Open Educational Resources: Getting Started in OER in the User Services – Best Practice from the ZBW

by Nicole Clasen and Carola Ziebart

Status quo of Open Educational Resources in Germany

Open Educational Resources (OER) are an important element in the transition of science towards Open Science. The UNESCO defines them as “teaching, learning and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions”. In its Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, the United Nations Organisation describes under point 4, „Quality Education”, the tasks of sustainable and fair education and training. Open teaching and learning materials make these calls for free-of-charge, freely available information programmes possible, and offer good opportunities for implementing the Agenda 2030, even outside the primary education sector.

“Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions”

UNESCO publishes new definition of OER

The dissemination of Open Educational Resources in Germany is low, however, as was already shown in 2015 in the study “Open Educational Resources in Germany: development status and perspectives (German) and was again made evident in the second UNESCO World Congress on OER (PDF). The essential features of Open Educational Resources – sharing, reuse and further development (German, PDF) – are not yet established as standard in German higher education institutions.

Five challenges hinder the mainstreaming of OER into education
Second UNESCO World Congress on OER

Knowledge about how to produce OER and its challenges is however also essential so that library users can be advised competently. The challenges include reusable licensing, copyright and finding the right tools for the planned OER project. By checking the individual service programmes for OER compatibility, and creating space and programmes for OER in both their analogue and their digital teaching and learning location, libraries can additionally support the dissemination and better use of OER.

First OER project at the ZBW: just do it

For these reasons, Open Educational Resources should be a fixed element of the user services at the ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics . We therefore decided that the best way to get started in this new topic for us was to implement an OER project in practice. How otherwise could we competently advise students and researchers if we had never been involved ourselves with free licenses or searching for Open Educational Resources and their platforms?

We received regular enquiries as to why this or that was not possible in the context of international inter-library loan and document delivery. Up to now these questions have been asked and answered by email. The topic thus required a lot of explaining. We wanted to change this and communicate the topic proactively in the future, so that it could also be explained and shared among international libraries. Colleagues in the ZBW document delivery department saw H5P as offering a good opportunity to explain the complexity of German copyright law and its consequences for international inter-library loan to international colleagues in a light-hearted yet concise way.

H5P is a free software programme for creating interactive content and exercises. Thanks to the diverse, interactive possibilities it offers, it provides an excellent and light-hearted way to get started in Open Educational Resources. The basic version of H5P is accessible free-of-charge, and content created with it can be re-used.

Communicating knowledge in a light-hearted way: the quiz

The colleagues began by selecting a suitable H5P component for the knowledge transfer intended. The desired blend of explanatory slides and infotainment seemed to be provided by the component “Course Presentation“. Part 1 of the Open Educational Resource created explains the different aspects of German copyright law and its significance for inter-library loan. These include details such as the permissible percentage of 10 per cent of a work that may be copied from the work at most, the definition of ‘public domain’, and the information that the sending of PDFs is not permitted. Following this, in part 2 the knowledge communicated was tested in a quiz.

Part 2 – a Quiz

The approach selected, which made it easier for the team to get started in Open Educational Resources through a familiar territory such as inter-library loan, was successful. All colleagues have expertise and many years of experience in the field. This means that they were able to concentrate fully on developing the H5P slides, selecting license-compliant photos and creating suitable metadata. And that was exciting enough for the start. But the greatest hurdle was the following decision: When is the draft good enough to go online? The perfectionism of librarians and Open Educational Resources would seem to be mutually contradictory rather than complementary.

The H5P quiz on German copyright law in international inter-library loan aroused the enthusiasm of our colleagues who then directly developed a sequel: an explanation of the electronic reading room.

Everyone has to do it: in-house further training on OER

Following these initial experiences, we plan to integrate the insights gained regarding Open Educational Resources permanently into user services and make them available for all colleagues. To this end, our department has initiated the in-house training series “OER for information specialists”. Practical and modular in conception, it provides all employees of the user services with insights into the OER entry topics of licensing, searching for public domain material, and data and media literacy. Additionally, open-source software is presented and tested. All lecturers are departmental colleagues who have familiarised themselves with individual tools in advance.

The first steps towards Open Educational Resources have been taken. The training programme in particular offers potential for further use-based projects and facilitates access to shared knowledge.

Our tips for OER newcomers

To get started successfully with OER, we would recommend taking part in the appropriate workshops and online training courses. There are many offers for this. Then you can see which of the OER platforms fit your library or topic.

This might also interest you:

This text has been translated from German.

About the authors

Nicole Clasen is Head of User Services at ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics. Her work focuses on information transfer, digital user services and the usability experience.
Portrait: ZBW©, photographer Sven Wied

Carola Ziebart has been working as a media and information services clerk in the user services department of the ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics since April 2004. She works in the areas of document delivery, service desk, dunning and loss management and also in the area of data quality and coordination.
Portrait: ZBW©, photographer Sven Wied

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User Experience in Libraries: Insights from the University Library of Hildesheim

An interview with Jarmo Schrader and Ninon Frank

It’s impossible to cover the many facets of User Experience (UX) in a single article. We are therefore approaching the topic with an international interview series that provides many examples from best practice, personal insights and tips for all those who would like to start with UX themselves: to the UX interview series.

Our guests today: Jarmo Schrader and Ninon Frank from the University Library of Hildesheim (German). Their insider tips:

  1. “you can go a long way simply with a smile and a friendly tone of voice”,
  2. first gather the “low hanging fruits” and
  3. then if you are not sure, simply give things a try and rearrange the furniture.

Their “Mission UX” started with an inspiring in-house workshop on the topic. Their methods range from guerrilla interviews to think-aloud tests and flip charts with a question that they would like their users to answer – their favourite method, by the way. In the interview they tell us why it is so important to supplement qualitative observations with quantitative methods, their three most important take-aways from 2.5 years of UX experience and why a red couch created a minor storm of indignation on their Facebook account.

Jarmo and Ninon, you work in the User Experience field at the University Library of Hildesheim. When and why did you start this? What does it mean in practice?

Jarmo: It was always important for us to offer a service that is oriented around our users. A workshop with the UX expert Andy Priestner, which I attended in spring 2019 was the starting point for our conscious exploration of the User Experience topic. I enjoyed the seminar so much that we invited him to an in-house workshop at the University Library of Hildesheim during the summer. The one and a half very intensive and fruitful days of the workshop ultimately formed the basis for our activities in the field of UX.

Ninon: The workshop provided the impetus for various projects. For example, we were wondering how we could make our reading room more attractive to users or how we could furnish an area, where magazine display cabinets used to stand, in such a way that it meets the needs of our users.

University Library of Hildesheim©

In practice this meant that we rearranged and then tested various furnishing scenarios as prototypes with the furniture that was available to us. We made it possible for the users to give feedback (mostly via a publicly displayed feedback form). However, we also measured the usage statistically, in order to be able to make a comparison between the statements made and the actual usage.

Ninon: It is our long-term goal to adapt our services and premises more towards the users, thereby achieving higher usage. However, needs are continually changing – it’s not as if we will ever have reached the stage where we can say: Things will stay like this for ever.

