A presentation delivered to Cambridge librarians about the Spacefinder Project (part of the Futurelib innovation programme) by Sue Mehrer, Amy Theobald, Andy Priestner, Rose Giles, Georgina Cronin, Paul-Jervis Heath, Emma Etteridge, Tom Sykes.
Students are unaware of spaces available Students are currently using places like the JCR, bar, library or squeezing groups of people into each other’s rooms and bringing whiteboards. It is important to let students and understand the variety of spaces available to them and actively choose a workspace based on their own requirements.
In groups Alone but with noisy people around Completely alone Alone but surrounded by other people being quiet around them And Alone but together
This is a user experience map NatSci student Their original meeting place is just to busy and loud, they have to figure out where to go Spacefinder makes it easier to find alternatives. And reinforce the importance to let students understand the variety of spaces available to them and actively choose a workspace based on their own requirements.
What do we mean by a “space”? When we're considering how to define spaces there's a danger of getting too philosophical and metaphysical about things. GC
So for this particular project we need to be a bit less cerebral about it and define a space really simply as 'a place to work', where work is a bit of an all-encompassing term meaning doing stuff that's relevant to studies/research e.g. revising, writing essays, reading books, selecting resources, etc. So if someone can potentially work somewhere then that's a potential space for SpaceFinder. This doesn’t have to be a library; we’d like to see other communal spaces within a college or faculty captured, as well as non-university spaces – cafes, bars, etc. We'd like to share some of examples of how we chose to define a space.
I looked at spaces within the UL. Some spaces were really easy to identify as a space because they are already naturally divided, enclosed areas or are already named as a space – for example the Assistive Technology Room is a small room with clear boundaries.
Other places can be a little trickier. I decided to write up the Reading Room as one space. Although it is a very large room, the study spaces are pretty much consistent in their feel and the access to other facilities such as copiers is the same.
There are other areas of the Library that were harder to make distinctions based on room boundaries. For example on the South Front open bookstack, on floor four, there are a couple of study areas that have a different feel to them; one faces out onto the Library drive is a more communal area that is more likely to have people walking back and forth.
The second is a little quieter and has one desk rather than a row of desks and faces in to the Library courtyard. RG
At the English Faculty Library Helen Murphy approached describing spaces geographically to begin with. She assessed where the natural dividers in the space were, for example the different floors and rooms. She then considered the space in terms of facilities and resources nearby and tried to work out if they were precisely the same.
So, for example, the ground floor of the English Faculty Library has access to the same resources and facilities regardless of where you sit. However, the side near the window is lighter, the tables are more open, and there's more foot traffic, so it's noisier.
The other side has smaller tables, the views aren't so good, and fewer people walk by, so it's quieter. These aren't major differences but one side could be described as light, airy and busy and the other side as quieter and with fewer distractions.
We have categorised 30 spaces so far, but for Spacefinder to have real value to users we need to populate the map with many more spaces. This is where we hope to gain your help to capture the spaces within your libraries. I can assure you that it doesn’t take long and is simple to submit your space. I also found it to be a useful exercise in itself for seeing the Library through a user’s eyes.
So how are we collecting this data? Modern Human has provided us with a spreadsheet to fill out. Each category is information needed to contribute to that space’s profile on Spacefinder.
Each space needs a name – again in some cases, it will just be after the room, in others you may need to come up with something a bit more descriptive. For example, at the UL, the Assistive Technology Room already exists as a formal space; there’s no need to come up with a new name or describe it further in the title – it’s already a space that is marked on the UL map. However, there are many spaces that are more informal and these spaces need to be named as something recognisable to someone navigating the general library space in general. There is space to fill out the GPS location and there will be photos attached, but the title should lend an extra hand to helping the user find the space.
So for example, at English, there were two spaces on the second floor that weren’t previously officially named. Helen named the side with the better view the “balcony desks” and the distraction free side near to the collection of Anglo Saxon Norse and Celtic books became 'ASNC desks'. Students may have there own name for an area – if you know how they refer to a space, use this to your advantage. RG
Then we have some directional information; the address, contact details, social media, opening hours, etc – things that help the user access the space. GC
There are then fields that will be used to help the user decide if the space matches with the things they’d like to get out of their ideal study space. The “atmosphere” category gives them an idea of what to expect from the space and “features and facilities” focuses on the practicalities – WiFi, available photocopiers, proximity of caffeine. RG
And then finally, tags can be added to give further detail to the space. Whereas the “atmosphere” and “features” categories are fixed so a consistent comparison can be made, the tags are free text and can be anything that will help the user choose whether to use the space or not. For the UL, I used this to share things that you couldn’t tell from the photos, smaller things that are still important to library uses, such as whether the space is likely to be hot or cold, if you can control the lighting and some of the features that make that particular space unique or interesting, for example, if there is art on the walls or if there is a good view.
