You may have noticed that it’s been a little while since the last post here on the FutureLib blog. However, there is no shortage of developments to report. Since our partners, design consultancy Modern Human, met with Cambridge’s Faculty & Departmental Librarians back in December, there has been a great deal of activity. Last month the project entered an exciting new phase as two of the twelve concepts generated by Modern Human through the research and idea generation (ideation) process were chosen as appropriate for testing in various Cambridge University libraries.

This decision of which to take forward at this stage, made in consultation between members of the Project Board (comprised of members of the University Library senior management team) and the Project Team (comprised of representatives from a variety of libraries and disciplines), was very difficult to make, as we agreed that there was merit in virtually all of the concepts tabled. Given they had been derived from detailed ethnographic and design thinking methods intended to get to the heart of user need perhaps this is less than surprising, but it certainly made short-listing them a tough job.

The first concept selected for testing in the field is the peer-to-peer sublending service, WhoHas?, which recognises that students bypass our circulation system and seeks to explore the affect of legitimising this activity. As Modern Human’s Paul-Jervis Heath explained in the last post, the project is named after the common phrase used on Facebook to initiate sub-lending interactions and, fittingly enough, Facebook is the main platform being used for this pilot service.

Currently being implemented and explored at Wolfson College Library, the English Faculty Library and the Medical Library, we are particularly interested to learn if students will use a system that is no longer perceived as ‘black market’. Helen Murphy, Deputy Librarian at the English Faculty, will blog here shortly about the WhoHas? story so far.

Thanks to Bethany Sherwood for the WhoHas? header image.

The second concept, SpaceFinder, for which we had a kick-off meeting earlier this week, will seek to catalogue and promote the many and varied library spaces in which users can study across the University. Here in Cambridge we have over 100 libraries – from the very large to the very small – and we know that our students and academics sometimes struggle to find the right study spaces and facilities for their needs. Through SpaceFinder users will be able to search for available library spaces and be encouraged to provide Trip Advisor-style reviews assessing the merits of a particular workspace. Users searching the system will be able to source spaces depending on whether they are suitable for solo or group work, or appropriate for inspiration, quiet contemplation, or indeed distraction – some users prefer to work in silence others actively want some noise. It is hoped that SpaceFinder will better match our library spaces with individual user need.

As an aside, it was affirming to observe that the SpaceFinder concept was validated by surprisingly similar proposals pitched by teams at the first international UX in Libraries (UXLibs) conference (which I chaired here in Cambridge last month) which were also derived from ethnographic research. However, the name for the space finding concept suggested by one of the UXLibs teams may well be more memorable than our current moniker: ‘Get a Room’!

Kirsten Lamb, of Trinity College Library, will blog here about SpaceFinder once the project is further down the track.

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We plan to update this blog more regularly going forwards and also to be more active on Twitter. You can follow us @FutureLib

Andy Priestner
FutureLibraries Project

[Image: ‘The Blue Staircase’ by sean_hickin via Flickr Creative Commons]