way streets to create better traffic flow (in theory), so I was a little anxious about how to get there and where to park. The website “Location & Directions” link just takes you directly to Google maps. I prefer it when there are some general directions with Google maps or Mapquest embedded so that you can get more information if you needed it. My problem wasn’t that I did not know where the bookstore was (I knew the street and recognized the address), what I would have liked to have seen was a few lines about “you can park in the nearby free civic parking lot” or something like that, and perhaps something about the best way to access the one way street the bookstore is on.

Another aspect that might be a drawback to some people is that the bookstore is very much like other used bookstores. It’s not like Barnes and Noble with huge signs everywhere, plenty of open space (the real life equivalent of white space), and so on. The books are jammed in floor to ceiling, signs are small, and beyond the separation of new books at the front of the store and the used books as you go further in, the store navigation is not obvious. For people who love used bookstores, the serendipity and the sense of exploring and the smell of old books is all part of the fun, so I didn’t mind this, but to non-book fanatics it could detract. I certainly wouldn’t want to go in to a hardware store that was organized this way. I think it works for the nature of this business (books are neat) but would be quite annoying in a hardware store when I wanted to find a very specific washer to fix my sink.

Basically, it is an excellent bookstore for browsing, but if you were in need of a specific book and really wanted to have it TODAY, a large bookstore like Barnes and Noble might be preferable. This is the kind of bookstore, however, where the thrill of exploration and discovery is part of the experience, not just the simple acquisition of  a book.

With whom did you interact?

There were a lot of bookstore employees. Sometimes I wonder if stores like this can really afford all the employees they seem to have–I’m guessing the appeal of working in a bookstore is a big attraction for book fanatics. It was a slow weekday afternoon and the store was almost empty of customers but I spotted five different staff members. Four out of the five spoke to me, one I only glimpsed from a distance. Two staff members who were stocking a new display said hello, smiled and said excuse me as they moved past me with stacks of books. A few minutes later a third employee noticed me browsing and asked if I was looking for anything in particular. I volunteered the information that I was looking for books for my middle schooler’s genre challenge, she gave me a quick tour of both the new and used children’s sections, specifically indicating where the chapter books were. She then said to find her and ask if I had any more questions. About 15 or 20 minutes after that, a fourth employee came along and noticed the (now large) stack of books I was carrying and said “would you like your arm back?” She offered to take the books up to the counter for me and we talked about books for a little while. Everyone I spoke to was friendly and helpful, but without a sense of trying to rush me.

Were you confused at any time during the experience?

The only time I was confused was when I was figuring out how to get there, and while driving there. This turned out not to be as bad as I anticipated, but since traffic and parking can be fraught in the Bay Area, and friends have complained (a lot) about the downtown Hayward rerouting, I was a little anxious and confused. The fact that we live in a busy exurb area is not something the bookstore can help, of course, but a little more website info might have been helpful. I almost always check websites for traffic and parking information before going places since around here that is usually the worst aspect about any expedition.

Describe the physical space.

Inside Hayward Book Shop

Inside Hayward Book Shop

The bookstore is located in a downtown area that is TRYING to revitalize. There is a mix of old and new on the street. The book shop has been there a long time and it is a little shabby. I noticed as I walked up that the front door was propped open and on the inside of the door (which was facing the street since the door was propped open) there was a large sign saying “YES WE ARE OPEN! PLEASE COME IN.” This is particularly helpful since there are a number of closed businesses on the street, hit by the downturn. Making it abundantly clear that this particular shop is open for business was good UX.

Inside it was a pretty classic used bookstore–a little cramped, a little dusty. Books up to the ceiling, one tucked away room with more books in it that you discover as you go back. I find this very appealing, as most book loving people would. There were chairs and stools scattered throughout as space allowed, clearly affording the ability to sit and peruse a book more thoroughly, adding to the “browsability” of the space.

