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.

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[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!