Library Diploma

What is it?
The Library Diploma is a free library service aiming to assist users when they want to learn. Every user will have a personal librarian, who will act as councillor, mentor and guide and who will mediate with the library network. The service also encompasses organisation of the so-called talking room, where like-minded people share opinions or embark on exhibition trips. The Library Diploma has no time pressure for completion. Users only need the will to learn. We create a safety net for the user. And they simply learn at their own pace.

Who is it for?

Basically, it is for people of any age who want to learn. We focused mostly on people who have just retired, but literally anyone can join. Retirees are typically energetic and have time to do activities for and by themselves. For people who don’t have an idea about what they might study, the Library Diploma can be a life changing eye-opener creating new learning goals.

Why is it valuable?
The Library Diploma program transforms the library info to multi-dimensional learning environment for users who need a little support and motivation in their studies. The same also supports the library’s traditional user base, self-motivated learners, by framing their explorations within a larger context and providing the opportunities to meet and discuss their interests with others.

The Library Diploma gives people new meanings and goals in life. Especially for our target group, retired people, who are likely to appreciate new focuses in life. It’s also a great opportunity for them to meet like-minded people in a natural way – as a means for establishing or increasing social life.

For librarians, it’s great to mentor somebody. Knowing more about how the user feels about, say, a book, will dramatically improve their professional skills. Sharing the user’s happiness from learning can also make routine work more meaningful.

How does it work?
Every user is connected to a personal librarian. This match is intended to become a long-term relationship centered around knowledge consultation. The role of the librarian can be seen as curator, host and coordinator of the learning phase of choice. When a user is hooked on a particular domain,
the librarian can, in collaboration with Copenhagen University and other higher educational institutions, set up a meeting with a faculty representative – just like finding book through the database.

What were your key learnings?
The library is designed for self-guided learners. The library’s role is to provide books or knowledge. However, even if we read an entire book, we may only know half of the knowledge inside, or maybe there are some misunderstandings or content that is hard to grasp. Library users often require more assistance. The more we use the knowledge, the more deeply we understand it. If If the library wants to promote knowledge, it should also provide an environment to grow that knowledge.

The library is designed for self-guided learners who can help themselves, but most non-library users are not good self-guided learners. They don’t think they can get what they need from the library because they don’t know how to.

Our Process

Week One – The context

After the first presentation at the Central Library, we got a good glimpse of the situation. One question we chose to explore in our research was “how do‘power-users’ optimise their time at the library?” We hoped to understand their usage patterns and possibly apply that learning to all library users.

Week Two – User Insight

We decided it could be informative to go straight to the library ‘power-user, so the second week we tried some research probes. We printed some flyers and stuck them in ordered books, hung out at different libraries with an arsenal of questions and picked people to talk to. We got to meet people from all walks of life, some with the weirdest reasons to go to the library. To add to this qualitative data, we made a questionnaire with some of our most central questions. We also went to a
lunch break at a nearby high school, handing out questionnaires and pens for the teenagers to express their feelings about the library.

So, more than 15 interviews, probes, stickers and 30 freezing teenagers all added up to a good status quo on the library in Copenhagen. From the user research we generated three design challenges. The one we decided to focus on was: How might we design the process from “I want to know about a new
subject” to “I really understand it”?

Week Three – First Concepts
Divided into small groups the class set off for a couple of days of idea bombardment. Hundreds and hundreds of drawings were nailed to the wall, some more silly than others, but all in the spirit of inspiring, determining immediate concerns and expressing first concepts. A research framework emerged which helped consolidate our learnings. We selected three concepts: knowledge servant, talking room and self-service learning.

Week Four – Experience Prototyping

We refined our concepts in to the Library Diploma. Putting ourselves in the shoes of our target users, we imagined the different phases of our service. Realising it would be close to impossible to prototype them, all, we agreed upon the key phase, that would yield the most feedback. We decided to host a graduation ceremony. By sharing an imagined experience with the target group, we were able to dive in to the action and get some very valuable feedback.

We also observed some interesting things we hadn’t considered before the prototype. For example, we observed how good it is for librarians to share the happiness of achievement and graduation with their students.

Week Five – Concept/Solution

The service blueprint consists of three main parts: Awareness, Education Path and Feedback/Diploma.

At the Awareness phase potential users get notified by pamphlets, posters and introductory meetings. The library with additionally send letters to the target group. When users register to join the service they will have a personal librarian who will be the curator of their learning process.

At the Education Path phase personal librarians will integrate related resources for the user such as introducing a domain professor, talking room sessions, organising exhibition trips and meetings with like-minded people.

At the Feedback phase, every time users join an activity or read a book, they will accumulate credit. When a user has enough credit and meetings with the domain mentor, they will be eligible to receive a Library Diploma.