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Presentation for the UXiLibs 2016
“Speak, friend, and enter” – Labyrinths, symbolic spaces, and gated communities in university libraries
“‘What does it mean by speak, friend, and enter?’ asked Merry. ‘That is plain enough’, said Gimli. ‘If you are a friend speak the password, and the doors will open, and you can enter.’”
Library spaces can work as gated communities, labyrinths, and access deniers: They hinder users in navigating through the information architecture built of rooms, shelves and books. If a user hasn’t enough library experience, he/she will get lost within the library building. But for those who succeed, library spaces often are symbolic spaces. They appropriate the spaces: they understand and modify the social and material environment by for instance choosing a favourite (work)place and (re-)arranging the furniture. They develop a feeling of belonging and ownership over ‘their spaces’.
Using a mix of methods of user experience research and ethnography like participant observation, interviews, and mental maps, I conducted a comparative case study among university libraries in Europe. My presentation will illustrate some of the results and trace the used methods along examples from the data material. The aim is to give an insight in possibilities to investigate and improve library spaces.