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Futurelib: In-depth research with disabled students at Cambridge

Since the last update here on our work focusing on accessibility and inclusivity, Futurelib have been conducting in-depth research work with disabled students at the University of Cambridge, during Cambridge Lent Term, January – March 2019.

An online survey was sent via the University of Cambridge Disability Resource Centre (DRC) to all students who have registered with the Centre as having a disability. The survey questions were broad and open, seeking qualitative responses:

  • What do you enjoy most about studying at Cambridge?
  • What do you find most frustrating about studying at Cambridge?
  • Please describe your experiences of using Cambridge library buildings and the spaces within those buildings:
  • Please describe your experiences of using Cambridge library resources, i.e. printed and electronic books, journals and other similar content:
  • Please describe your experiences of using Cambridge library websites:
  • Please outline any ways in which Cambridge libraries are currently failing you:
  • Please outline, in as much detail as possible, any ways in which Cambridge libraries could improve the accessibility and inclusivity of their services:

We received over 90 responses to this survey, many of which went into a deep level of detail. Respondents were asked to include their HESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency) disability code (this was optional) and almost all did, which showed us that responses had come from students with a wide range of disclosed disabilities: physical impairments and/or mobility issues; sensory impairments; mental health conditions; long standing illness or health conditions; specific learning difficulties; social/communication impairments, as well as from students who identified as having a disability not currently covered by the HESA codes.

Click here to access the list of HESA codes for disability.

We also conducted a two-week digital diary study with nine student participants, and are currently completing a number of in-depth interviews. Again, the range of experiences and circumstances represented by students who participated in these exercises was wide and incredibly useful.

The insights these in-depth methods have uncovered have been at points revealing, enlightening, challenging and saddening. By exploring what people at Cambridge experience day-to-day we can learn to work towards supporting and working with them more effectively and productively.

As always, a full findings report will be disseminated open access soon, along with a prototype ‘Accessibility and Inclusivity: Cambridge libraries toolkit’ that the project team, along with input from groups such as the DRC, Estates Management and the University Information Services, are currently developing within Cambridge LibGuides.

Some of the insights from our work so far include:

  • The importance of an inclusive approach to resource access provision; many students mentioned the value that electronic resources bring, whilst also stressing that this provision should not be seen as ‘good enough’ for disabled library users.
  • A range of needs and experiences in terms of physical study spaces, including the impact of social dynamics on a space and user needs related to sensory aspects of space such as noise, light and heat.
  • A frustration from students that, in and outside of libraries, ‘unseen’ disabilities are often not given the attention and respect that they deserve.
  • The fact that students will need to learn and access content in different ways and through a variety of different media.
  • The importance of appropriate signposting and guidance, in both physical and digital environments.
  • The fact that ‘library anxiety’ can often be significantly exacerbated for disabled people, whether that be due to mobility issues, specific learning difficulties, or mental health.

The Futurelib team has found the work conducted during this project so far incredibly eye-opening and educating. We hope that, when released, the project outputs will also be of use to staff working with library users across, and beyond Cambridge.

David Marshall, Futurelib Programme

March 2019




Futurelib: Developing the accessibility and inclusivity of Cambridge library services

The Futurelib programme has embarked on a project aiming to identify opportunities to develop the accessibility and inclusivity of Cambridge library services, specifically in terms of better supporting library users with disabilities. The scope for the project is wide, with strands investigating the following aspects of service provision: 

  • Inclusive physical environment design
  • Web accessibility
  • Accessible resource provision 
  • Promotion, terminology, language and tone
  • Enabling access to physical library collections
  • Productivity software and tools
  • Information and guidance for library users 

So far, the work has involved looking to existing best practice, in and outside of Cambridge. As well as working closely with the Disability Resource Centre, Estates Management, the University Information Services, the Students’ Union and other areas within Cambridge that are involved in key aspects of service provision, semi-structured interviews have been conducted with practitioners providing and developing inclusive and accessible library services at other UK Higher Education (HE) institutions. A core team of library staff from across Cambridge has been conducting this scoping research work.

