Monday, 27 January 2014

Shadowing people who use book houses

This post has me doing two things I've done before: writing what would be my entry in a competition, if I weren't disqualified from entering because I'm the organiser (cf. this post from January 2012), and restricting myself to the thousand commonest words in the language, using the Up-Goer Five text editor (as in this post from February 2013).

The competition in which this new work will not be entered is for accounts of any aspect of the libraries@cambridge conference 2014.  Frankie Wilson's presentation was entitled 'Quality in libraries -- it is all about people'.  The presentation itself is password-protected, so I won't link to it from here, but if you go to Twitter and search on #lac14 that'll give you some idea of its content.  Note that the #lac14 hashtag has since been used for another conference as well, so you'll need to look for the tweets around 9 January, the day of libraries@cambridge itself.

The Up-Goer Five list of the 1000 commonest words does not include the word 'library'.

Why don't you have a go?  Email me your entry by 23:59 on Friday 31 January.  Prizes include wine voucher from Cambridge Wine Merchants and cake made by Clare.


This is from the talk Ms Wilson gave to the meeting of people who run book houses. The talk was all about how to make book houses better by taking notice of the people who use them. I was much interested in one idea -- to ask people who use book houses if we can shadow them and watch them at their using.

Ms Wilson was clear that this shadowing would have to be different from following people to hurt them. We would have to ask people if they would like us to shadow them, and asking could be done with cups of coffee. This might make people happier to be shadowed.

Shadowing people was only one of the ideas Ms Wilson put forward, but it was one of those that most hit me. I took it back to my own book house and talked about it the next day with the other people who work there. They could see things I would have to think about before trying it in our book house.

One was the question, would shadowing people in this way be much different from the kind of standing behind them, in order to see how they look for books and other things, that work in book houses often needs you to do? Another was the fact that many people who use our book house do their looking for books before they come to the book house. Would we be asking to shadow them in their offices?

Another person in our team told of an idea he had heard in another part of the meeting: instead of shadowing people, ask them to write down, with a phone, what they are doing at some set times of the day.

Shadowing could be set up more easily than asking people to write things down with their phones. I know its picture of how people use the book house would not be complete. But I work most in an office away from the people who use the book house, and shadowing might show me things I had missed. I think it's an idea to keep at the back of my mind. And maybe ask Ms Wilson how she does it!

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