Jarmo: I also regard UX as being part of a mindset, a skill which one can continually work on and not necessarily a fixed objective that we must achieve.

Which UX methods are you using at the University Library of Hildesheim?

Ninon: During the workshop we learned about various methods. Since then, we have been doing guerrilla interviews as well as making observations. By “guerrilla interviews” we mean that we develop a small group of questions and then approach people in the library or on the campus with it. We also lay out feedback forms or set up flip charts for comments and notes.

Jarmo: The relaunch of our online catalogue HilKat was accompanied by UX methods. In the process we were greatly assisted by a student who carried out think-aloud tests via video conference in the context of his master’s thesis. Test persons solved various tasks in the new HilKat and “thought aloud” while doing so, so that we could understand where there were stumbling blocks in using the catalogue, which functions were popular, and which may not have been correctly understood.

Could you give us an example that worked in practice, where you used UX to solve a problem?

Jarmo: At the library we have a small reading room which is used far too little in our opinion. Based on our observations, we suspected that we could increase the attractiveness by using fewer but larger tables. We tested this theory by rearranging the furniture of half of the room and usage did actually increase; we also received positive feedback in accompanying surveys. Ultimately, a reduction of seats led to usage increases of between 25% to over 50%. A complete success!

Reading room of the University Library of Hildesheim© after the redesign

Ninon: A further example was our idea to position mobile partitions between the tables so that users had more privacy. Our prototypes received very negative feedback in the feedback forms so we didn’t pursue this idea any further. And we actually saved money too.

Mobile partition walls in the University Library of Hildesheim©

In order to use UX methods, it’s necessary to have library users who are prepared to participate. How do you manage to find and motivate these users?

Jarmo: As yet, we’ve limited ourselves to simpler methods which do not take up much of the users’ time, meaning that we didn’t have major problems here.

In our workshop with Andy Priestner we also tried out techniques such as interviews or cognitive maps and discovered that you can go a long way simply with a smile and a friendly tone of voice.

Ninon: Many users are amazingly willing to take part in such participation methods. We always receive feedback – especially when setting up flip charts with a question. This is really great!

What are – let’s say – the three most important lessons that you learned in applying User Experience methods at the University Library of Hildesheim?

  • Just do it!
  • You can always learn something from failures.
  • Users don’t know what they want either. (They first have to be able to try it out.)

Have you also used methods that didn’t work at all? What were your biggest or funniest failures?

Ninon: We took up a request and experimented with allowing users to eat and drink in our reading lounge. For this, we removed the cosy furniture which was there to “chill out” on – including a red couch – to other places in the library, and put wipeable tables and chairs in its place. The feedback was: Yes, this is great but where on earth is the red couch?

Feedback “”where’s the red couch?”” – University Library of Hildesheim©

Even on Facebook, where there had been very little response before, this absence was noted. We then brought the couch back, which was promptly rewarded with positive feedback.

What are your tips for libraries who want to begin with UX? What is a good starting point?

Jarmo: Start with the “low hanging fruits” – namely problem areas you already know about – and with changes that can be made with relatively little effort. Being successful here will then give you the required motivation to continue, and for these projects, simple UX methods are usually sufficient. You can save advanced techniques for later.

Our experience has also shown that you should supplement qualitative observations with quantitative methods, as otherwise there is a great risk that, filled with enthusiasm, you will only see what you want to see.

This text has been translated from German.

Read more about UX in libraries

About the authors:
Dr Jarmo Schrader has been deputy head of the University Library of Hildesheim since 2008, where he is head of the IT department and supervises specialist units in the STEM area. He holds a doctorate in molecular biology and works mainly in the field of digital library services.
Portrait: Jarmo Schrader©, photographer: Isaias Witkowsk

Dr Ninon Franziska Frank is a subject librarian for education, social sciences and economics at University Library of Hildesheim and also works in the areas of public relations and information dissemination. Before becoming an academic librarian, she completed her doctorate in French literary studies in the Cotutelle procedure (a binational doctoral procedure) between the University of Erfurt and the Université de Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense. She is particularly interested in insights into the needs of users.
Portrait: Ninon Franziska Frank©

Featured Image: University Library of Hildesheim©

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Open Science as a “Wicked Problem”: How Libraries can Accelerate the Transformation

by Birgit Fingerle

In mid-November innOsci – the forum for open innovation culture in the German Stifterverband – published the workbook “The Opening of Science / Workbook on Designing the Transformation (PDF, German).

Opening of science as a “wicked problem”

The opening of science is described in the workbook as a “wicked problem”: a very complex problematic situation, characterised by the fact that it surpasses the ability of a single organisation to understand it and react to it, and that disagreement often exists about the causes of the problem and the best way to solve it. Ultimately no higher education institution alone can achieve a systematic transformation to Open Science. Collaboration across organisation and industry boundaries is essential to achieve the objective. The concept of the wicked problem offers important starting points for better understanding of the challenges and the development of solution options. In order to solve wicked problems, it is important for people to change their behaviour, particularly as open approaches question habitual working practices and cultures.

Supporting innovators in the science system

A series of people from the science system were interviewed for the workbook. Four personas with their respectively perceived hurdles and obstacles relating to Open Science were derived from these perspectives, for example that of an Open Science officer.

The workbook lists a variety of small and large steps that can be taken to promote Open Science at all levels. The steps that support researchers who want to practice Open Science as innovators in the science system include:

  1. The creation of incentive structures for open practices, particularly funding possibilities and support services;
  2. Obligation to publish research data and methods;
  3. Take into account open practice expertise and the societal impact of the research during appointment procedures;
  4. Open Science further training and qualification offers.

Create incentive and support structures for open practices

Libraries in particular can contribute to creating incentive and support structures for open practices by establishing support services or by referencing the support possibilities offered by other organisations. These include the Open Access officers already established at many libraries or the establishment of help desks as well as online information services and discussion forums.

Even if they do not offer any relevant services themselves, libraries can at least point to the services of others. Examples of relevant online information services are the open-access.network, forschungsdaten.info or the Open Economics Guide of the ZBW (German; English language version will be published in 2022). Support centres for Open Science (Germam) and Open Access (German) are listed in the Open Economics Guide.

Open Science further training and qualification programmes

Similarly, libraries can, on the one hand, offer training opportunities for Open Science and, on the other, can point to training possibilities offered by third parties. There are many different training formats possible. They range from on-site seminars and MOOCs via “challenges”, such as the Open Education Challenge Series, and email courses to the Open Science Coffee Lectures (link in German language) offered by the Bonn University and State Library and the Bonn University Computer Center for example.

Many training opportunities for Open Science, Open Access and Open Data are listed in the Open Economics Guide (links in German language).

