Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Thinking about user expectations for Library services

Our institution has been brainstorming about user access to content. I have been thinking about user expectations for Library online services in the context of other services that our community -- faculty and students -- use in their lives. I wrote this in July, framing it around my activities in a single weekend:

What did I do during an average weekend in summer 2006?

I checked my email.

I watched a movie that I rented via Netflix. It was a movie that I had never heard of before adding it to my rental queue -- Netflix's recommender service suggested that I might like it based on my rental history. And I did. If I were so inclined, I could add a personal review to the Netflix site.

The movie was based on a Korean novel, so I looked it up using Google and wikipedia.

I went to a movie at a theater with a friend. I looked up the time online and we confirmed using cell phones.

I scheduled payments for bills directly from my bank account online.

I ordered a media cabinet for my living room. I can track its shipping progress through the UPS web site.

I read part of a book that I purchased through Amazon.com. It was highly recommended by a colleague, but I had also read reviews on a number of blogs, and through those blogs I found the blog written by the author -- the senior editor at Wired Magazine. I subscribed to the RSS feed so I wouldn't miss any postings.

I added that book to my personal LibraryThing catalog. 50 other users of the service also have the book, and I could read their reviews, see what tags they used, or start a discussion with them about the book's topic.

A couple of contacts on my flickr space wondered why I hadn't added any new pictures of my house, so I sorted through photos taken with my digital camera in preparation to upload them.

I had a conversation with my neighbor across the street about an anomaly that she found while searching for a new book in our opac. She's a retired English professor.

So, in a single weekend, I interacted with more than a half dozen digital services and took advantage of the output of several online social networks. This is in my personal life, and doesn't even take into account my professional activities. I may be more digital than some, but I'm part of the same generation as many of our more recently tenured faculty, and I know that our graduate students and undergraduates are even more plugged in than I am.

Given the number and types of digital services that our users encounter, what expectations might they have about the Library's services? How can the services be personalized for them? What notification services can we set up? Can we create more interactive/social networking opportunities for our users? How can we improve our core online service -- the ability to locate and use our collections? I'd like to see us give some serious thought to these issues, looking at other libraries and at the types of services that our users encounter in every other aspect of their lives.

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