At the back of the store I noticed a stock area where the bathroom was–there was a sign on the bathroom door that said “Not a Public Restroom — Please Ask!” I didn’t need the restroom but I am guessing it was locked but perhaps that they would unlock it for you if you were desperate. Downtown businesses (sadly) often need to discourage people from coming in and using employee restrooms. One often sees signs that say “No Public Restroom” or “Restrooms for Employees Only.” I thought this sign was interesting in that it sort of hints at a softened attitude about that–as in, if you really need it, okay, but please ask.

Describe the customer service.

Very friendly, not rushed, helpful. This is appropriate to the venue since it is a “browsing” type of business. I was greeted by almost everyone working there, and helped by two different people on three separate occasions–finding the children’s area, taking my books up to the counter, and checking out. Everyone seemed happy to be there and was friendly and helpful. I was helped to find things and a couple of people indicated to me that they were approachable at any time if I needed more help. The employees engaged in tasks (like stocking or answering the phone) still acted in a friendly and approachable manner, rather than making me feel that I was interrupting them.

The Doolittle

My second safari was to The Doolittle, a bar that has recently opened up in Castro Valley. There aren’t many nice bars in Castro Valley (actually pretty sure this is the only one). I was excited that there might be a bar I’d feel comfortable going to have a drink with a friend. The Doolittle has a lot of craft beers on tap and good cocktails (so I heard) so I had been wanting to try it out.

What was the goal of this service and was it met?

The goal was to have a drink in a pleasant atmosphere. Yes, I met the goal, and I would go back there.

Was this experience overall positive or negative?

Positive. (Seriously, this was the best assignment ever. Bookstores and cocktails.)

What was good about the service?

The bartender was friendly and helpful. There were a lot of choices–a long list (about 30) of bottled beers, 12 taps, and a sizable cocktail menu. The drink I ordered (Lemon Drop) was delicious. The atmosphere of the bar was relaxed and fun, and although I felt shy at first, I ended up talking to a couple of other patrons and it was a very friendly community atmosphere.

What detracted from the experience?

I was a little hesitant when I drove up and saw the door, which was one of those solid steel doors like a hole-in-the-wall dive bar might have. The outside of the building was unprepossessing, in a mini strip mall with a large construction site right next to it. The approach to the bar wasn’t all that attractive. They do have a pretty painted sign–the only way one would know from the outside that something nice might be inside.

With whom did you interact?

I talked to the bartender and chatted with two other patrons who were also sitting at the bar. It reminded me of being in Ireland and how pubs are community center-ish in nature.

Were you confused at any time during the experience?

Just a teensy bit when I walked in, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to try the craft beers (which looked great) or a cocktail (since I’d also heard their cocktails were awesome). Yes. First world problems.

Describe the physical space.

The Doolittle

The Doolittle (canoe shelf with taps listed above)

The outside, as I mentioned above, wasn’t that attractive. It’s in a strip mall next to construction, the paint on the strip mall is faded and there is a liquor store with a very old fashioned, cheesy looking sign. The inside I found very attractive in a shabby chic way. Lots of wood, wooden booths and tables, and a pretty old wooden bar. There was a canoe on the wall above the bar and the bar also has a record player and a large collection of vinyl records that they played (propping up the current record so you can see what’s being played–it was Led Zeppelin while I was in there. There are several televisions with sports but they were on mute. It wasn’t very loud, for a bar.

They have actual records!

They have actual records!

Describe the customer service.

The bartender (the only employee present) was very friendly. She helped me make up my mind between beer or cocktail and I chose a cocktail. She mixed it up for me. Later I started chatting with another patron and she joined in (and we found we both have 6th graders). I noticed when another patron paid her and left she said “Nice to meet you, enjoy your stay in California,” which indicates that she talks to people and is friendly. When I asked her about one of the tap beers that was listed she told me a little about it and offered me a sample, which was a very nice touch. I heard her discussing beers with yet another patron. She was very friendly and knowledgeable, and she helped establish that “community” feel the bar has.