Start with yourself: promote a collaborative working culture

A series of measures in the workbook serve to “open spaces and promote discussion”. It is a good idea to start with yourself if you want to convince others of the advantages of something, and this also applies to open working practices. Libraries should therefore also practice a collaborative working culture themselves, if they want to convince researchers of its advantages. The ever present “bubble-thinking” that many employees in science and administration have always wanted to get away from, that hinders the flow of information, creativity and innovation, would thereby be removed, enabling many employees to enjoy a collaborative working culture. Relevant measures often begin small, such as chance meetings in the kitchenette, at the sofa corner and an easier desk rotation. Collaborative software and Working Out Loud Circles can also promote exchange and collaboration, as can innovative event formats such as open space conferences, barcamps, hackathons and lunch talks or the use of creativity- and innovation-promoting working methods including design thinking, business model canvas or crowdsourcing.

This text has been translated from German.

These posts may also interest you:

About the author:

Birgit Fingerle holds a diploma in economics and business administration and works at ZBW, among others, in the fields innovation management, open innovation, open science and currently in particular with the “Open Economics Guide”.

Portrait, photographer: Northerncards©

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User Experience in Libraries: Insights from the SLU University Library Sweden

An Interview with Kitte Dahrén

The Swedish SLU University Library has about 50 employees. They are spread over several locations throughout the country; the main locations are Uppsala, Umeå and Alnarp. Kitte Dahrén is one of them. Her mission: to improve library services through user experience methods together with her colleagues.

For Kitte, it all started with a course on Design Thinking back in 2014: a pure epiphany for her. Since then, her potpourri of UX methods has grown steadily – usability tests, interviews, observations, cognitive mapping, card sorting…

In the interview, she tells us what her secret weapon is for motivating users, what her three most important learnings from seven years of User Experience are, why she considers it essential to bring all colleagues along, and what an onion has to do with it. Finally, Kitte also reveals who inspired her and gives book tips for UX beginners.

The interview is part of our series on User Experience in libraries. All interviews from the series can be found under the keyword “User Experience”.

Kitte, you are working in the field of User Experience (UX) at the library of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU). When and why did you start? What does that mean practically?

Back in 2014 I participated in a Design Thinking course which was kind of an epiphany for me. Before that, I often felt frustrated that librarians seemed to think that they focused on users’ needs, when they in fact just created services from their own point of view. During the course I learned how to research user problems and needs, prototype possible solutions and further iterate these. I felt empowered and finally had the tools needed to take action. This is where it all began for me on a personal level, but officially I got my position as UX Coordinator in 2017. At that point, User Experience was a goal in our library’s strategic plan and today the intention to work with user centred methods like UX methods is more established among staff, as well as in our management. UX work no longer depends on individuals being interested.

Illustration of the UX Button by Börje Dahrén©

My role is to coordinate the library’s internal method support called “The UX Button”, where I, together with my brilliant colleagues Ingela Wahlgren and Sarah Meier (who have graciously helped me with the answers to this interview) provide support to colleagues wanting to work with User Experience in order to improve services. The support is scalable, from just brainstorming potential UX methods to one of us being project leader. It all depends on the priority of the project and on how much time we can spare at that moment.

My role is to coordinate the library’s internal method support called “The UX Button”, where I, together with my brilliant colleagues Ingela Wahlgren and Sarah Meier (who have graciously helped me with the answers to this interview) provide support to colleagues wanting to work with User Experience in order to improve services. The support is scalable, from just brainstorming potential UX methods to one of us being project leader. It all depends on the priority of the project and on how much time we can spare at that moment.

The SLU University Library has around 50 employees, spread over different campuses all over the country. Just as the university itself, we work together as one library and in consequence the UX method support needed to rely on digital tools long before the pandemic.

What are your goals with UX? Did you achieve them?

Perhaps it goes without saying, but our main goal with UX at our library is of course to provide relevant and usable services and systems to our users. The work bears fruit slowly but steadily, and perhaps one explanation to the slowness is our way of embedding UX. We don’t want an expert team doing all UX work, we want everyone on board. In order to understand why we choose to embed User Experience in this way, you need to know that our organisational structure and culture is not hierarchical, and our library has a strong internal culture of co-creation. Our professional roles and job descriptions are not set in stone and there is a lot of room for self-leadership.

Illustration of the onion is by Kitte Dahrén, adapted from a model by Malin Jenslin©.

The model, originally made by Malin Jenslin, explains our concept for embedding UX on an organisational level. It is like an onion, with all its layers.

  1. The innermost circle, called the core, is the library’s internal UX support – “The UX Button”. Our job is to both deepen and broaden the organisation’s knowledge on UX methods, and it is our responsibility to make sure that our library continues to move forward towards our strategic goals.
  2. In the second circle, you will find colleagues who are actively working with User Experience methods in order to make sure that our users’ needs of our services and systems are met. It is our management’s responsibility to create the best possible conditions and organisational structures for us to be able to work like this.
  3. In the third circle, you’ll find the people who are aware of UX and how they might contribute to the goal, but they are not actively engaged in any UX activity from day to day.
  4. In the outermost circle, we have the people who are still unaware of what UX is all about.

The long-term goal is that the outer circle no longer exists. And when it is no longer there, the innermost circle is not needed at all. When all our colleagues are either actively working with UX or are aware of its importance, our work is done.

Which UX methods do you apply at the SLU University Library?

We always choose methods depending on what we want to uncover. Through the years we’ve done usability testing, interviews, observations, cognitive mapping, card sorting and much more. We like to try out new methods by applying them to an actual project – learning by doing. At the moment, we are for example interested in finding out how students are using the library when it is unstaffed (they can access it with their key cards). Is it easy to understand how to use the self-service machine or find a book on the hold shelf? To survey this, we plan to experiment with letting users themselves document how they perform basic library tasks using an action camera and this is a method completely new to us.

Can you give us a practical example that worked, where you applied UX to solve a problem?

I think it’s important to point out that many small changes to our services as a result of findings from UX research leads to improvements for our users. User Experience work doesn’t have to result in cutting-edge innovation to be considered a success story. One example from our library is a project where my colleagues were creating a new search tool for the databases that the library offers. With support from “The UX Button”, they did usability testing as described by Steve Krug in Rocket Surgery Made Easy – The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems. Observations of test participants trying to use the tool revealed what problems needed to be solved before launching and resulted in a more useful product.

I really recommend Krug’s method for usability testing – it’s easy to set up, can be done remotely, and always leads to actionable insights. To observe a student or researcher using a service is a quite powerful (and sometimes even a bit painful) experience because it makes you realise that it’s perhaps not as self-explanatory as you might think. We will present our work with remote usability testing during the pandemic at the excellent conference International Conference in Performance Measurement in Libraries (LibPMC) in November.

To apply User Experience methods, you need library users who are willing to participate. How do you manage to find and motivate them?

Since a couple of years back, our number one solution is a library user panel. Everyone can join the panel, it does not matter whether they are students, staff or not affiliated with SLU at all. We strive to work against discrimination in our services, so we wish to create a panel that is as diverse as possible.

When we want to recruit for a user study, we simply send out an e-mail to selected members of the panel asking them to participate and in most cases a few people volunteer. Students will receive a small gift as a thank you for their time, usually a movie ticket. But our experience is that users see the gift as a bonus and that they are happy to contribute to the improvement of services and systems that they rely on in their work or studies.

