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Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners Resource Guide Collection

Service Design for Libraries

Find out what patrons <3 and h8

The first step in intelligent service design is to understand what you have now. A "service safari" is an exercise that can help you discover how your users navigate library services.

Method 1: Recruit a volunteer

  • For clean usability testing, it's a good idea to ask someone you know who isn't a library user, and to do this without briefing the staff. Ask the volunteer to complete (or attempt to complete) a specific task, such as:
    • Use an internet computer
    • Find a particular item to borrow
    • Get a library card
    • Find the meeting room
    • Register for a program, or book the meeting room
  • Brief the volunteer ahead of time with specific instructions
  • Have the person come to the library, preferably anonymously
  • If possible, shadow the person unobtrusively and observe
  • Meet with the person at the end of their visit and interview them:
    • Were you able to complete your assigned task?
    • Was it fun/easy/satisfying?
    • Where/when did they get frustrated or stuck?
    • What could have made the experience more fun/easy/satisfying?




Two people with binoculars

Method 2: Go on safari yourself

  • Try it yourself or enlist another member of staff
  • Watch the Emi Kolawole and Brené Brown videos on the previous page
  • Use a "beginner's mind" -- let go of all your years of education and experience. Pretend you are new to the language or culture, or that you haven't been in a library since high school
  • Complete (or attempt to complete) the task, making note of any sticking points or unnecessary bureaucracy
    • Was the task fun/easy/satisfying?
    • Where/when did you get frustrated or stuck?
    • What could have made the experience more fun/easy/satisfying?

giraffes on the veldt

You can make the service safari a fun activity for staff -- everyone can play newbie for a day. You can assess almost every service the library provides. Make a plan for immediate, short-term and long-term improvements. This plan will become the raw material from which you develop your service design.