Observations Within the Library at the University of Washington

Game Plan

I decided to conduct User Research within the Undergraduate Library at the University of Washington (Odegaard Library). I decided to take a seat toward the center of the library, in order to get multiple views of the library in one position. I decided to not interact with anyone, and make it seem as if I too was doing homework. I also wanted to collect qualitative information, which I would gather from listening and watching. I also decided that I would observe the library and the students during the busiest time of the day; this occurred around 7:00pm.

A few of my observations from the library.

Reflect On It

When I first walked into Odegaard Library, it was crowded and difficult to find a place to sit. If I had to do this type of research again, I would have tried to find a better spot to sit. I had chosen a seat that was a good distance away from the most crowded part of the library. In the future, I would try to sit within the crowd of people, in order to hear more conversations, and feel embedded within the environment. Throughout the span of my observations, something interesting happened with one person studying. It involved the use of a whiteboard, and I was shocked by his movement within his confined space. He was using a whiteboard, but trying to use the information from his laptop/notebook to study. When he was looking at the computer screen, he would sit down, and when he was using the whiteboard, he would stand up. He repeated this practice at least 10 times, and I never really realized that people did that. I assumed that his switch from standing to sitting was because of a desire to be at eye level with the technology. In the future I would watch him, then most likely interview him and get more information on this practice.

What Was the Most Common Practice in the Library?

The most common observation in the library was the backpack placement on the floor next to the person’s chair. There were a few variations around this practice, which included: backpack leaning against the table leg, backpack beneath the chair, backpack laid flat on the ground. A few students placed the backpack on a chair or the table, but I noticed that most students placed it on the ground.

My Influence on the User Research

I sat a good distance away from the most crowded area of the library, but in regards to the people around me, I noticed that a few people could tell I was noting my observations. It was obvious that I was looking around the library, and was ‘people watching.’ During the process one girl noticed that I was observing the room, and began to watch me. I assumed that she was not delighted that someone was watching her, so I began to look toward a different direction. I believe that it would be important to address the person being observed, if they begin to show discomfort. Another issue that would be important to address would be when confronting the person being observed about a specific topic they were recently talking about. It would be important to also reduce the amount of emotion you have within an environment. It’s important to ensure the person’s comfortability, and this can be done by not showing judgment or reaction to a certain practice.