Our user panel mainly consists of students, we’ve had a harder time finding researchers and other employees willing to sign up (but this might also be because we’ve mainly marketed the panel towards students). When we recruit university employees, we often need to rely on personal contacts but usually we find people willing to participate in the end.

What are the – lets say – three most important lessons you have learned from applying User Experience methods at the SLU University Library?

  1. Design is harder than research. It’s easy to just gather a lot of data on user behaviours and needs, but you must properly analyse this data and design solutions to test and further iterate if you want to improve your services. Make sure to solve the right problem and not just the lowest hanging fruit, and don’t fall in love with your solution.
  2. You need to have a great deal of patience to embed UX in your organisation. I want to point out once again that the UX Button team is not employed to conduct all user research. If we did, perhaps that would make the quality of the actual research better because we’ve got experience. It would speed up the process for sure. But I think that the fact that our colleagues have ownership of their own UX research and design process makes it easier to get approval in the long run.
  3. Sometimes colleagues initially find UX methods scary because it might push them outside their comfort zone asking a student to draw a cognitive map or interview a researcher about their publication process. Give them time to articulate their fears and doubts, but at the same time don’t be afraid to challenge them. Colleagues that previously claimed they are useless at for example interviewing or ideating new solutions often overcome their fears and excel when they are allowed to practice their skills without being judged.

Have you also used methods that did not work at all? What have been your biggest or funniest fails?

I don’t see it as methods that don’t work, it’s things like suboptimal circumstances, bureaucracy or just rushing to conclusions when you analyse your data that make your project fail. And even then, I wouldn’t call it a failure because you always learn something valuable during the process, either about your users or about yourself and your organisation.

A couple of years ago, we did a touchstone tour (PDF) with a student and she showed us a wall in one of the campus buildings covered with gold framed portraits of prominent figures from the history of the university. These portraits happened to be all male, and she told us how this “wall of shame“ made her “blood boil”. We prototyped a wall of photographs of female honorary doctors at SLU to show that times are changing, and when we tested it, students and employees welcomed it.

The wall of shame and the prototype female honorary doctors

Since our prototype was just temporary, we eventually took it down. I know that as a result of the study, the university management planned for a project aiming to create a more modern and inclusive environment in the public spaces of this particular building, but so far nothing has materialised. I really dislike when you borrow your users precious time to help you, and then fail to deliver solutions to the problems they express.

What are your tips for libraries that would like to start with UX? What is a good starting point?

Don’t try to move mountains the first thing you do. Start small, and preferably with something where you control the whole process and can act on stuff that you learn. Let’s say that you and your colleagues argue about some detail, solve it by simply asking or observing your users. In order to make UX truly embedded you need your management on board, but with time and patience, this way of working in your team can create a ripple effect in your organisation.

UX and Libraries – Recommendations from Kitte Dahrén

More about UX and libraries on ZBW MediaTalk

About the author
Kitte Dahrén works as UX coordinator and librarian at the SLU University Library, Sweden. She also coordinates the library’s strategic communication and is a part of the website editorial team.

Porträt: Kitte Dahrén©
Featured Image: Victor Wrange©

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User Experience for Libraries: Insights from the University Library of the Cergy Paris University

Interview with Nicolas Brunet-Mouyen

User experience (UX) in libraries all over the world is a complex topic. That’s why we’ve been dealing about UX a lot lately on MediaTalk. All MediaTalk contributions can be found under the keyword User Experience.

Today we are talking to Nicolas Brunet-Mouyen from the library of the Cergy Paris University, who started the “UX mission” with a usability audit among library staff shortly before the corona pandemic hit. He found a good book to start with and formed working groups. Just as he was about to start his UX work with students, the pandemic made all on-site activities impossible.

In the interview, Nicolas reports how he still managed to make the library more user-friendly. He also reveals why it is so important that students’ basic needs for light, warmth or more space, for example, must first be satisfied before it makes sense to confront them with improving library services.

Nicolas, you are working in the field of User Experience (UX) in the library of the Cergy Paris University. When and why did you start? What does that mean practically?

When I started working at the library of the University of Cergy (CY), three years ago, I started with the communication management of the library (website and social networks). By promoting the services and activities of the library, I realised that the library did not offer enough services that were designed for users, or even sometimes that required an effort to understand them!

Entrance and Desk of the Library of the Cergy Paris University, Photographer: Nicolas Brunet-Mouyen

I couldn’t solve everything with communication so we decided with my manager to think about the user experience to improve our services. This is now my main mission.

What are your goals with UX? Did you achieve them? Which UX methods do you apply at your library?

My first goal was to do a “usability audit” with all the librarians. For me it was important because I realised that many of the librarians did not see that our services no longer corresponded to users’ expectations. For this, I used the book “useful, usable, desirable: Applying User Experience Design to Your Library” by Aaron Schmidt and Amanda Etches (from the French translation, produced in 2016, directed by Nathalie Clot).

I organised several working groups where librarians were asked to record their observations to find out:

  • if the spaces are clean and welcoming,
  • if the signage is simple and user-friendly,
  • if the rules are easy to apply.

I also asked someone who had never been in a library to take a walk through it with a goal to achieve, and then I spoke with her to understand what the difficulties were. Unfortunately with the coronavirus, this work was then interrupted.

Can you give us a practical example that worked, where you applied UX to solve a problem?

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was unable to work with the users and I mainly worked with the librarians only. The observation work made it possible to review the organisation of the help and welcome desks, such as removing certain items that unnecessarily cluttered the library. It also allowed some analytical work on the management of collections and the need to provide more space for users.

To apply UX methods, you need library users who are willing to participate. How do you manage to find and motivate them?

Unfortunately, I started my UX mission just before the first lockdown and haven’t had the opportunity to work with users directly yet. To find users (university students for our library), we will call on student associations. We also have students employed by the library to welcome and inform users, they often have a different perception of the problems and often have very good initiatives to solve them!

What are the – lets say – three most important lessons you have learned from applying user experience methods in the Library of the Cergy Paris University?

  • The first lesson is “we are not our users”. Often, we set up a procedure by saying to ourselves “we know, it will work”, and of course, it does not work…
  • The second is that it is difficult to solicit user participation. Users see fewer problems than we do and often mostly need services related to comfort (heating, light …), which the library does not fully understand, because the buildings are managed by another university department. If we can’t provide that initial comfort, then how can we ask them to think about other services…
  • The third is that it is important to consider both users and librarians. Some librarians see the changes as extra work. You always have to be careful about the balance between paying attention to users and the work that it takes for librarians to organise and deliver the service.

Have you also used methods that did not work at all? What have been your biggest or funniest fails?

We wanted to create a space for the students to relax, and we designed this space only from observations made on their behaviour. We thought it was going to respond to what we had observed but in the end it doesn’t work and there is never anyone in this space.

