This brought me back once again to Clayton Christensen's book
In my Librarian's Dilemma post I wrote that Christensen states that with few exceptions hard drive businesses with great managers who listen intently to their customers failed. The dilemma is that an organization structured to facilitate the design and support of its dominant product and current customer base allocates resources towards sustaining the current technologies rather than investing in the development of disruptive ones.
The purpose of the LibQual survey is to query current library customers to see if current services and technologies are meeting their expectations. Many of the "great" library administrators use LibQual results as a foundation for service change or even for strategic planning purposes.
According to Christensen, innovations are often targeted towards current customers because their needs are understood. In supporting sustaining services plans must be made before action is taken. However, with disruptive technologies action must be taken before careful plans are made. So, by following the LibQual model I fear that unsuspecting library administrators may be falling victim to the Librarian's Dilemma.
In order to deal with all the disruptive forces in today's environment library planning and research must focus on, and serve, a different purpose. Library administrators need to gather knowledge about their new customers and new services through discovery-driven expeditions.
So, if LibQual is not the best method for learning which disruptive and emerging technologies would best strengthen the library, which method is?
At the CNI Spring Task Force meeting I listened to a presentation by Nancy Fried Foster on the Ethno Project, which focuses on using the principles of user-center design for developing library services. Ms. Fried Foster is an anthropologist within the University of Rochester's River Campus Libraries. (An anthropologist on a library staff. That's a disruptive idea.)
Traditionally, the basic question that libraries ask themselves when assessing services is "what do our users need?" With user-centered research, or ethnography, that question changes to "what do our users do?" It is a qualitative research method that involves a high level of contact between the researcher and the researched that includes participant observation and interviewing.
The methods used by Ms. Fried Foster in the development of their institutional respository included interviewing students in dorm rooms and studying faculty work practices in their offices included:
- Participants were provided cameras and ask to photograph "treasure hunt" items that they could interpret anyway they they wished.
- Maps were provided in which participants were asked to keep track of where they went during a typical day on campus, places where they felt comfortable and uncomfortable.
- Once all the materials were gathered they were reviewed in groups.
- Team Brainstorming sessions were then held in which storyboards were developed based on research cycle.
- Role playing was used where team members imagined that they were faculty that could magically have and use any tool that would make research easier or more effective.
Design Research Resources
Ethnography (Web Resources)
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