This assignment was really fun. I get so busy and tend to run only necessary, rushed errands–grocery store, carpool, vet. I did not really think about this consciously but upon reflection I realize I chose safaris that were of a very different nature than a “get something done” errand. Both a bookstore and a bar are places to savor the experience; this made me reflect on how “good” UX caters to what users most likely desire. A used bookstore is not a place to “get a book,” it is a place to browse for books and enjoy the experience of doing so, plus maybe buy books. And bar isn’t just a place to have a drink, since I could go to a grocery store and buy stuff to drink, it is a place to perhaps savor unusual taps or drink recipes, talk about them/learn about them, and to talk to other people as well.  These service safaris were a good way to think in terms of the experience and not just the obvious product.


JGSM Library Content Audit

Detzi (2012) wrote that expectations about content audits “tend to feed anxieties and overwhelm, and are often why the prospect of completing content audits are too quickly dismissed.” I certainly found the most difficult part of the content audit was the prospect of doing it. Once begin it seemed like a task with a fairly clear progression.

I partially audited the website of the Johnson Graduate School of Management library. I used to work at this library fresh out of college, *mumblemumble* years ago. The library has changed a lot. Almost all of the physical collection was merged into one business-oriented main library serving the business school, the hotel management school, and the industrial and labor relations school. The Johnson library itself mostly houses course reserves and computers with access to the crucial business databases, with one librarian (there were three plus paraprofessionals when I worked there).

Molly’s Content Audit

(should link to the Google Sheet, please let me know if this does not work)

The most time consuming task was deciding on the order of pages to list and how to apply Page IDs. Since it is helpful to have a sense of the architecture to do this, it can be a little confusing when there are multiple ways of accessing a page. Deciding on how to map them out was sometimes challenging, but also interesting because it was challenging. This might have been more challenging, to the point of being frustrating, if I really had to inventory the whole site and figure out where everything ought to go, but the limited nature of this exercise spared me from “tilting at the windmill of comprehensiveness” (Rosenfeld, 2006). Once I had inventoried the site and decided how to arrange the spreadsheet and PageIDs, filling out the spreadsheet was pretty straightforward. It wasn’t drudgery although maybe after 100 pages it would have become so! In a kind of OCD way I liked filling out my spreadsheet.

One source of confusion when I was creating the list was caused by the fact that the website is part of a larger system, and must connect to the broader university library system or other university websites (such as IT or email services). I tried to exclude pages that linked outside the management library site, but included a few external pages that are probably highly important to Johnson members. Some links that appear to be clearly business school material connect the user  (without warning) to the central library site, thus changing the look and navigation significantly. In a real audit, website analytics would be important to determine if these resources are used by Johnson members enough that the sites should be moved to the Johnson Library site or at least integrated more smoothly.

I was confused by the choice to place the most popular resources on the home page with tabs to link to them, and without giving them distinctive URLs (that is, you click a tab to access “Databases” or “Books and Journals” but the URL does not change). From a content audit architecture perspective, this is a bit of a pain.  Users probably will not care, however. It makes sense from the user’s perspective–when I worked there business information databases and course reserves were far and away the most used resource, and if the site is anything to go by that is still true now. I noticed that the best pages on the Johnson site (best written and most useful) were the databases and course reserves. The worst pages were, for the most part, ones that probably see much less traffic.

The audit was interesting–my overall impression was that the site was well designed based on UX principles. However as I audited the site I found too many paragraphs, some pages that were poorly written but quite useful, and one page that was really well written but with pretty much no information whatsoever (the “Workshops” page which pretty much just said yes, we have workshops, email us to find out more.)

I discovered a lot more about the site than I would have done just by looking at the pages in a less systematic way. Content audits seem like a valuable way to uncover flaws–particularly flaws that users themselves cannot help you identify. That is, if a database connection just doesn’t work, users will probably complain. That is a straightforward problem and you will probably hear about it. But if changing navigation or text inconsistencies misdirect users, they are likely to feel vaguely confused but less likely to be able to say why they feel that way or point to the problem. This was a really valuable experience!


Detzi, C. (March 20, 2012). From content Audit to design insight:  How a content audit facilitates decision-making and influences design strategy [Web log]. UX Magazine. Retrieved from

Rosenfeld, L. (Jun 16, 2006).The rolling content inventory [Web log]. Louis Retrieved from