Creation of space at the Library of the Cergy Paris University, Photographer: Nicolas Brunet-Mouyen

< As I said earlier, I think we made the mistake of not considering their "primary" expectations, by having a warm and welcoming space as a whole. Just adding a small welcoming part in a big space that isn't, it can't work.

What are your tips for libraries that would like to start with UX? What is a good starting point?

For me, it all started with watching Twitter, which allowed me to understand what is being done and offered in other libraries. Then I followed a training course with Nathalie Clot, director of the Angers University library, to understand and use UX methods. Angers Library also publishes a lot of useful information and shares its UX experiences on its blog BUApro (French). I also learned a lot from Nicolas Beudon (French), who works with UX methods.

Read more about UX in libraries

The post User Experience for Libraries: Insights from the University Library of the Cergy Paris University first appeared on ZBW MediaTalk.

User Experience in Libraries: Insights from the Digital Finna Services at the National Library of Finland

Interview with Riitta Peltonen and Pasi Tiisanoja

For our introduction: Can you briefly introduce the Finna services?

Finna services are a family of digital services

  • Finna.fi – a search service that collects science and culture material from hundreds of Finnish organisations under one roof. Finna.fi is meant for everyone (professionals and amateur groups) interested in materials that could be found e.g. from libraries, archives and museums.
  • Search platform service – allowing Finnish organisations to create their own personalised search service sites focusing on their own materials e.g. most Finnish Public libraries, University libraries and University of Applied Sciences libraries have built their websites on top of the Finna platform.
  • APIs that allow anyone (organisations or individuals) to access Finna searches and materials through programmable interfaces enabling their direct usage from other digital services.

Finna services were originally created as part of a National Digital Library project, it has been established for several years already and continuous service funded directly by the Ministry of Education and Culture.

Copyright illustrative Finna pictures
© National Library of Finland, photographer Paavo Pykäläinen.

Today Finna services are among the most popular online service solutions in Finland. For example, 90 percent of public libraries are using a Finna online library interface. The total amount of visits to Finna services is yearly over 40 million.

The National Library is the administrator for the Finna services and is in charge of its development along with Finna’s partner organisations. The content in Finna is provided by the organisations (the libraries, archives and museums – LAM) that participate in the services.

What is so special about Finna? How can it be used? Who uses it?

Finna services are unique in way how they break organisation and even industry borders. From an end users’ perspective Finna.fi is one single place to look rich selection of materials related to their topic from hundreds of Finnish organisations. For example, if a user would be interested in the history of a certain place, they could find loanable books and other library materials about that place, they could find digitised pictures, maps, artwork, objects or documents from museums and archives related to that place and even information about non-digitised materials in archives related to that place. From Finnish LAM organisation’s perspective Finna services facilitate innovations cross the whole Finnish LAM sector and enable co-operation cross organisations. Organisations building their own search web services on top of the Finna platform can select with just a few clicks to include materials from other Finna member organisations into their service. For example, several university libraries also show local city library materials and materials of The National Repository Library in their own search User Interfaces (UI) meant for their students.

How does Finna services fit into the context of Open Science?

Finna services contribute to the discoverability and access of publications. Finna platform-based search services in university libraries are important channels for students and researchers to search and to get access to publications. Finland is also a small language area and hence the Finnish scientific journals are not necessarily findable through international publication databases. By integrating Finnish Open Access journals to Finna.fi we add their discoverability to everyone. Universities offer theses (doctoral and master) as digital Open Access publications, and they are also all findable through the Finna.fi for everyone.

Copyright illustrative Finna pictures © National Library of Finland, photographer Paavo Pykäläinen.

Finna.fi has a specific importance for social sciences and humanities (SSH) scholars, who use cultural heritage resources as a source material for their research. Open cultural heritage data available via Finna.fi’s APIs create possibilities for data-driven SSH research. Finna’s metadata is CC 0 licenced to ensure easiness of further usage e.g. in data-driven research. In 2022, Finna and its partners will also launch a service concept called Finna Reading Room which allows, after strong authentication, researchers to access cultural heritage data that includes restricted personal information.

You are working in the field of User Experience (UX) in the pure digital Finna.fi project at the National Library of Finland. When and why did you start? What does that mean practically?

Riitta: I have started working for Finna in 2017. Before that I had worked as a UX designer in telecommunication and digital B2B services for twelve years and I have a master’s degree in interactive digital media. I applied the lead UX designer position in Finna services since the National Library of Finland and their Finna team gave me the impression that there you don’t have to start from scratch and that there is potential to push UX practices further in the organisation. Finna services have been very pro-usability since the early years of the service. It has employed professional User Interface (UI) designers, has done regular user surveys and used usability testing companies for consulting for several years before I started there.

Around 2017 there was a moment when the organisation had to go without UI designers for a few months, but it was about getting the basic design work back up and running and then starting to look to the future and raising the aspiration level rather than starting from scratch. I have always considered that in UX you can do more in-house instead of being in consulting, inside the organisation you have more possibilities to impact and develop the practices than if you are an outsider invited to contribute just for a short time.

I do most UX processes related tasks except graphical design and frontend coding. I am at my best at user research and concepting. I do research, I facilitate workshops, I do feature design on wireframe level, I do usability testing and surveys. I am also responsible from planning the work of our UX team, I develop our UX processes, and I mentor younger designers.

Pasi: I have started working for Finna in 2017, shortly after Riitta joined the team. Before that I had worked as UI/graphic designer in several design consultancy firms for over ten years. I applied the UX designer position in Finna services since the position seemed to fit perfectly for me and I was interested in working with services which are based on Open Source. I was also interested in working with both library and museum sectors.

I do mostly UI design related tasks. I do tasks related to the accessibility and frontend coding. I undertake general UX tasks, including evaluating the results of usability tests, and turn them into a design plan to improve Finna’s usability. Occasionally I participate our organisations to UI design by organising workshops for them.

What are your goals with UX? Did you achieve them? Which UX methods do you apply at Finna.fi?

Riitta: In my experience in digital development the UX acceptance roughly follows a maturity path: first, an organisation starts to use professional UI/graphical designers, next step is embracing usability evaluation (walkthroughs, surveys and testing) and after that further user engagement starts to interest and you can start push user research usage into earlier phases as well.

When I joined Finna the UI needed a visual style update and the new accessibility requirements were coming inside couple of years. So, my first goal was a major style update, we started addressing accessibility requirements and as a part of that work we started to push the organisation to use usability testing in more agile ways and build in-house capability to do it. The style update was successful, our Net Promoter Score (NPS) did a good jump up in that year. We have managed to start to do usability testing systematically (both outsourced and in-house) as part of our regular development work, and our NPS has continued to steadily climb up.

My next goal was to establish the use of user research as part of the design and strategic decision-making process. The National Library of Finland provides services to other libraries and has a lot of experience to facilitate co-creation with LAM organisations (LAM professionals) and this was true to the Finna team as well, but Finna had less experience in using end user research. Achieving this has been my goal for a couple of years and we are now at a point where we can almost say that we have integrated user research (mostly user interviews) into our concepting practice.

Can you give us a practical example that worked, where you applied UX to solve a problem?