You can also use the tags to make users aware of restrictions or quirks particular to your library. I’ve used the tags as an opportunity to highlight that users can’t bring in large bags and can only bring in bottled water.
If you are concerned about lots of people from other faculties using your library, or that there'll suddenly be more people and more noise you can TOTALLY manipulate the data that you put into Spacefinder to highlight these points. E.g. if you'd really rather your small library with only a few desk spaces was kept reserved for students in your subject then you could probably tag it as 'particularly helpful for researchers of X', or if you’re concerned about extra noise, you can add in 'silent space' as one of the tags. Obviously best not to lie outright, but the data forms are malleable enough that you can make them work for you as well as everyone else.
Filling out the spreadsheet probably took 15 minutes in total for 5 spaces. Some of the categories are subjective, but we'd probably advise people to err on the side of generosity. I think we all found it a little tricky to judge how “inspirational” or “historic” a space was, but the tags can help to clarify or back-up any judgment that you’ve made on the space or explain the space in a little more depth.
The “atmosphere” and “features” columns are pretty much binary and you just need to select yes/no, so you can zip through these. A lot of the directional data is the same for each space within your library, so these can simply be copied and pasted.
The only slightly fiddly bit was figuring out what the GPS co-ordinates were. We took different approaches to this – you can use Google Maps, an existing compass app on your phone or you can download an app to show you the co-ordinates.
The process of detailing a space should be pretty stress free – if you come up against any difficulties or would like a pointer, please do contact one of us.
We thought that it would be helpful to make a start right now on thinking about your library and the potential spaces that you could submit. For the next five minutes, if you could turn to your neighbour and in pairs or groups of three, describe a particular space within your library. When the five minutes are up, we’ll come back and share what we’ve talked about. As you talk about the space you are thinking if, you might like to consider it’s physical description, the atmosphere of the space and what sort of facilities are in the nearby vicinity. RG
Spacefinder Roadshow - August 2015
An open innovation programme exploring the future role of academic
libraries within the University of Cambridge.
Employs special research techniques to examine how students,
researchers and academics currently feel about, and use, libraries
(physically and remotely) and how they study, learn and carry out
research in this unique environment.
what is Futurelib?
Those special research techniques:
• ethnography - observing and recording how people behave: their habits, routines,
activities, culture, traits; seeking a deeper and more holistic understanding of their
choices and daily lives
• human-centred design – examining the needs, wants, and limitations of users of a
product, service or process (in our case libraries and library systems)
what is Futurelib?
The programme draws on the skills of librarians from around
Cambridge University to test new service concepts derived from
the programme’s research phase by design practice Modern
The project is funded by the University Library, led by myself and
managed by Andy Priestner (on secondment from Judge
what is FutureLib?
Students in NatSci, Maths and CompSci often study independently sitting
next to other people working on the same or similar problems. They really
value this collaboration. When they get stuck on something they are able to
get real time support.
3 types of activity/work that your students
do in your library
3 other places that you know your students
go and do other work-based activities
I spent half the day yesterday
trying to find somewhere to work
– this would have really helped!
I’m a third year. I wish I’d
had this as a fresher.
I would definitely
use this app
This app would
remove the trial and
error of trying out
crap coffee spaces
Would be good if like
Airbnb it had pics of the
rooms and desks to give
a sense of the space
Photos would be useful so you know
you’re not heading to a dank room
The app needs to give a
bit more guidance
I’d like to know how much
space there is – could it have
a live update?
I prefer a menu to a map
I’d like somewhere
to complain about
I don’t like working in xxx library as
everyone there is really stressed
I tried studying in Starbucks once,
but it didn’t work for me – I felt a
self-imposed pressure to leave
after I finished my drink
Large desks are cool
I like to work alone, but
where others are working
I look for a certain kind of
place – I’m quite fussy
I always work in my room
or my college café
I use my faculty library
cos its quieter there
WIFI and desks are key
Light is important, but
I revise with others in a group
Where I go depends on
how much work I do
I like to study in libraries cos of the books I never work in libraries
I like it to be cosy, warm, light,
quiet, but not too quiet
• we need information
on your library spaces
• photographing library
• marketing campaign
and launch in
• stall at Freshers Fair
• promotion in your