Public libraries are an essential piece of what sociologist Eric Klinenberg calls social infrastructure: "the physical elements of community that act as a conduit to bring people together and build social capital through recurring interactions". In a global pandemic, libraries and their resources are more important than ever for young people, and also more difficult to access.
I am still in the design phase for this project. I am designing a library program that encourages teens to explore their library and forge social connections by grouping them into teams.
I interviewed library users, administrative staff, and librarians to understand the value their public library provides.
I learned that the library is a lot of things to a lot of people.
Libraries are uniquely positioned to connect community members to each other and to resources especially during a pandemic, but are currently forced to do so without physical social infrastructure.
How might we transfer the value of a library’s shared space to a virtual world?
Engaging with library staff and the library’s collection are often the first steps users take toward a more trusting engagement and a sense of belonging in library spaces.
How might we invite users to engage directly with librarians and feel ownership over library resources?
Using simple storyboards and sketches, I evaluated early concepts with teens and teen librarians to understand the feasibility and desirability of my design directions.
Though my features are not locked in yet, my ideation has been guided by four key design principles.
Adapts based on the users and their passions, because teens' interests are constantly changing.
Builds trust, a sense of ownership, and excitement about library resources by inviting users into the creation of programs and curation of resources.
Encourages connection, because libraries are uniquely equipped to bring a community's members together.
Brings the library, its resources, and librarians into the community because the physical library is not always easily accessible.
I will complete my thesis in a series of design sprints, each aimed at increasing the focus and fidelity of my solution. Check back here for updates as this project draws to a close!