I thought it would be useful and possibly even interesting to share recent progress with our SpaceFinder project since Kirsten’s excellent post two weeks ago. Firstly I should say if you don’t know what SpaceFinder is yet the very best thing you can do is go back and read that post as it tells you everything you need to know.

So what has happened since then? Well, quite a lot actually…

Co-design workshops

For one thing, Modern Human have facilitated  two collaborative design workshops with Arts and Science students and librarians in which participants mapped what spaces they use around Cambridge and what they use those spaces for. These workshops revealed that there was actually very little difference between the disciplines in terms of what mattered to students in terms of atmosphere and workspace. The only real difference was that the science students were more matter-of-fact when it came to their descriptions. Many thanks to all those who contributed and helped us validate previous research.


Tom Sykes, Helen Murphy and Rose Giles at the English Faculty SpaceFinder ‘co-design’ workshop (Photo: Modern Human)


App-testing in the field

The next step was taking a new prototype app out ‘into the field’ for students to play with and respond to. Myself, Paul-Jervis Heath and Jenny Willatt first tried our luck on the Sidgwick site at a stall situated near the entrance to the lecture block. Once there we met with a succession of very enthusiastic students who were overwhelmingly positive about the app, despite it being at a rough prototype stage. They could immediately see its potential value to them and happily gave of their time to discuss their current study preferences and what they might like such a space-finding app to do for them.


Three of the wireframe screens from the prototype app that students tested (Copyright: Modern Human)


Some of the exact ‘word-for-word’ responses to the app  were as follows:

“Oh, so this app tells you how to find study spaces – great!”

“I spent half the day yesterday trying to find somewhere to work. This is exactly what I needed.”

“We’re finalists – would loved to have had this [app] while we were here.”

“I don’t know what libraries I can access – so this would help.”

“I like to work in cafes really not libraries so it would be good for finding those spaces.”

“Photos would be useful so you know what sort of library space you’re heading for.”


Paul and Jenny with students testing the app on the Sidgwick site (Photo: Andy Priestner)


More general comments about library space requirements included:

“I like libraries to be cosy, warm, light and quiet, but not too quiet.”

“Wifi and large desks are the most important thing”

“I like to work in spaces where no-one else is”

A second stall,  at the Central Science Library the following week received fewer visitors but similar responses to the value of the app and its layout.

Feedback from both days fed directly into further design iterations of the app as the relative merits of front screen menu options and the inclusion of review or tips were discussed.


Thanks to Claudia Luna for producing the posters which advertised the app testing stalls (Photo: Andy Priestner)


Gathering space data and forthcoming roadshows…

As of yesterday the SpaceFinder project team have embarked on a crucial data-gathering phase for a discrete first set of library spaces, while Modern Human proceed to transform their prototype into the real thing with visuals rather than black and white wireframes. The intention is that by mid-July we will have a product that we can share with all Cambridge librarians and also be at a point when we can start gathering and inputting data on those library and non-library spaces available to our users.

We will be holding two SpaceFinder roadshow events as follows: 10:30am, Thursday 23 July (Engineering, LR4, Baker Building) and 09:30am, Wednesday 19 August (English Faculty GR06/07) which are open to all Cambridge library staff. These will be an opportunity to find out more, ask questions, play with the product and learn how you can contribute to the project as we head towards the launch of the SpaceFinder pilot in Michaelmas Term. Please put one of these dates in your diary for now and we’ll email a sign-up around later next month. If you’re old enough if it will be a bit like the old Radio 1 Roadshows although without Mike Read, the shorts, or indeed any music.


A Radio 1 roadshow – not much like our forthcoming SpaceFinder roadshows (Photo: BBC)


I have to say that with this service it really does feel that we are going to be offering something that our users actively need. Other recent evidence includes the Cambridge Student newspaper pieces – see here and here, the latter featuring our very own Libby Tilley – about library space, and the ethnographic research conducted during UX in Libraries which led to one team suggesting a ‘Get-a-Room’ app. Opinion is still divided on whether that may be a better name than SpaceFinder!

Thanks again to everyone for their contributions to this project so far. If you want to find out more then please do feel free to rugby tackle a member of the SpaceFinder team to the ground! They are as follows: yours truly, Kirsten Lamb, Amy Theobald, Rose Giles, Tom Sykes, Helen Murphy, Simon Goose, Emma Etteridge, Georgina Cronin, Charlotte Hoare, Tristram Scott.

Thanks for reading.