Walk a mile in my shoes… or sit a day in my chair

By Radhika Jones

It might look like I sit at the desk all morning just checking in and out books.  In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth.  When I am doing my ‘desk duty’ I am usually juggling multiple tasks.  This could be anything from cataloguing books, working with databases or collating archival material – all of which require a high concentration level and I still need to be approachable and friendly to our readers.

This term has been incredibly busy for me as I have been one of a team of researchers working with Bodleian Libraries on a huge research project which came to fruition after the Readers Survey highlighted a difficulty in navigation and wayfinding.  Libraries have been using anthropological research methods to investigate why readers are struggling to find their way around.  Some methods have been quite exciting, for example, using eye tracking software to examine the visual behaviour of readers during their visit.  We have also used observation and ‘touchstone tours’, the tours providing insight into how the reader would plan their route around the library.  With the data gathered, we have created library specific infinity maps.  The maps highlight ‘pain points’ – problem areas needing further examination.

The project is ongoing but has already shown some interesting results which are being tested out this term.  In week six, we installed maps around the library and last week we worked on making our classification systems more accessible to readers.  The eye tracking data has been the most interesting so far, highlighting problem areas in the library where wayfinding is disrupted.

So if you notice something different about the library and see small questionnaires on the front desk – please do stop to fill them in!  By taking the time, you could be providing us with valuable data, which is being used to help you have a better experience.