Library System Redesign

Aim

To redesign the existing IIT Guwahati library system to ensure smooth information flow between the library and its users and better utilization of its resources.

Summary

The project was divided into four phases, starting with data collection phase involving literature study and system analysis and modeling. The strength and problems of the existing library were identified and photo documentation was used to keep a record of them. UML and Interaction diagram were used to model the system. A detailed user study and interviews were conducted with students, Librarians and Faculty to elicit contextual information. Finally brainstorming sessions were conducted to conceptualize a redesigned book procuring system and creating a new way finder system along with development of signage’s for the library.

My Role (What did I do, learn)

Working in a small team on a big project demanded us to wear multiple hats and perform several roles. I worked on understanding the existing state of the library and helped in modeling the collected data using UML. I was part of the data collection and interview team and specifically I interviewed students and faculty members. In the later part of the project I played a major role in redesigning the book procuring system and designing the signages for the library.

Design and Methodology

In the Data collection phase we analyzed the existing structure of the library along with a literature study of other libraries around the world. As the third step in this phase we modeled the current structure for better understanding.

1) Data Collection

(i) Observing the library to identify strengths and problems:

The existing library system and the way the users interact with it was studied to list down the good features which should be retained in the new design and also identify problems that need to be solved. Photodocumentation was used to keep a record of the problems observed and validate them later through user interviews. The problems associated with the libsys interface and the way it affected the interaction of the users with the library was also analysed and documented.

(ii) Literature Study:

This involved the study of similar problems and their solutions in existing libraries and selecting those aspects which can be incorporated in our design. Important among them is the Mexico State Library whose signage system was studied in details to identify strengths which could be incorporated in our system design.

(iii) System Analysis and Modelling: 

The library system was studied to identify the components, actors involved and the pattern of interaction and information flow in the system. The sequence of operations was also studied from the user’s pont of view. UML Diagrams along with Interaction diagrams were used to model the system.In the second phase, a user study was conducted with the primary users as students, faculty and the Deputy Librarians.

2) User Study

Interviews were conducted to elicit data from the primary as well as the secondary users of the library system.The following persons were interviewed:

      • The students- the primary users
      • The Deputy librarian
      • The faculty

From the feedback obtained on the questionnaire filled up by around 40 students the following data were obtained:

      • The rate of utilization of online resources was very low.
      • There was general difficulty in locating particular sections/books in the library indicating lack of efficient signages.
      • The DDC(Dewey Decimal Classification) codes used for arranging the books was hardly understood by the users.
      • A need for a “way finder” was felt acutely.
      • There was a general “lost” feeling upn entering the library particularly for new users.
      • Most users felt that reminders about return dates for books would reduce the frequency of fine payment due to late return of books.

The feedback from the library administrative authorities can be summed up as following:

      • The overall library system is organized and efficient.
      • Lack of signage is the most acute problem faced.
      • Lack of communication of important instructions to the students results in mismanagement and waste of time.

eg.) If students would avoid placing the books back into the racks and leave them on the table after reading, it would solve the problem of book arrangement being disturbed due to wrong placement of books. They were of the opinion that the book procuring system was efficient and the delays were unavoidable. With respect to the book procuring system, faculty members and library representatives of various departments were interviewed.

Their responses can be summarized as the following:

    • They were dissatisfied about the fact that no feedback was receied at any point either about the placing or the cancellation of the orders for books.
    • Ambiguities in the indent form created confusions.
    • Submitting the form to the library often took a long time.

After conducting the first two phases we got deeper insights into the real issues of the library and redefined our problem statement.

Problem Statement Redefined

To redesign and integrate the following components of the library system:
1) Book Procuring Process
2) Efficient Signage system to help locate a section
3) Instructional guides describing facilities and procedures of the library
4) Interface of the library system software

In phase 3 & 4, brainstorming sessions were conducted to think of potential solutions and one final solution was selected to achieve the goals of the project.

