Tag Archives: reader behaviour

Library ethnography 101, part II

5 Jan

Talk is cheap. Actions speak louder (& more accurately)…


Observations from the Book Drop

To readers who may not know what the book drop is, it’s really something which you should get your library to start having! Don’t we all have slightly traumatic memories of anxiously rushing to the library on the due date to return books in order not to get fined? Only to get there 5 minutes before closing to see a very long queue snaking its way out of the library… on days like these, it feels like the whole world is determined to make things difficult for you, and every single library user had chosen the very same day to return their books as you did. And to add insult to injury, the indifferent librarian is taking her own sweet time scanning those books for return, and the bar-code scanner is acting up again… Well, those days are truly behind us now – it’s so easy now, even ducks know how to use the book drop!

I won’t bore you with the details of my observations at the book drop area, since most of what I saw were most or less similar to what I had previously mentioned at the check-out counters, except in reverse – man arrives with bag of book(s), man fiddles with bag, man takes out book(s), man drops them into slot, man walks away. Though I’m not sure why many seemed to take pride in very forcefully pushing the books through the book drop door…


Mapping the reader’s journey

Just for fun, I mapped out an illustrated journey of the library user. Visualising a customer’s journey through space and time is helpful for discovering touch-points where good design can come in to enhance the customer’s experience.

If you scrutinise the “man” in the slideshow, the only time he is burdened with books is after the check-out to getting home, and from home to book drop. These are the opportunities for the library bag to come in to help the reader. But what happens to the bag in between? Probably chucked away somewhere with a pile of other shopping bags, forgotten and lost. With high likelihood, a bag provided by the library to the reader will not be returned as the bag will be inconvenient to find (a needle among the haystack of shopping bags) or impossible to find (simply lost).

So how can I design a library bag which helps the reader and enhance his experience with the library? How can the bag find a natural place within the reader’s environment at the same time, so that it won’t be lost/forgotten?

Other interesting behaviour and mannerisms

It was also pretty interesting to cast the ethnographer’s eye on the everyday behaviour of readers in the library. There are really all manner of mannerisms, some not so pretty like propping legs up on the sofa, readers dozing off with their mouths wide open, picking their noses while reading (euuwwww!)…. hahaha. But what drawn my interest as inspiration for design were the mannerisms of people while in the middle of reading, and how some of these visual images of reading are situated in our everyday collective memories. Take for example the visual scene of a reader with an open book vs a closed book:

Everything in the picture is the same, and the only difference lies in the state of the book. When you look at the 2 pictures, which one depicts that the reader is reading, and which one depicts that he is not (or finished reading)? No prizes for guessing…. but you get the picture….

I mention this in particular because NLB’s objectives (or any public library for that matter) is to nurture reading. I remember this slogan from NLB about “Nurturing a Nation of Readers” some time back.

Can the bag design incorporate some “reading” element or get people to read more? If the design can do that, it would elevate the library bag above and beyond mere utility – of being “just another shopping bag” – to something which serves a greater cause!