Riitta: The first case where we suggested using user research as a part of strategic decision-making was related to replacing Finnish bibliography and discography services old OPAC UIs with a newer system where Finna was the strongest candidate for the UI platform. The decision-making was hard because no one really had up to date understanding of how the different end user groups used the services in practice, which features were most important and which outdated. User research helped the services to understand what the main use cases are, recognise future development needs, compare the platform options to the true needs of users and to negotiate with Finna what feature development was mandatory before launch and what was not. In this case, the research was purchased from a neutral consulting company.

Our first in-house user research was related to findings, that elementary and high school teachers were aware and interested in Finna.fi, but somehow, they never ended up taking the first step and really used it. We used user research to confirm that yes, the culture heritage materials are useful to schools and that the problem is that the number of scattered materials in Finna.fi feels overwhelming for teachers and that they would want easy starter packages. The findings enabled us to workshop with cultural heritage material providers (the LAM organisations) and innovate the new concept Finna Classroom (only in Finnish and Swedish available), where LAM organisations can curate readymade packages with pedagogical utilisation ideas and make the decision to pilot it. Without the hard facts from user research and co-innovation workshops with LAM organisations, we probably would not have made this decision. Since this was one of those chicken-and-egg problems where UI cannot exist without content, and content without place in UI and developing both required considerable amount of effort and commitment from both sides.

Copyright illustrative Finna pictures © National Library of Finland, photographer Paavo Pykäläinen.

Pasi: At the moment we work with mobile usability and search filters, it is almost impossible to know without usability testing that the new solution is better or just challenging in different ways. After testing we evaluate test results and make the decision to take the new solution to the production, reject it or iterate it more.

To apply UX methods, you need library or online users who are willing to participate. How do you manage to find and motivate them?

Recruitment ways differ from one user group to another. We consider on a case by case basis, what the best channels would be. If we need a certain type of researcher or student, we try contacting university faculties directly. When we need teachers from a particular school subject, we go to their Facebook groups. If we need city library users, we ask library contacts to help with recruitment etc.

Copyright illustrative Finna pictures © National Library of Finland, photographer Paavo Pykäläinen.

For motivating end users, we typically use gift cards from a big retail chain (they have shops around the country), and we promise workshops to have refreshments.

What are the – lets say – three most important lessons you have learned from applying user experience methods in the Finna.fi project?

    Riitta:

  1. Someone needs to have a vision what is a next new method you want to try and to scout actively for an opportunity to try it.
  2. An organisation learns from practical experience. Finding that first opportunity to try some new method is important and the bar should not be too high for trying out new things. If something was successful, try to find another opportunity to use the same method e.g. usability testing for a second time. After a few times of positive experiences others may start to proactively propose opportunities. Try it more often and you are close to embedding it to practices.
  3. Timing of user research is important. If it is not convenient for users to come to participate, they won’t come.

Have you also used methods that did not work at all? What have been your biggest or funniest fails?

Riitta: So far, we have used basic methods: for digital development e.g. surveys, design walkthroughs, usability testing, user interviews and diary study. The failings we have had have been related to timing and user recruitment not with the method itself. Once I tried to find volunteer teachers just before Christmas which is the busiest time of the year for them. I had much more luck a month later in January. For one longer user study – also related to teachers – I thought that I have managed to invent a good and valuable incentive: participation in a conference. It turned out that the challenging part was that, although the teachers would have loved to go there, they would have needed a vacation day from their work, a substitute hired for that day and they had difficulties getting their bosses to agree with that.

What are your tips for libraries that would like to start with UX? What is a good starting point?

With digital services usability testing is always useful and it gives concrete improvement points and is a widely accepted method in digital industry so it’s also easier to sell it to your management.

Read more about Finna.fi

Read more about Open Science in Finland

Read more about UX in libraries

The post User Experience in Libraries: Insights from the Digital Finna Services at the National Library of Finland first appeared on ZBW MediaTalk.

User Experience for Libraries: A multi-site approach at the University of Westminster

Interview with Aimee Andersen and Sinead Beverland

The application of user experience (UX) in libraries is an exciting and multifaceted topic. Lastly, we therefore looked at “User Experience for Libraries: The Best Tools and Methods for Beginners” in a blog article. We also showed “User Experience in Libraries: 4 Best Practice Examples from the ZBW” and spoke to Larissa Tjisterman, who works in the field of UX at the Library of the University of Amsterdam.

Today we talk to Aimee Andersen and Sinead Beverland about how they are using UX to get the most out of the four libraries at the University of Westminster (UoW). They started there in 2019 as UX and Engagement Coordinators with a UX project. The main aim was to make the libraries and within the library spaces places where students like to work and work well. In addition, they were to use UX methods to improve the library search. In the middle of the project, they were surprised by the coronavirus and the lockdown and had to rethink.

In the interview, they share their experiences, their best methods and their tips for UX beginners with us and also reveal what didn’t work at all. They explain how to get students involved in improving libraries through UX, what to look out for and why the right timing is so important.

Aimee and Sinead, you are working in the field of User Experience in the University of Westminster Libraries. When and why did you start? What does that mean practically?

Aimee: A unique role of User Experience and Engagement Coordinator was created in 2019 by the Head of Library and Archives Services, Helen Rimmer. It was a secondment role which was shared equally between Sinead and myself. The role was initially for a year, in which we prepared a vision of what we would do and hope to achieve within that year. The role was then extended for another six months to focus solely on UX around our library catalogue.

In practical terms, it meant that we could roadmap out our projects around what we hoped to gain from the UX work and time them accordingly. The managers had already conducted Break up letters/love letters and cognitive mapping with great success and the aim of the role was to allow a staff member (in our case, two members of staff) to dedicate time solely to UX.

Sinead: Our brief at the beginning of the role was to focus on space and communication within the library. This was quite the challenge in that we have four libraries within the University that serve a varied range of students and staff. We had to devise and implement UX projects that would engage this broad demographic of users whilst providing us with useful, tangible results that could improve our service.

Ultimately, we wanted to see our space and service through the eyes of our users and this dedicated UX role allowed us to do just that.

What are your goals with UX? Did you achieve them? Which UX methods do you apply at the UoW libraries?

Aimee: As mentioned, this was a very unique opportunity to try anything! We got to dip our toes into UX work and explore . Having said that, we were asked to conduct some UX work around staff well-being (we were in lockdown by that time and used an online storyboard) and we focused on communication and space. Knowing that we were only in role for a specific period of time, we spent quite a bit of time deciding on the vision for the role and then explored techniques that focused on this vision, namely the ideas of space and how the library community communicates within that space.

Sinead: With the initial goal to look at space and communication within the library, we chose our UX methods accordingly. This meant they ranged from an induction Graffiti Wall (canvassing new students), to a Photo Journal (asking students to design their ideal future library), to Storyboarding (understanding staff challenges during the pandemic).

