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

ChelseaSmithChelseaSmith

MichaelLopezMichaelLopez

Johnson Management Library Personas

StevenJacksonStevenJackson

PortiaWolfePortiaWolfe

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About mollificence

library student, writer, mom, Kindle addict View all posts by mollificence

2 responses to “Bibliothēca Personae

  • Sarah Liberman

    I liked reading how you went about creating the personas. It’s good to be reminded that school libraries also serve the purpose of a chill-out or mellow socializing venue. I have trouble remembering checking out books for schoolwork, but your post definitely jogged the pleasant memories of the school library being a hangout zone. It was comfortable and safe, yet without consciously realizing so.

    Good persona names, too! Although I couldn’t help but think, “Wouldn’t Portia want to visit a law library as well?” 😉

    • mollificence

      Ha ha. Perhaps a better name for a business school professor would be Prospera? 😉

      We’re such geeks.

      Being in K-12 libraries as I have in recent years has really brought home that there are many kids for whom the library is a comfortable and safe zone, and that this is incredibly important to them. Adults have so much power to control our environments and make them comfortable for us, we forget what it’s like to be in that school environment–where you are not very free to choose your surroundings. It’s like a lifeline to some of them, not a luxury.

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