The work so far has been illuminating and has highlighted key areas in which to focus energies and attention over the second phase of the project. These include, but are not limited to: 

  • Ensuring that web-based digital content is accessible.
  • The importance of flexibility in the design of physical spaces.
  • The provision of electronic resources that are accessible to all.
  • Focusing on an inclusive approach to service provision and promotion, whilst also ensuring that library users with disabilities can easily find the information and guidance they need.
  • The importance of collaborative working across the University, for example, an increased awareness of options available to students through the Disability Resource Centre (DRC), and how librarians can best use the knowledge and expertise present at the DRC to work with these students.

It has been extremely positive working so closely with areas of the University beyond libraries, with individuals who are dedicated to ensuring that the Cambridge experience is inclusive and truly open to all. It has also been incredibly valuable looking beyond our institutional practices – libraries and others within UK HE are doing fantastic things to support a diverse range of user needs and approaches. 

balloons cropped

The next steps for the project will involve a concentrated phase of research work conducted with members of the University of Cambridge who have identified as having a disability. This will happen in partnership with the Disability Resource Centre and the Students’ Union, who, as well as helping with recruitment, will ensure that the research design and any methods used will be as inclusive as the services we hope they will inform. Methods are likely to include: 

  •  A digital diary study, in which participants will reflect on their day-to-day activities and experiences 
  • In-depth, semi-structured interviews 
  • Focus groups
  • A short, online questionnaire, seeking qualitative responses 

The aim, as with all Futurelib research, will be to explore the needs, experiences, goals, motivations and approaches of Cambridge library users, in order to be able to design, develop and tailor our services in a way that is most valuable to them. 

A full project report will be made available following the research. We are also working to develop a prototype ‘Accessibility and Inclusivity Toolkit’ for staff working in libraries at Cambridge, which we hope will enable people to continue to develop services in an accessible and inclusive way at their own libraries. 

I look forward to keeping you all updated as the project moves forward. 

David Marshall

Futurelib programme

The Cambridge Student Learning Journey

“What do you enjoy most about studying at Cambridge?”

“What do you find most frustrating about studying at Cambridge?”

These were two of the questions we asked students during the Futurelib ‘Student Learning Journey’ project, which took place between October 2017 and May 2018. A broad, in-depth, qualitative research exercise, the project aimed to uncover insights about the experience of taught students at the University of Cambridge that could be used to inform continued service design and delivery on the part of Cambridge University Libraries.

Working with participants over the course of the 2017/18 academic year provided the opportunity to capture the voices of a wide range of Cambridge students, which are represented in the outputs for the project. Developing this deeper understanding of who these students are will allow for the development of Cambridge library services that continue to be meaningful to them and a valuable part of their lives.

The findings of the Student Learning Journey research are presented thematically in the project outputs (linked to from this page). There are too many to list in this post, but some of the more surprising and interesting include:

  • A conflict for students who are aware that they need to do well in exams and other forms of assessment, across a wide range of topics, but who are also looking to develop skills they can apply in research.
  • A strong perception from students of Cambridge libraries being safe, welcoming, inclusive spaces.
  • The importance of inter-personal relationships in shaping the Cambridge student experience.
  • The ways in which Cambridge students are increasingly mobile, approaching various aspects of their studies when on the go and away from University physical and digital infrastructure.

A key focus of our work was gathering data and insights to inform the work of the Cambridge Information Literacy Network (CILN), which is working to develop information-related services and opportunities for students across Cambridge, pre- and post-arrival. A CILN-specific report can be found as an appendix to the full Student Learning Journey project report.

Alongside the full project report sit an executive summary and a Shorthand web story, which provides an engaging way of accessing the key findings and opportunities arrived at over the course of the project.

Huge thanks go to the members of the University and its colleges, within and outside of libraries, who supported and enabled our work. The acknowledgements section of the full report provides a very clear impression of the institutional-wide nature of the project. Special thanks also to the fantastic Student Learning Journey project team.