These specific projects gave us insight into what information students want from us, how they would like us to deliver it and how they envisage the physical library space developing.
– Sinead Beverland

Having started our UX work on site, we did have to move online when the coronavirus pandemic began and lockdown hit the UK! Working on projects during a global pandemic was not easy and brought with it a whole new set of challenges. We had to adapt to the new situation, for instance, moving our storyboard project online and utilising our social media to engage with the university community.

During this time of working remotely, we were also tasked with looking at Library Search from a UX perspective. This became a huge piece of work within itself, incorporating remote staff and student interviews, whilst analysing statistical data and chat transcripts pertaining to the Library Search user experience. The work culminated in a report of our findings which included a number of recommendations for changes to Library Search that could enhance the usability and experience for all.

Can you give us a practical example that worked, where you applied UX to solve a problem?

Aimee: Prior to coming into the role, the managers had conducted the UX technique of love letters/break up letters to the library, of which I was a part. It was very successful in that we received without a doubt enough break up letters to a particular floor of one of our libraries regarding the temperature. Having learnt from that experience, it was easier going forward with our future projects to be able to solicit how to develop recommendations that are both forward thinking and practical.

Creating a collage of proposals from students of the Libraries at the University of Westminster©

In our photographic journal, we gained a lot of information from students’ collages of their visions of their ideal future libraries. Although there were some very impractical, but fantastic suggestions (such as a sun filled meditation room, a clothes exchanges and a bar), we garnered invaluable ideas around what we could practically implement, such as more the importance of more communal study spaces, greenery within the library and using student artwork around the library.

We also were able to understand how important the idea of community within the library space was to our students as well as the isolation they sometimes feel and how the library space helps them to meet, and interact.
– Aimee Andersen

Sinead: For each of our UX projects we collated reports, including recommendations which were circulated within the department and to senior management. From our UX Library Search report, a working group was established and changes are in the process of being made to improve the experience and usability of the system. A specific example would be amending generic and unhelpful icons that are used to denote “databases”, “journals” etc.

To apply UX methods, you need library users who are willing to participate. How do you manage to find and motivate them?

Aimee: This was one of the toughest parts of the role and I feel like I learnt a lot from trying to garner engagement. We put a lot of thought and effort into peripheral ways of reaching students, such as social media, student union and other departmental connections. We also had a healthy budget for the role and were able to offer Amazon vouchers as incentives. I found that it also depended on the activity and levels of engagement.

With our graffiti wall project, we had no direction or control over engagement, apart from deciding where to place the wall for maximum interaction, however we did need to recruit students for the photo journal project. The students that participated with the photo journal were students that were attracted to the project and their interest level contributed greatly to the project’s success.

We also asked for feedback from students with each project around ways we could improve our student engagement and participation.
– Aimee Andersen

Sinead: Finding participants can often feel like a struggle and we learnt that a lot of factors come into play when you are “recruiting” for a UX project. Timing is incredibly important. In an educational environment it is important to be aware of exam and deadline dates – we tried to schedule our activities at quieter times of the year so that people had more time to offer. When wanting to capture information during a busy period, like induction week, we chose a UX technique that was bold, quick and easy to use – a Graffiti Wall. Students could jot down their question on the wall as they passed by, which meant anyone could access it at any time.

Graffiti Wall, University of Westminster Libraries ©

We also put a lot of time and effort into designing eye-catching posters, flyers and online posts to encourage participants. We wanted to make these as appealing and diverse as possible to capture the attention of a wide demographic. This was a little time consuming but well worth it as we had many students reach out to us from this marketing.

We were fortunate to have wonderful and engaged participants for all our projects. For our part, we did also ensure that we kept in contact with them throughout and adopted a very collaborative and informal approach, in keeping with the tone of our UX work.
– Sinead Beverland

Liaising with other university departments and developing a good relationship with the Student Union undoubtedly helped us to promote and find participants for all our UX work. Working with student and staff communications and student union representatives gave us a greater insight into how to appeal to our users and more scope to reach them through their channels.

What are the – lets say – three most important lessons you have learned from applying user experience methods in UoW libraries?

Aimee:

  1. Ensuring that projects are conducted when students are a) around and b) have enough time to commit and participate
  2. Creative thinking: Our most successful project by far in terms of positive feedback was the collages for the future libraries; students loved it. We were also enamoured with the idea as collaging removes the pressure of having to “draw” whilst allowing a creative and reflective expression.
  3. We also needed to think outside the box around how to manoeuvre lockdown, given that we had created the role for the year as being on campus. It was an incredibly unique opportunity to capture the experiences of that time whilst we were in the midst of it, as opposed to reflecting back upon the experience of attempting to study during the strange time that was the initial lockdown.

  4. Never assume! We tried to keep this at the forefront of everything we did, and we created projects around this idea, hopefully allowing students and staff to express themselves within the project. We constantly conversed around the idea of our assumptions and job sharing in this respect was incredibly useful.

Sinead: I would totally agree with Aimee’s three lessons! Thinking outside of the box and finding creative ways to engage students was key. I learnt the importance of creating a dialogue with our users and to go beyond just listening to what they told me. It was equally important to observe how they instinctively interacted with space and services.

Have you also used methods that did not work at all? What have been your biggest or funniest fails?

Aimee: As the lockdown continued, we were thinking of different ways to launch small virtual projects, and one of these was the idea of book shelfies. We did not have as much engagement with this project as we had with previous work. This could have been because it was just after lockdown and everyone was trying to adjust to a new way of working.

Sinead: As a small side UX activity, we tried to canvas opinions on a new library welcome desk however, not having much time available we put together a simple online padlet and encouraged library users to share their opinions over the course of a week. This lacked the creativity of our other projects and was not well promoted, thus, we got very little input! A lesson learnt to give your all to everything you do!

What are your tips for libraries that would like to start with UX? What is a good starting point?

Aimee: I attended the UXLib-Konferenz a couple of years ago and I found the talks and workshops incredibly interesting and inspiring. Reach out to other staff members doing similar things to what you would like to do. I met a few people at the conference that were very helpful in keeping in contact and were happy to exchange ideas etc. We also started a twitter account in which we posted promotion and post project photos as well as tweeting and retweeting any interesting UX related stories. It was a good way to keep a running record of what we were doing and what we were learning as well as networking with UX colleagues elsewhere.

Sinead: To look at what other institutions are already doing is a great starting point. In terms of UX, for example, the Glasgow University, the University of Southampton and the University of Kent were inspiring for me. Learn from those that have gone before you! We found that the Library User Experience Community is strong and incredibly supportive and helpful. If in doubt, reach out to people and ask some questions. In our experience Library UX’ers are more than happy to chat and share advice and thoughts. Be sure to check out“Exploring UX research and design in libraries” and engage with social media, try hashtags such as #UXLIB.

We were talking to Aimee Andersen and Sinead Beverland.

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The post User Experience for Libraries: A multi-site approach at the University of Westminster first appeared on ZBW MediaTalk.

