As noted in Monday’s post “On a hiding to nothing” Rodney Hide has been in the news for saying “I’ve always been keen to include libraries because my mum would never talk to me if I upset libraries.”
The day after that comment on National Radio I tweeted “What would Rodney’s Mum think? New public library policy.” I was only joking but thanks to some comments I started considering if it really was a joke. What would public library policies and service look like to someone known as Rodney’s Mum? Not Hide’s actual mother but a character who could be called “Rodney’s Mum”.
Web designers have been doing this for a while. They use personas to help them keep the end user in mind while creating a website. The website Usability.gov has advice on how to do this.
I thought I would explore if it could be made to work for public library policy setting.
Disclaimer: This person is completely made up based on people I’ve met, articles I’ve read, the fictional person I think Rodney’s Mum is. It is not based at all upon an actual living person and if it bears any resemblance to anyone then it just goes to show that some experiences are universal.
Rodney’s Mum is called Emma. She is 67 years old and lives with her husband on the Hibiscus Coast. They have three grown up children, one of whom lives overseas. Emma has four grandchildren including a teenage granddaughter who lives with them. The other three children range in age from 3-12 and visit every summer holidays. She works Thursday to Sunday in a local retail shop. She doesn’t own a car. She hasn’t had much experience with computers or the Internet. She would like to learn how to keep in touch with her son overseas.
Now the important question : what does this mean for the Public Library?
To start with, being 67 means that Emma qualifies for a SuperGold card. Does this entitle her to any benefits or discounts at the library?
She has a granddaughter living with her. Emma and her husband have been downsizing in preparation for retirement. What services does the library have that will help them and their granddaughter? What collections does the library have that will help them and their granddaughter?
During the summer holidays Emma will be looking for activities that she can do with her younger grandchildren. What sort of programmes or events does the library run in the summer holidays? Do the children have to be members of the library to participate?
Emma works four days a week, including the weekend. Do the library hours make it easy for her to get to the library?
Emma is determined to learn how to use the computer and the Internet. What sort of facilities does the library have in terms of computers and Internet access? What software is on the computers? Does the library run any tutorials that could teach Emma how to use a computer or Skype etc?
Obviously this is a quick and dirty assessment of using personas. Although I didn’t have time to gather enough information to pin down “Emma” I think that using personas rather than aggregated user groups could work. Public libraries often try to be all things to all people. Keeping an individual in mind (even if it’s a fictional one) may result in policies that are easy to understand and keep the library user at the centre.