On Saturday, June 24 from 8:30am-10:00am, the ETS Chair’s Program is hosting “The Intentional Library: creating a better user experience with service design and design thinking”. In anticipation of that event, we sat down with Joe Marquez and Annie Downey to learn more about their work in the field of service design, and to find out how you might begin working on a service design project at your own library.
Design thinking is a big thing in libraries right now, and your work in service design is getting a lot of attention. Can you tell us what specifically prompted your focus on service design?
We discovered service design out of necessity. It truly was a eureka moment for us. We had been tasked with redesigning the library’s website and were in the early stages of a rather routine usability study when we were asked to expand our study to include the library’s touchpoints, (i.e., the points where patrons interact with the library such as Circulation or Reference, as well as the web). As we began to look at the touchpoints, our mission was expanded to include the physical space too. Having never really looked at space through a usability lens, we did what anyone would do and searched the web. Joe had been introduced to design thinking while working on his MBA so our search was, “design thinking for services.” This search returned sites and resources for this thing called service design. Intrigued by the phrasing, we clicked on a few of these links and began to see the benefit of service design in a library environment. That was only the beginning. We began doing research and really looking to understand not only what ‘services’ mean, but also how to better assess them. We began thinking about the importance of connecting all the parts together and then Annie brought in research on systems thinking in higher education from her doctoral work. By combining our thoughts and looking at the work we had both done previously through the service design lens, we became converts to this idea that the library is truly a series of tightly coupled systems that is also part of larger communities. Our research continues to reinforce those concepts, making it clear that to assess, create, and refine services, libraries must consider them as holistic entities.
What advice would you give someone who would like to start a service design project?
Well, we always say, “start at the beginning!” Seriously, we have been asked this question a lot. Ever since the publications of our article in Weave and subsequent book, “Library Service Design: A LITA Guide to Holistic Assessment, Insight, and Improvement,” we have given a number of presentations as well as taught online classes. This question kept coming up and we have always been hesitant to give a definite answer because we firmly believe each library is unique. Library teams should really look at their own environment rather than use a cookie cutter approach to implementing service design in their environments. We created the Library Service Design Heuristics to help people make decisions about where to start their own service design project. We were inspired by the Nielsen Usability Heuristics for User Interfaces. If heuristics, or rules of thumb, can be applied for a web interface, why not for a service or services like those found in a library? Our list of ten Library Service Design Heuristics is a quick, easy method library workers can use to review a service, helping them decide if the service warrants more assessment.
This year is proving to be exciting and busy for us. In May, we were notified that we had won the first Future of Libraries Fellowship from ALA’s Center for the Future of Libraries. That award will help us expand on the Library Service Design Heuristics. We’d like to share a more hands-on approach, with actual exercises to get librarians and library staff working with service design tools. This project is still in the works, but we are really excited about producing something that will really complement our first book.
Back on the homefront, this fall we will be working with cross campus partners (Academic Support and IT) to create a service design-inspired project that looks at the holistic student experience at Reed College. We want to understand how students perceive and use the various academic support services available at Reed College. That project gets underway in Sept and will hopefully show us what the student experience is really like at Reed. We are also in the middle of projects to assess special collections and archives and will do ongoing work to inform future renovation planning for our library.