Campus Walk

August 17th, 2006 by Adam

Student at LibraryYesterday, Ed Mahlum and I spent a couple of hours walking around our old stomping grounds at the University of Washington to observe how people interact with both print and digital documents. We visited computer labs, libraries, and coffee shops. Here are a few random observations:

  • Librarians are very helpful and like to answer questions! Among other things, we were pointed to a site containing survey results on UW library usage and given direct contact information of those in charge of technology, library usage statistics, etc…
  • Computer labs at UW Campus were about 75% Dell / 25% Mac. I’m sure one of our new contacts could give us an exact count on this, but that is what it looked like to me.
  • The campus computer store and the people using laptops in free WiFi areas seem to be weighted the other way (about 75% Mac / 25% PC)
  • There is a lot of free WiFi on or near campus.
  • People we observed using computers were usually doing e-mail, on MySpace type web sites, or composing Word documents. We also saw someone using Wikipedia and a few people playing games. We wondered how folks go about installing their own software (games, for example) on computer lab machines.
  • Not many people were reading material on computers besides the activities above.
  • A librarian told us that eBooks were not popular with Librarians or students because of the archaic DRM restrictions.
  • The library will not subscribe to document databases (of academic papers or newspaper archives, for example) that restrict printing in any way. These databases are usually an annual subscription fee.
  • There was a good selection of flash drives and voice recorders at the campus computer store.
  • An employee of the campus computer store said that very few people want to buy scanners. He had a price sheet for some flatbed and multi-function scanners, but none in stock.

All in all, I think it is great to get out of the office and into environments where people will be using our products. If we choose to focus on higher education as a starting point (which is a strong contender), I think it would be cool to move our office to a major campus so that we have many more opportunities to cross paths with our target audience on a daily basis. Maybe we could even go Delicious Monster style and set up shop in one of the Free WiFi areas of campus!

Ed, I encourage you to chime in with other observations if I missed anything. You can see pictures from our trip here.

One Response to “Campus Walk”

  1. Hugh Says:

    This is a really nicely presented report.

    It might be worth getting in touch with the University of California which has a major project underway to digitalise its libraries.