We feel that the insights gained through this work prove the value of conducting in-depth, qualitative research work with those people that are likely to encounter our libraries and services. It would have been difficult to arrive at this deep level of understanding through more traditional, quantitative methods and measures such as satisfaction surveys and usage statistics.

We look forward to sharing and discussing our work with those involved in various areas of education and student support at Cambridge, as we feel that some of our findings might be of interest to individuals outside of Cambridge libraries.

Download the full Student Learning Journey project report

Download the executive summary

View the Shorthand web story


David Marshall

Futurelib Programme



Futurelib Analysis Bootcamp!

Some of you will have been keeping up with the progress of our current Student Learning Journey project, by reading this blog and through other channels, but to provide a brief recap in terms of how the project has progressed so far:

Late-October to December 2017: Initial ‘canvassing’ phase of research, working with students to explore broad themes, through the use of mechanisms such as feedback walls, ad-hoc interviews, workshops, printed and online questionnaires, comment cards… the list goes on!

December 2017: Interim analysis with project team, working together to theme data  gathered during the first phase of research and looking for insights which might inform (a) tentative thoughts around service design and delivery and (b) the developing and refining of research methods and approach for the second stage of the project.

Late-January through April 2018: In-depth research with students, including a 3-week, 36-participant digital diary study and 22 in-depth interviews (some conducted with a number of the diary study participants). Also, targeted research using different methods, exploring specific questions around the routes students take for advice and support with academic skills, their interpretations of terminology, their views on communication, and so on.

Which brings us up to… Early-May 2018, aka Just Now…

Card sort with student

[Above: A card sorting exercise designed to investigate student approaches to seeking advice and guidance in different areas]

We have spent the last few weeks working closely together as a project team, putting steps in place to make sure that we use the project data in the most appropriate and valuable way/s possible. A large focus has been on the data produced by our digital diary study with students, which, alongside uncovering as much as possible about day-to-day Cambridge student activity, placed an emphasis on their activities and experiences related to study/research/academic skills.

As well as the usual Futurelib focus of looking for ways in which to improve and enhance the student experience, the analysis of this data will feed into the work being done by the Cambridge Information Literacy Network (CILN), which is investigating and developing the ways in which teaching and training is conducted by Cambridge libraries. An initial output of the work is taking shape as this post is being written: CamGuides, an Open Educational Resource aimed at taught-postgraduate students, providing key information which can be accessed by students prior to their arriving at Cambridge.


The first step in our approach to the analysis was to split the exported diary study data between six members of the Student Learning Journey project team, each person arriving at a coding schema for the data set they had been given ‘blind’. These were then shared in a ‘grand reveal’-type moment, which was fascinating in and of itself, and truly validated the ‘hive mind’ approach. Although there were strong areas of overlap, each individual had focused on different things. Examples included an approach strongly centred on emotional responses on the behalf of the diary study participants, and another which applied a very granular (and useful!) coding of the academic skills mentioned.

Next, we compiled, de-duplicated and discussed the schemas/(schemata??), which left us with a set of codes that could be usefully applied to the dataset as a whole. After this was essentially a period of [“Crunching… crunching… crunching… crunching….”] as the codes were reapplied. At this stage the schema grew again, in size and nuance, so it was necessary to revisit as a team, combing certain codes and questioning others, in order to arrive at something which could be used in a meaningful way to query and interrogate the data.


[Above: ‘Round 2’ of code refining with members of the project team]

A quick disclaimer here around the use of ‘bootcamp’ in the title for this post: this was truly a learning experience, but one in which it can definitely be said that we all learnt from each other as a team!

Next steps involve less crunching and more thought – we’re currently working with various stakeholders/interested parties to talk about specific queries which can be run at the data, to answer various nuances of the fundamental question, which is, as always, how we can better support the (in this case student) experience of Cambridge libraries and their services.

Watch this and other spaces for the outputs from the project, which will be many and varied but will almost certainly include:

– A public facing report

– Other ways of communicating the insights and recommendations online (we understand the reports are lengthy!)