Digital Trends 2021: Collective Displacement Leads to Relocation and Rethinking of Activities

by Birgit Fingerle

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned major parts of our life upside down, leading to new trends and new uses of technology. The feeling of collective displacement is a trend overshadowing all these. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 altered, where und how we experience activities. A lot of our tasks were relocated to other places in order to still be able to fulfil them. New ways and new places to attend our duties as well as our hobbies are needed. Accordingly, organisations need to figure out new ways to shape the relationship with their patrons. In order to do so, they must be aware of how information-gathering has changed and they must also replicate or replace physical touch in a digital way. Shopping for instance has become an atomised activity, split into many micro moments spread across devices, platforms and across the day. In addition, brands have to find new ways to deliver joy to the home shopping experience.

Retail Trends as a potential Role Model for Libraries: Liquid, Virtual and by Appointment

Because of the collective displacement trend mentioned above, the place where we buy products or use services has also changed. Thus, organisations have to rethink their supply chain and their whole physical infrastructure. This trend is called Liquid Infrastructure. In order to be able to quickly react to changing conditions organisations need to develop more agility and resilience which will also make them futureproof for instance for answering challenges arising from climate change. While working on new supply chains and physical infrastructures, organisations should also consider sustainable alternatives to become more sustainable at the same time. In addition, they should explore new business models and value propositions like subscription models and personalisation.

Traditional marketplaces have been transferred to the digital world because of the pandemic too and are now taking place virtually. As ecommerce is booming, marketplaces are included in this shift, transforming everything from farmers’ to Christmas markets into virtual marketplaces. This way, consumers can at least keep a little bit of the normalcy that they have lost since the pandemic started.

Another growing trend is robot retail (see TrendHunter‘s 2021 Trend Report) as robots help to limit contacts between employees and customers. Examples are: Robots acting as bookstore assistances like the “AROUND B” Robot that carries books for browsing and purchasing, or contactless delivery robots brought to new cities like the delivery robots of Starship Technologies.

Contactless lockers are being installed in the retail world to reduce person-to-person contact and to enhance the safety of shopping. Shopping lockers (see TrendHunter‘s 2021 Trend Report) are being used as food pickups as well as for in-store returns for instance.

With respect to personal contacts, the trend “Appointment Retail” (see TrendHunter‘s 2021 Trend Report) means that shopping is offered by appointment only. This ensures safe in-person shopping experiences as it contributes to maintaining distance. Might, for instance, offering lockers and more services on appointment also be meaningful for libraries to better address patron anxiety of health risks?

Events and new touchpoints: Virtual crowds and in-game experiences

The trend of collective displacement also shines through events and exhibitions. Companies are creating technologically-integrated solutions that allow the public to take part in live events, for instance live concerts. This virtual crowd (see TrendHunter‘s 2021 Trend Report) is now made possible by using video conference technology as well as virtual reality technology. Attending a live event as part of a virtual crowd also brings viewers a degree of normalcy into their lives.

Gaming is an increasingly popular form of entertainment and consumers now expect brands to integrate seamlessly into their habits, like gaming and social media. As brands outside of gaming are looking for new possibilities to participate in these developments, more and more are marketing their products and offerings with in-game experiences (see TrendHunter‘s 2021 Trend Report). One example are In-Game Art Galleries like the one offered by the Getty Museum. This tool lets players import art in the game Animal Crossing. Furthermore, in an In-Game Museum Tour the Monterey Bay Aquarium is offering virtual tours of Animal Crossing’s museum.

Training and tools for librarians and patrons: Gamification and fostering wellbeing

Several trends have the potential to influence the tools and the training offered for library staff on the one hand and patrons on the other hand. Because of the experience of collective displacement and work from home, mental wellness becomes a new focal point when rethinking products and services. For example, Microsoft Teams will integrate new features in order to improve users’ work/life balance while working from home.

Training and onboarding employees is increasingly being accelerated through gamified technology. This trend named gamified profession (see TrendHunter‘s 2021 Trend Report) where platforms are used to enhance skills and engagement in the process of training may become more common as working from home becomes the norm and managers are trying new ways to enhance engagement and interactions among new employees. The training needed for individuals transitioning into new roles requires interactivity to learn skills and policies effectively. Thus, gamification is an interesting approach for training.

To build meaningful connections between remote employees, organisations are turning to new tools, which help them to facilitate team-building exercises and rewards. By fostering remote engagement (see TrendHunter‘s 2021 Trend Report) they contribute to reducing feelings of social isolation, which might otherwise negatively affect the collaboration. Innovative tools are needed to ensure that employees working from home feel connected and valued and this way also more encourages toward sharing ideas and working together.

Signs of Open Science: Digital parity, subscription sharing and do-it-yourself-innovation

The COVID-19 pandemic has fostered trends towards Open Science. In addition to the obvious greater attention for preprint papers there are also several other trends outside the academic systems, which are interesting in the context of Open Science.

Equal access continues to be a dream, as we still live in a world characterised by digital inequality. A WhatsApp und Facebook chatbot like Foonda Mate shows us how the inequality due to the lack of a stable internet connection can be bridged in order to give South African students access to educational materials. Thus, they were and are able to keep up with their schoolwork when schools are closed. This example is part of the trend providing online access to all, called Digital Parity.

Another interesting trend: Brands in the technology space are helping users to share subscriptions by creating platforms that enable sharing subscription passwords in a safe and controlled way. These platforms (see TrendHunter‘s 2021 Trend Report) for safe subscription sharing to digital goods range from web extensions to password-managing.

As innovation increasingly is a product of talented people acting in challenging circumstances, organisations should find ways to joint this Do-it-yourself-Innovation revolution and rethink how they approach innovation. The emphasis of organisations should switch from co-creation with the people to giving the people the tools and platforms to innovate for themselves in order to create better products and services.

Members of the generation Z (Gen Z) , born between 1997 and 2012 approximately, are also increasingly aiming to develop new skills outside of the traditional school system. They do so by turning to platforms, services and spaces that help them expand their worldviews and skills without the constraints of traditional schooling. The Gen Z Creative trend (see TrendHunter‘s 2021 Trend Report) also allows them to develop skills that often are not part of the education system. This willingness to qualify outside of the traditional educational system stems from two main sources. First, exposure to political and social issues from young age on has made them critical thinkers that are more likely to explore alternative learning options. Second, their social media habits are giving Gen Z more motivation to develop skills and practice hobbies just for enjoyment and sharing.

More than downsides: New opportunities and glimmers of hope in the crisis

The pandemic has disrupted a lot of our plans and the way we live and work. Looking at the trends emerging from this crisis reveals some of the opportunities implied in this forced transformation. Among these glimmers of hope is that Open Science, especially Open Access, seems to be a winner of the crisis. Furthermore, studying current trends in retail or gaming can trigger new impulses for further change in libraries.

Further information on important trends und technologies for 2021:

References Portrait:
Photo Birgit Fingerle© – Photographer Ole Sindt.

The post Digital Trends 2021: Collective Displacement Leads to Relocation and Rethinking of Activities first appeared on ZBW MediaTalk.The post Digital Trends 2021: Collective Displacement Leads to Relocation and Rethinking of Activities first appeared on Leibniz Research Alliance Open Science.