Students and Service Design: Reflections on the Work of the Undergraduate Collections Service Design Team

Sticky note of a light bulb pinned on a cork board.

Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash

Over the course of the 2020-2021 academic year, four librarians and four students worked together as part of the Undergraduate Collection Service Design Team. Approaching projects through the lens of service design allows for experimentation and testing of ideas without sticking to one solution to solve a problem or address an issue. 

The formation and work of the Undergraduate Collection Service Design Team grew out of previous research and investigations on how to evolve undergraduate collections to keep up with the changing needs of students. The aim of the service design team was to investigate the initial design question: “How might we make undergraduate collections at U-M a community-driven service?” 

Below, four student members reflect on their experiences as part of this service design team.

Cindy Huang - Peer Information Consultant 

As part of the Undergraduate Collections Service Design team, I had the opportunity to help librarians assess the current undergraduate collections at Shapiro Library. Over the course of this project, our team has worked to determine the needs and wants of undergraduate students at Michigan and how undergraduate collections can meet them. 

To more clearly understand undergraduate students’ perspectives on the collections, our team relied on user interviews. The team first recruited a large pool of undergraduate students that were interested in participating in the study. From that group, the team then chose candidates that met all of the selection criterias. The team made diversity a priority in the selection process of interview candidates to ensure representation of students of all backgrounds. We tried to include students of different genders, ethnicities, class standing, majors, and identities. A standardardized interview protocol and list of interview questions were also developed so that the structure of each interview was the same for each participant. 

I had the opportunity to conduct three user interviews with current students to learn about their experiences with the library. The interviews all went smoothly and it was great to hear the diverse opinions and attitudes students had about the undergraduate collections. As a UX design major in the School of Information, working on this project was a great opportunity to apply what I’ve learned in the classroom to a real-world example. Conducting these interviews has been great practice for me as a UX researcher, and it’s been great working with different librarians in each of the interviews I’ve facilitated. Each interview has also helped me become better at answering questions about the library on the spot as well as rewording the questions so that it is easier for others to understand. Overall, working on the Undergraduate Collections Service Design project has been a very rewarding experience and I’ve enjoyed learning more about the library. 

Anusha Santhapur - Peer Information Consultant 

Coming into this project as a student employee in the library, I was newer to Service Design and the Undergraduate Collections compared to some of the other members of the team. I had also never conducted formal interviews for a study, so I was a bit apprehensive going into the interview phase of our work. One thing that immediately stood out to me was the level of planning that went into the entire process. We spent a lot of time selecting and fine-tuning the survey questions and the student demographics in order to make sure that we got the information that we needed. The whole process was much more detailed and took more time than I had thought it would, though I felt much more prepared for the interviews once we had everything ready to go. 

Even with the extra practice from mock interviews, when it finally came time to interact with the participants, I was a bit nervous. I wanted everything to go according to plan, but I was worried about messing up or forgetting anything important. But I surprised myself with how quickly I got comfortable with the process. All of my interviews went really smoothly, and I got to meet some wonderful people as a result. In the end, when we were conducting our transcription analysis, I was amazed by the diversity in the students and their experiences with the library. No two students had the same story to tell, though there were definitely some parallels too. Their interviews made me understand that the library is not a one size fits all service. Everyone has different needs that we should do our best to cater to. The library needs to be as diverse as the student body it serves. Overall, the interviews were definitely a highlight of my experience with the Service Design team this year.

"No two students had the same story to tell, though there were definitely some parallels too. Their interviews made me understand that the library is not a one size fits all service."

Lauren Peng - Student Engagement Fellow

I loved working with the Undergraduate Service Design Team this year, so much so that my only regret is that we weren’t able to do some of the work in person! Regardless, it’s been a great experience, and the team has been awesome. One of my favorite parts of the work was conducting the interviews with students. It was definitely nerve-wracking at first, as I had never conducted any sort of structured interview with multiple subjects to gather a series of related data, so I was really worried that my reading of the script or tone could influence, and therefore mess up, the data gathered. However, with the help and guidance of the team (with particular kudos to Autumn!) I became more and more confident during these interviews. By the end, it was super rewarding to talk to these people about their library experiences. 

The overall work was completely worth it and one of the most productive experiences I’ve had during the pandemic. I participated in designing the interview protocol, conducted the interviews, and understood the common themes throughout the results, and how we could use them in our designs! It was super rewarding to see all our hard work build and build into what will eventually be a tangible product to help undergraduate students. Also, it helped boost my confidence in conducting interviews, and taught me how to both follow a script and also adapt to the specific interviewee’s understanding and expertise. It was definitely one of my favorite experiences within the service design work we conducted!

Bianca Gunawan - Student Engagement Fellow 

Working for the University of Michigan Library as part of the Undergraduate Collection Service Design team has been a wonderful experience. The welcoming team and comfortable working environment made it easy to speak up and share my ideas with everyone. However, that doesn’t mean that there were no challenges throughout my working experience.
Designing a service to improve user experience with library collections demands creativity and thinking outside the box to formulate ideas, research questions, touchpoints, or prototypes, and I have to acknowledge that creativity isn’t my strongest skill. Luckily, my colleagues were very supportive as they were willing to guide me in addition to answering all my questions. With the help of the team, I managed to overcome that problem and I can say that I definitely improved in problem-solving, creativity, and collaborating with peers.

Next Steps

Over summer 2021, some students will continue working with the Undergraduate Collections Librarian and Undergraduate Collections Coordinator to prototype and pilot some of the ideas developed during the previous semesters’ work. These ideas relate to exhibiting collections, involving students in collections activity, and ways to promote collections and services to undergraduates.