– Presentation sessions for Cambridge library staff and other members of the University who are interested in the findings of the work, for example, representatives from the Students’ Union and others involved in current conversations and work around the Cambridge student experience

Lastly, enormous thank yous go to our fantastic project team, without which we would not have been able to do the data the justice it deserves in the same way.

If any has any questions at all about the project, please feel free to contact David Marshall:



Student Learning Journey project: Diary study in brief…

During Lent Term 2018, as part of our current ‘Student Learning Journey’ project, we conducted a 3-week digital diary study with 36 students at the University of Cambridge. This meant that we could, almost literally, follow students as they went about their studies, a fantastic opportunity which provided an amazing (and slightly intimidatingly large…) amount of data. More on that shortly!

Before starting out on the study the students each attended an in-person briefing session, most often as part of a group. As well as the necessary participation-related admin, the students were given guidance as to when we wanted them to record entries using a mobile app, ‘dScout’, and encouraged to be as reflective as possible over the course of the study. We then conducted a ‘dummy run’ entry with each participant, partly to fully explain and demonstrate the app, partly to make sure the tech was behaving! After this the students were released back into the wilderness of Cambridge academia, and, with very little nudging, set about recording a minimum of 21 diary entries over the next 21 days.


[Above: A slide from the presentation given to participants during the briefing sessions]

Although the initial set up took time, effort and a seemingly unending amount of emails, Doodle polls and meetings, once the study was underway and the data started coming through this all seemed absolutely worthwhile! An *enormous* thank you goes to those of you who went above and beyond in terms of helping with the recruitment. Our participants were undergraduate and taught-postgraduate students from a wide range of programmes of study, with a slant towards the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine) subjects. In fact, I’ll list those programmes; please do feel free to skip!:

Chemical Engineering; Clinical Medicine; Computer Science; Conservation Leadership; Education (Undergraduate and PGCE); Energy Technologies; Geography; History; History and Philosophy of Science; Industrial Systems, Manufacture and Management; Land Economy; Management Studies; Mathematics; Modern and Medieval Languages; Natural Sciences; Psychology; Public Health and Primary Care; Theology.

So, yes, we had a good mix! And although not all participants were able to complete the study (mainly due to life inevitably getting in the way), 26 of the 36 participants made 21 or more entries and many of the other students also reached 10 or more entries. Again, HUGE amounts of data…

The diary study was constructed so that each entry would take only a couple of minutes for participants to complete. On consecutive screens on a mobile device, students were asked:

– To upload a photo or video of their current study activity (for the first time we actually received a video entry, which was quite exciting!)

– To describe that task in as much detail as possible

– About how that activity was going, or had gone (our guidance during the briefing sessions was very clear that making an entry directly after a supervision, for example, would probably be more sensible than during…) and how the activity was making / had made them feel

– About the areas in which they felt prepared, or less prepared, particularly in terms of the underlying academic skills needed to complete their task

– On a quantitative (unusual for Futurelib, but useful this time around to give each entry context) sliding scale measure, to record how prepared they felt or had felt for the task

– For any other thoughts or reflections (this was, somewhat surprisingly, actually used on quite a few occasions!)

To cut a long story to at least medium-length, this resulted in over 600 individual diary entries, with media content and four or five qualitative (and one quantitative) responses for each… These can handily be (and have been) exported both as PDF documents and as one whopping CSV file. Analysing this data will take a reasonable amount of time, along with the various other forms of data collected via different methods across the course of the project, not least that gathered during the 11 in-depth interviews we conducted with a selected sample of our diary study participants. Although the diary study itself yielded a fantastic amount of data, we wanted to follow up with participants on some of the entries they had made, and were keen to give their entries more context. This was achieved through in-person interviews, each of which lasted for around one hour. This allowed us to find out in much more detail who are participants were. It would take another blog post to summarise the interviews fully, but it’s safe to say that the process was another fascinating dive into the lives of students at the University.

