DIY course reserves kiosk, or, the day we tossed the grotty old binder

We’re using Laurentian’s reserves interface (see Kevin Beeswick’s code on github) and just rolled out a reserves kisok on our circulation desk using:

When we were on our legacy ILS our reserves staff person would manually create a page for each course in Word, print them, then file them (alphabetically by instructors last name) in an old navy blue binder that was tethered to the desk with a lanyard that was at least 3 years old. I can date the lanyard because it said Emily Carr Institute, and we were granted university status in 2008.

This kiosk is a way better user experience for students and it saves staff time in creating and maintaining paper sheets of reserve items. Hopefully this small improvement in user experience improves the perception of the library in students’ eyes. Much like redesigning the library forms, I think that caring about these details demonstrate that we are thinking about ways our library can reflect the values of our students. I’m the liaison to Design and Dynamic Media, which includes communication design, interaction design, industrial design and animation. I know that my faculty and students notice and care about these details.

Dan Scott has a great post on other ways to manage course reserves in Evergreen.

redesigning the library, one ugly form at a time

Welcome to the library” says the handout that was made in Word, written in Arial 10 point font with a random bit of bolded text. While the text claimed to welcome new library users, the design clearly said that we are outdated, institutional and that we do not care.

I work in an art and design university and I know my users are especially visual people. How we visually organize the physical space, our website and small things like our library forms really impacts how our users feel about our collections and services.

It was extremely satisfying to be a client for Celeste Martin‘s 3rd year Communication Design class. We ended up with the modern and cheerful forms that Sophie Lundstrom designed. She redesigned the information sheet about the library, the slide signout sheet, reserve request form and a few others we decided to stop using paper forms for.   She did an amazing job. It’s been delightful to see people notice the new forms, especially the Communication Design students. This is what the old guide looked like.

Community Borrowers

The timing for the redesign was perfect as we are now offering Continuing Studies students borrowing privileges. While there are about 1800 FTEs in credit programs, there are over 4000 students taking Continuing Studies courses. Each one of these students will get this information sheet about the library. This will make a much more positive impression of the kind of services and collections we offer.

One of the most satisfying parts of my job has been the liaison with the Design department. I like how the faculty and students are problem solvers and how they manage to bring beauty and elegance to their solutions. After working here for 2 years, it’s hard to see my library with fresh eyes. As a user, I notice and appreciate small details like how a local sewing shop patched cracks in the floor with clear epoxy and buttons   or when a website has a clever 404 error page.

The improvement in these forms will hopefully improve user experience in a small way, so that people truly feel welcome in the library.

Open Source fonts

A friend told me about Ellen Lupton’s design books and website.   I immediately requested 6 of her books through the public library. I’m especially excited to read Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students and D.I.Y.: Design It Yourself.

The free font manifesto on Lupton’s site caught my eye.   There are some handsome fonts with names like Linux Libertine, Freefont, and Ubuntu.   The manifesto sets out that a free font is has been licensed to be free and can be altered to form a new font (sound familiar?) and has been made available beyond a group of friends or buyers of a software package or operating system.   There is a short discussion on if all fonts should be free.   The manifesto points out that typeface design in a profession and business and that if all fonts were free these people would be out of a job.   The manifesto continues:

Most typefaces created in the free font movement are designed to serve relatively small or underserved linguistic communities. They have an explicit social purpose, and they are intended to offer the world not a luxurious outpouring of typographic variation but rather the basics for maintaining literacy and communication within a society.