Student user experience team looks to improve GVSU libraries

GVL / Sara Carte - Students work in the Mary Idema Pew Library on Allendale’s campus on Monday, Mar. 14, 2016.

Sara Carte

GVL / Sara Carte – Students work in the Mary Idema Pew Library on Allendale’s campus on Monday, Mar. 14, 2016.

Hannah Lentz

Made up of five library staff members and 25 student employees, members of the user experience team (UX) at Grand Valley State University are often the first faces students see when utilizing library services.

The UX was created in 2012 in preparation for the opening of the Mary Idema Pew Library in 2013. Since then, the team has worked to ensure that all students using the library have the easiest and most successful access to available resources.

“The team exists to ensure that all students have the best possible experience each and every time that they come to the library,” said Kristin Meyer, user experience librarian. “This includes receiving excellent service as well as having the environment and tools that support their learning.”

Primary responsibilities include assisting patrons with research and circulation needs and assisting with emergency and safety procedures, Meyer said.

The team is also used as an important resource to data collection about how students use the library so that they can then share their observations and feedback with university personnel. The team gives tours, works on a variety of projects and answers any questions that users may have.

Meyer describes the UX team as being the “front face” of library operations.

“This is important because, ultimately, we want the library to positively impact the educational experience of GVSU students,” Meyer said.

Lee Van Orsdel, dean of University Libraries also works to utilize the information gathered by the UX team. Every couple of years, the university conducts studies to make sure they are on track for success in future years. 

Since the UX team plays such a prominent role in library activities, the training process is extensive and comprehensive.

“UX student employees are always expanding their knowledge through continuous training and development,” Meyer said. “They attend an all-day orientation at the beginning of the fall semester, attend workshops throughout the fall and winter semesters, and work on a variety of training activities when it’s slow at the desk.”

Returning students are also involved in the hiring and training of new UX students, giving them additional opportunities for professional growth.

Though UX members stay busy throughout the academic year, Exam Cram and midterm weeks tend to be the busiest weeks in the library.

“Because the library is open extra hours during Exam Cram, this is probably the craziest time of year for the UX team,” Meyer said.

In order to work toward the best possible student experience, the UX team often suggests Exam Cram activities for the library to host, as well as occasional contests and giveaways.

“In the future, we’d like to use the UX team to help increase awareness about library services and provide other kinds of marketing and outreach to students.” Meyer said.

One of the most important elements about the collected data from the UX team is the applications it can have to the daily and future operations of the library system.

“If we are serious about putting students at the center of the library and its programs, we need ongoing ways to measure how we are doing in that regard,” Van Orsdel said.