Screen Shot 2018-03-20 at 15.21.20

The findings from the project are yet to take shape, and, as always, will be detailed in a public-facing report which we will promote via this blog in the future. However, it seems appropriate at this stage to mention some of the interesting things we came across during the diary study, so here goes:

– It was highlighted in a way that it hasn’t been before for us that Cambridge students are increasingly mobile, using a wide variety of media and mobile-friendly options to support their studies. This was almost immediately visible through the number of screenshots we received of podcasts, Twitter feeds, videos and apps.

– Many students struggle with a conflict between ‘being a good Cambridge student’ and ‘learning how to be a researcher’. I’m sure there will be more on this one in the final report for the project… During our diary study this phenomenon had a noticeable effect on how students prioritised their time, reading, information, study events and activities.

– Students are often looking for quick, ‘in the moment’ solutions. This was particularly the case for many of our taught-postgraduate student participants, who turned to YouTube and similar sources for help with their current task, for example a specific data modelling process.

– On a lot of occasions students contextualised their study and research skills. These skills were not seen as individual and transferrable but instead as inextricably linked to the student’s current assignment or task. An example would be the difference between ‘getting better at report writing’ and ‘learning how to write *this* report well’.

– Students in the Natural Sciences are often using waterproof field-note books. We found that students were keen to digitise these but struggled to do so, due to the nature of the material. I have since been informed by a member of the project team that some Cambridge libraries have purchased overhead scanners purely for this purpose!

There were far too many interesting things to list in this post, and I look forward to updating you all in much more detail over the coming weeks and months. In order to do the data justice the analysis will take time, but I am confident that the results will be rich and useful.

I’ll be back here with more as soon as possible!



David Marshall

Futurelib Programme

Student Learning Journey project moves forward

Over the past two months the Futurelib Programme has been hard at work conducting the first phase of its Student Learning Journey project, focusing on the experiences of undergraduate and taught-postgraduate students at the University of Cambridge. Intentionally open and exploratory, the initial stages of the project have provided a valuable opportunity to work with students, with no ‘agenda’ or specific research question, besides finding out as much as possible about who our students are, their goals, motivations, lifestyles, attitudes and approaches to studying at the University.

It has been fascinating talking to and working with students at different stages of their studies, exploring how the Cambridge experience changes for people over time, as they develop both academically and personally. We have been working closely with Cambridge University Students’ Union (CUSU), in order to ensure that we are reaching student groups which could otherwise be under-represented. So far this has resulted in a workshop conducted with BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) students, and we hope to conduct another workshop with students who have identified as having a disability.

We have learnt a lot about how students study, learn and collaborate, between supervision, lecture, lab and library doors. Working with students during Michaelmas Term has provided a valuable picture of the experiences students have transitioning to degree-level, or masters degree-level study: the areas in which they are confident or feel in need of development; the messages they receive early on; the ways in which they feel they have to adapt in order to succeed at Cambridge and the relationships they establish.

SLJ analysis

[Above: theming the project data and first thoughts around next steps for the project]

An initial analysis of the data gathered so far has highlighted a number of key themes, including: the importance students place on relationships with peers, academic staff, ‘senior’ students and students from other disciplines; an emphasis on planning, time management and maintaining, or trying to maintain, a healthy work-life balance; approaches to and experiences of digital tools and environments; and student impressions of the various ways in which they are taught, and learn, at Cambridge. This has resulted in some (still tentative) ideas, in terms of areas which could be further explored through more in-depth research and areas in which Cambridge libraries could potentially contribute more fully to the student learning experience.

The project team will be meeting over the next few days, putting more shape around how the research work is taken forward next Term; which methods are used and how these are used to further explore student experiences, needs and behaviours. Although plans are already in place to an extent, the data and insights from the first stages of the project will directly inform how we talk to and work with students over the remainder of the project. There will be an emphasis on supplementing the attitudinal data gathered so far with behavioural data; alongside finding out how our students think and feel, it is essential that this is supported by what they actually do.

