Congress theme: “Libraries Now! - Inspiring, Surprising, Empowering”

Finnish Perspective: Eye-tracking—Library as a Living Lab environment

Spotlight on the Local librarian of the day

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A year ago a poster presented by Kaisa Puttonen (Information Specialist) and Satu Hyökki (Project Manager) from Laurea University of Applied Sciences, Finland, was selected best IFLA 2011 poster session. I asked Kaisa about the past year and their further developments in the subject.

Kaisa Puttonen

Could you briefly talk about the concept in your poster?

The poster described a pilot study at Laurea University of Applied Sciences Library. In the study, an eye-tracking method was used to reveal the user’s first impression of the library space; how people notice signs and find material from our collection. Eye-tracking is a research method that observes eye movements.

In our case, the participants, who had never visited our premises, wore a helmet equipped with a camera and a microphone. It was very interesting to look at the video, and see what did and didn’t catch their attention—and also to hear what they were thinking! We found out the best places for notices and got ideas on how to improve the placement of material. The key aspect of the pilot study was that users, information specialists and researchers all interacted with each other and co-created together during the process.

What has changed in the past year?

We have carried out concrete improvements based on the study:

  • Guideposts were given a consistent appearance and were relocated;
  • Shelf classification signs are more numerous and colour-coded;
  • Signs for business, Information Communication Technology (ICT), tourism, and languages have different colours.

We also built thematic entities for some subjects, for example research methods and guides for writing are now on a Helpshelf. It is easier to guide the students writing their theses to one location.

This spring, cooperation with an ICT lecturer resulted in us offering a duplication of our study as part of a course on user-centred research. The students were given a choice between different cases, and two student groups chose to test eye-tracking in the library.  It was great to have our users do a follow-up study. Since the study was conducted exactly as the first one, we got survey information on our improvements. It was nice to notice that the colour-coding was a success and now our magazines can be found easily! Of course things came up which needed improvement. So now the circle is complete: a pilot study, results, developing the space, follow-up study and finally results on development.

You are an active member in the Learning Libraries network. What do you want to promote through this network?

I realised that involving users from the beginning when developing services is of the utmost importance. They give us great ideas for providing what is expected from a library of today and the future.  Through the Learning Library, I would like to emphasise three points. The first is working together with partners from other libraries as well as outside the library field. The second is interacting with our users during our everyday work. And the third point is sharing. At the moment many libraries are interacting with customers and gaining experiences. We should share our experiences, both good and bad, so that we can learn from each other as a wide community of libraries.