To improve access to high-priority tools and services, the web team at James A. Gibson Library reached out to the Brock community last December with a campaign called “Give the Library Homepage a Makeover!”
In a high-traffic area of the Schmon Tower Lobby just outside the library entrance, the team constructed an over-sized, blank mock-up of the library homepage and a selection of Velcro-mounted print cards in various shapes and sizes, labeled with words and other design elements. Some cards were intentionally left blank to allow participants to add their own labels.
The team asked students to select the cards they valued as important elements for the library homepage and arrange them on the blank webpage in their desired layout. Twenty people participated, including students, faculty and university staff. The makeovers by the students helped us decide which items on the page simply didn’t resonate with students and to rethink items that we had not place much value on.
This activity is an example of a user-research approach called participatory design, which Nancy Fried Foster defines as “building spaces, services, and tools where the people who will use those things participate centrally in coming up with concepts and then designing the actual products.” Learn more about this approach in the CLIR report “Participatory Design in Academic Libraries: Methods, Findings, and Implementations.”
Colleen MacKinnon, Liaison Librarian, James A. Gibson Library, Brock University.