Screen Shot 2017-12-14 at 11.11.19

A key focus during the second stage of the project will be on student experiences of teaching and training. The findings of this work will feed directly into a longer-term piece of work led by Libby Tilley, School Librarian for Arts and Humanities, which aims to establish a Teaching Framework for Cambridge Libraries.

The project so far has felt incredibly positive and proactive; there is no ‘problem’ to solve here, no specific question to answer, instead, an exciting opportunity to learn more about the people that our services support. Watch this space, we’ll be back with more updates as the project continues!




iDiscover: Examining the user experience

Between June and August 2017, the Futurelib Programme conducted an in-depth user experience study of iDiscover, the University of Cambridge interface for the Ex Libris Primo Discovery and Delivery Service. There was a focus on observing people using iDiscover, as well as talking to students and staff at the University about their experiences using the platform, and the other tools they used to search for information resources.

Research conducted over the course of the project led to valuable insights about the ways in which people understand, interpret and approach online information resource platforms. It provided us with a user-centred evidence base to inform recommendations for improvements to the iDiscover user interface. We believe that our findings will be of interest to institutions considering implementation of Primo and other similar discovery systems.

The report linked below outlines the research, analysis, findings, and outputs of the project:

Download the Futurelib iDiscover project final report

Download the Futurelib iDiscover project executive summary


iDiscover UX: project update

Since the last post here about this project things have moved along significantly, so it seemed like a good time for a quick update on the progress. Over the last six weeks or so, the research has amassed an enormous amount of data which has given us some real insights and opportunities to improve the iDiscover user experience.

As always, the project has taught us much more than just how the platform itself is used. We’ve learnt a lot about the lives of students and staff at the University, including (but by no means limited to) their approach to and use of digital and physical ‘library’ spaces.

iDiscover is undeniably an important tool, which has a significant role to play in the work that members of the University are conducting every day. It is, however, one of many tools that people use. A large focus of the project has been working towards finding out exactly where iDiscover fits in the approaches people have to searching for and interacting with sources of information and data. This knowledge is invaluable as it gives us an opportunity to focus efforts and resources on improving the aspects of the system that people value the most, to hone in on and prioritise what is (forgive the management speak) its USP, or Ps.

Futurelib HQ

[Analysis work (colourful as always) in progress at Futurelib HQ]

To the eagle-eyed amongst you: peeking out from the corner of the photo above are the four personas arrived at based on the project research data. More information about personas can be found at the link below, but to give a brief explanation of how they work: personas are fictional characters who represent people who use a product or service. Created based on evidence gained through work with real users, personas provide an opportunity to focus design and development. They are a constant reminder of who a website or other service is being developed for.

In addition to uncovering these wider insights about our users, a great deal of time has been spent concentrating on the ‘nitty gritty’, i.e. recording in detail which aspects of the iDiscover interface are used, how and when people are using them in their search processes and the extent to which they are, or are not, intuitively understood. Icons and buttons, terminology and links: finding out what does and doesn’t make sense to the people using iDiscover has been a fascinating experience in and of itself. This is the stuff that has the potential to have an influence on the evaluation and re-configuration of the platform; we have the opportunity to tailor aspects of the interface to better suit the preferences and behaviours of our users.

Natalie observation

[Above: Natalie Kent conducts an observation session with a PhD student using iDiscover]

Alongside the Futurelib project, there has been a large amount of effort, by the Digital Services team in the University Library, dedicated to improving the overall iDiscover user experience. The interface is an important part of this, but a lot of what the platform relies on to be successful is the way in which it interacts with and relates to the underlying metadata and its (complicated) retrieval mechanics and algorithms. Serious, concentrated work is being done in these areas and without giving too much away, if you’re working in a Cambridge library you should see real changes to iDiscover in the coming weeks and months, which we hope will result in significant improvements for your users.

Back on the Futurelib side of things, there is still work to do on analysing the data gathered during the project, with the aim of producing a number of outputs:

  • Recommendations to inform re-configuration and development of the iDiscover user interface.
  • Documentation to send to Ex Libris (the supplier of the discovery system Primo, branded iDiscover in the Cambridge instance), i.e. an evidence-based account of current experiences of the underlying Primo platform in Cambridge.
  • Educational tools which can be used when communicating with users of the iDiscover platform.
  • A full public-facing project report, outlining the research methodology and narrative, the analysis process (including the personas mentioned above) and the outcomes and outputs.

