Small town public library life and library school topics of interest

College Bound Teen User Experiences

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In my blog from September 29, I introduced two students, Jordan and Stephen, college bound teens from Paso Robles High School. Although they have rather different career goals, these two students both used similar sources when searching for information, namely the Internet, friends and family, and the Crimson, the high school newsmagazine. I will now look at how these teens approach the user experience and see how their user needs compare to the course literature authored by Bivens-Tatum, MacManus and Wu (et al), including a third student, Taylor Ellstrom, a bit of a statistical outlier in terms of his perspective and needs.

Seventeen-year-old senior classman Taylor Ellstrom is busy with five Advanced Placement classes and applying to four-year colleges. His top college choices are the University of California at Berkeley and Azuza Pacific University. He is interested in a biology degree, emphasizing cellular biology, specifically viruses. Being a creationist, he hopes to write about biology from a creationist’s perspective for a creation institute such as the Creation Studies Institute (http://www.creationstudies.org/). Taylor is active in the local Calvary Chapel Youth Group, and this past summer traveled to South America to help impoverished people there build new homes. He was on the city’s Youth Commission for two years, and plays flute as a hobby. Taylor has been a volunteer in our library’s Summer Teen Volunteer Program for several years.

Richard MacManus (2012), in writing about user experience, states that an elegant user interface, valuable results, fast start-up, consistency, and an ability to “revolutionize the way we do things” (It changes you, para. 1) are all essential features for a successful product. Jordan, Stephen, and Taylor all enjoy reading the school newsmagazine, a popular source that meets all of MacManus’s criteria for a positive user experience. They all remarked on the layout of the paper and how eye-catching it is (elegant user interface). This monthly publication is available in both hard copy and online (http://issuu.com/crimsonchronicle); all three interviewees read the hard copy; none mentioned the online version. I did access the online version for purposes of this assignment (although I, too, usually read the paper copy which comes in my local newspaper subscription), and I found the start-up to be fast and easy to access – just click on the issue and read away (fast start-up). Because the magazine is written by and about student life in Paso Robles, the value placed on the Crimson by each student was high; each student said the newsmagazine is read cover to cover (valuable results and consistency is presentation). Finally, the students all said that they have been inspired by feature articles on such tough topics as homelessness and the dangers of Raves. This is also their favorite way to receive everyday entertainment information when making decisions about what local events to attend (It changes you). No other source named by the students in our interviews received an equivalent amount of praise as did the Crimson.

Wayne Bivens-Tatum (2010) describes the ideal user interaction as having “ease (of use), familiarity, simplicity, and quality…in that order” (Sympathy for the user, para. 5). Although Bivens-Tatum was talking about interactions with library staff specifically, I believe his standards for an excellent user experience can apply to social media sites as well. In discussing social media sites with Stephen, Taylor and Jordan, the only site all three currently use is Facebook. These teens use Facebook mainly to follow the activities of friends and family and to share their own life experiences. Both Jordan and Stephen regularly use Facebook, and Taylor describes himself as an occasional user. They all described Facebook as something they could look at quickly between classes or when taking a quick break from homework. They found it easy to share information, comments on others’ postings, and add photos to their own postings. All the teens were very familiar with Facebook, which is not surprising since it started up about ten years ago when these students were in elementary school. The one area that Facebook did less well in Bivens-Tatum’s list of standards is in the area of quality (the least important factor). None of the students would consult Facebook for any serous research, finding the articles that circulate to be, as Taylor stated, “a bunch of videos of cat antics.” Because they all use the site to keep up with family and friends, it is possible, however, that for finding out what their friends are planning for the weekend, the site might be put to good use. When setting up these interviews, for example, I Facebook messaged both Jordan and Stephen which led to successful interview scheduling.

The main point of looking at user experience is, of course, to see how these teens and their peers are using the library and its resources. Jin Wu and others (2014) state that there are “three critical facets for designing student-focused library technology products: device ownership, awareness of software and technology, and willingness to use devices and software to interact with the library” (p.125). All three of these students had multiple technological tools to access the library including smart phones and home computers (both desk and laptop), so accessing the library’s online content is easy for any of these students. When asked if they use our online databases and downloadable eContent, Jordan and Stephen were surprised to find out that we have such things, and Taylor, although a library volunteer, did not think we would have anything that would be of use to him. These college-bound teens had no idea that we have databases with practice AP and SAT exams or that we have a Tuition Funding Source database to help them find money for college. They also were not aware that we have hundreds of downloadable classic ebooks that could be found on their college-prep reading lists. Clearly, our library needs to focus on making the teen population in our city aware of what we offer. Only when we find better ways to communicate what we have will we be able to encourage our college bound teens to access the library’s collections and services.

The teens I have interviewed have all been bright, enthusiastic, tech-savvy students. Our challenge continues to be finding new ways to reach out to let them know the library has free offerings for them, many of which can be accessed right from their home computer or smart phone.

Bivens-Tatum, W. (2010). Imagination, sympathy, and the user experience. Library Journal, 8. Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2010/11/ljarchives/imagination-sympathy-and-the-user-experience/#_ 

MacManus, R. (2012, January 29). 5 signs of a great user experience [Web log post]. readwrite. Retrieved from http://readwrite.com/2012/01/29/5_signs_of_a_great_user_experience#awesm=~ ocL9VnevIGi9qB

Wu, J., Chatfield, A., Hughes, A., Kysh, L., & Rosenbloom, M. (2014). Measuring patrons’ technology habits: An evidence-based approach to tailoring library services. Journal of the Medical Library Association, 102(2), 125-129. Retrieved from http://libaccess.sjlibrary.org/ login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?irect=true&db=ofm&AN=95705185&site=ehost-live 

One thought on “College Bound Teen User Experiences

  1. This is an interesting choice for topic. I wonder if there is a difference in what sources they use compared to their high school. I like that you found an area of growth for the library to reach more teens with the resources they have. I look forward to reading your blog.


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