I am doing my placement in Sydney Uni Library’s Learning Spaces division. This comes under Site Services/Facilities Management for the library. My understanding of the mission is to improve the various spaces under library management to optimise the user experience.
Here are some rough-and-ready thoughts from my first week:
Corporate culture and leadership
I find it much easier to see the value of the material on leadership styles, corporate culture and change management in this large, established organisation. My usual small primary school context is set within the larger Department of Education corporate culture, but the relevance of that is harder to see on a daily basis. In my placement, I can see more value in viewing events and interactions through a leadership theory lens. Being able to understand where attitudes and procedures come from and how to deal with initiating and overcoming resistance to change has daily practical value in this environment. Learning Spaces is all about change management. The remit is to observe and analyse what is in place, then collect evidence, and propose changes to improve the space (and then implement those changes.) Issues such as giving time for staff ownership of change and the need for an iterative process were evident. For example, in the SciTech library the reference and circulation service points have been changed from a large circulation desk to smaller height-adjustable pods. The intention of these pods is to be standing-height service “touchpoints” where staff have one to two hour shifts providing front-line service to users. When touring the libraries, these pods were set at seat-height and the staff I observed were sitting and working on the computers on their pods and did not even look up to take notice of users, such as myself, entering the library. This seems to be an example of a change that has been implemented but that has not been “owned” by the staff and will need to be re-visited to optimise the service.
When gathering evidence for a change, both quantitative and qualitative data are used. Quantitative data includes information like gate counts, occupancy counts of different spaces, and fill-ups (analysing patterns of occupancy over time). Qualitative data often comes from user experience (UX) interviews analysed using them extraction and affinity mapping. I had the opportunity on Friday to conduct some UX interviews at the Conservatorium of Music (Con) library and look forward to doing some more on Monday. “Fronting” users and asking if they would be willing to participate was the most difficult part of the interviews. Hopefully that will be easier on Monday if the library is busier – approaching people on the move was easier and hopefully a busier library will have more user movement! When conducting the interviews, I did notice a temptation to ask leading questions and to interpret in process rather than just inquire.
My supervisor has mentioned co-design as part of the Learning Spaces methodology. One of the activities he mentioned using in the process is brainwriting, an idea-generating process that is a variant on brainstorming. In brainwriting, a problem or issue is stated and all members are then given a brief period of time to jot down their solution idea(s). When time is up, participants systematically pass their idea page on to the next person and that person builds on the idea passed to them and this is repeated for several iterations. The process is meant to be additive rather than fault finding and is a way of generating and fleshing out ideas all in one. I think this sounds like an interesting technique to try in a classroom setting as well.