Watch this space!









Intraloan: Examining access to printed library resources in Cambridge

Between December 2016 and May 2017 the Futurelib Programme conducted an in-depth user research study looking into current experiences at the University of Cambridge, specifically related to accessing printed, physical library content.

The project started with an initial scoping phase: interviews, workshops with students and short email questionnaires circulated to Cambridge academics provided a qualitative, attitudinal dataset which informed the following stages of the project, as well as the resulting findings and suggestions for service design. Experiences and opinions were varied, but the key realisation at this point was the high level of importance that members of the University at all levels placed on their ability to access printed books and journals.


[Above: A brainstorming session with students during the scoping phase of the project]

This work had given us a lot of data and provided us with some real insights, but it was necessary that this was supplemented with behavioural evidence. This was achieved primarily by piloting services in order to measure their use and value. One service trialled meant that users of three Cambridge libraries could order books from the main University Library (UL) for collection at the issue point of their ‘home’ library. Another pilot service which provided invaluable data for the project was a book drop box on the Sidgwick Site, allowing members of many libraries on the site to return books to one central point.

Although we all understand that the future of libraries in the higher education sector is changing rapidly, this project provided us with a valuable opportunity to focus on an aspect of our services which is still hugely important to a large proportion of our users, namely, how they get hold of their books!

The full project report below covers the research methodologies and narrative, analysis, the project findings and suggestions for service design.

Download the Intraloan project final report

Download the Intraloan project executive summary

iDiscover UX project underway!

Over the last two years the Futurelib Programme has been involved in a number of intensive research projects, many of which have focused on the design of physical library spaces and other related aspects of library services. It seems natural to be returning to the digital side of things, this time round not focusing on designing a new website, but on evaluating and improving an existing platform, ‘iDiscover’, the University of Cambridge’s user interface for the Ex Libris Primo Discovery and Delivery service. iDiscover has now been in use in Cambridge for around a year and this project provides a real opportunity to conduct an in-depth exploration of how people are using the service.

The Futurelib Programme, with the help of a project team made up of library staff from across the University, will be conducting a series of in-depth interview and observation sessions with people using iDiscover. We will be finding out more about who our users are, what they expect from the platform and how they approach and navigate the user interface. This will provide valuable information to inform local design, to feed in to continued user education and to report back to Ex Libris.

Screen Shot 2017-06-30 at 08.34.56

[Above: Beth Sherwood from the English Faculty Library conducting an observation with an academic using iDiscover]

The methodology for the project will be centred around observation and interviews. We will also be conducting workshops with students and gathering feedback in other ways, such as through the use of short questionnaires and comment cards. One thing which is key to the success of the project is working with members of the University at all levels and in both STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine) and AHSS (Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences) disciplines. To this end, the project team includes representatives from 3 STEM libraries, 2 AHSS libraries, 2 college libraries and 1 member of staff from the main University Library (UL).

So far observation sessions and interviews have been conducted in various University buildings and departments. A conscious effort has been made to work with users in and outside of library spaces, in order to build as complete as possible a picture of how people are using the iDiscover platform in different situations and to complete different tasks. It is early days for the project but some interesting themes are already emerging; commonalities across users of the platform in terms of approach and interpretation suggest that there may be some real opportunities to improve the overall user experience.

In other news, the project report for the recent Intraloan project (examining current experiences related to the use of printed library resources in Cambridge) will be available soon. I’m also very proud to share that Futurelib was included in the documentation submitted by the University of Cambridge as part of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) assessment process. It’s fantastic to get this recognition for the work we continue to do to improve the experience of Cambridge libraries for students and other library users. If interested, the submission itself can be read here, with Futurelib featuring in the section on Cambridge libraries at page 7:

So all in all, exciting things afoot!



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