Phase 3 & 4: Ideation and Final Solution

At this stage brainstorming sessions were conducted and ideas were evaluated in view of their priority and importance.
The key areas to be focussed on were fixed as
a) Analysis and redesign of the book-procuring system
b) Way Finder
c) Signage

We will now be discussing each focus area:
a) Book Procuring System

The system was modelled using the Sequence diagram and the col- laboration diagram and analysed. On the basis of the analysis the following loopholes were found to be of importance:
* The librarian repeatedly seeking confirmations from the faculty which often were redundant and resulted in unnecessary delays in the procedure
* The faculty receiving no feedback at any stage of the process
* The large amount of manual labour involved in updating databases and checking fields of the indent form
* Ambiguities in the indent form itself.

A complete automation of the procedure was considered. However it was not approved of by the authorities since they insisted on written signatures for monetory transactions.
Hence the model proposed is a semi-automatic one where an online indent form would be used for automatic data entry and a signed hardcopy of the same for documentation.

The redesigned system is an improvement upon the first one in the following ways:
* The indent form is clear and well designed
* Database updation and validation of the indent (in terms of the ordered books being already available or ordered for)
* The confirmations have been built into the form itself.
* The faculty recieves feedback about the status of the indent at every stage.

b) Way Finder Application

One of the salient features of the redesigned library system, the way finder is a graphic applica- tion that would be installed at the entrance of every floor. It would be connected to the library database and would show the path to a particular rack (two/three racks).

The input could be of the following forms:
i) The title of a book
ii) The category(text/general/lecture notes) followed by subject(or department) iii) Category->Subject->select a book from the list iv)Category->Subject->select an author->select a book of that author from list

Output would be in the form of:
i)Highlighting the relevant rack(s) and their path from the entrance corresponding to the select- ed category and subject(department)
ii) Lists of books and authors pertaining to that particular subject
ii) The DDC code of the selected book

A prototype of the wayfinder for the first floor was created using Flash. It divides the book search into three broad categories as per the floor layout, viz. General Books, Text Books and Lecture Notes.

c) Signage

Signage was identified as the primary need of the library to make it user friendly. According to interaction with the users, signage was divided into three categories:

i) Directional- This kind of signage is required at every point of decision-making, eg. which floor to go to to reach a perticular kind of books, which side of the floor to approach and so on.
This kind of signage would have to be installed at the main entrance of every floor, stating which floor the user is currently in and a brief overview of all the floors.

The next decision that a user needs to make is which of the two bifurcations to follow, hence an overview of the bifurcations is placed so as to be seen on entering the floor.

ii) Locational- This category of signages re-inforces that the user has reached the desired point or location. This includes the labelling or numbering of the racks, the range of books contained in them as well as signages for xerox shop, offices etc.

In this project, the focus has been laid on the signages pertaining to the racks only. One primary issue faced with respect to rack labelling was whether to stick to the present format of denting the racks as the range of DDC codes contained in them or to verbally list down the domains/subdomains corresponding to those ranges.

While it was agreed upon that listing down of domains would be easier to understand for the user, it was not practical to list down each and every sub domain corresponding to the DDC codes.
Hence it was decided to stick to the DDC codes and explain to the user the concept of DDC.

iii) Instructional Signage
This category comprises all instructions that need to be communicated to the users of the library through signage. This kind of signages range from disciplinary instructions asking users to maintain silence and refrain from smoking and so on.
One important inclusion to the already existing set of signages was the instruction to not place the books back into the racks after reading.

On the basis of physical implementation, the signages have been divided into the following two categories:

i)Wall Mounted: Instructional signages
iii)Rack Mounted: Locational signages pertaining to the racks

Wayfinder
User Research
User Research
Workflow

Overview

Collaborators
Diya Gangopadhyay, Ityam Vasal, Aditya Saxena

Methods Used
Contextual Interviews, Cognitive Walkthroughs, Heuristic Analysis, Medium fidelity prototypes, UML


Technology Used

Client

IIT Guwahati

Services

4 months (Jan 2007 - Apr 2007)

Skills

System Design
User Experience
User Research