Library ethnography is a relatively low-risk field. We are, as researchers, observing public behavior in public spaces, and asking people about what they do in the pursuit of their academic goals. However, people’s lives are not always easily compartmentalized into public and private, academic/professional and personal, and there is a lot of grey area wherein private events in personal lives can have a huge impact on someone’s public/professional/academic behavior and choices.
This will be pretty brief, because while thinking of what to write, I back-tracked to a blog post of mine of six months ago and I see that I have already stolen my own thunder. Hey ho!
But a word or two in any case about stories and the whole qualitative thing whilst I’m here. On the one hand I adore statistics especially the ones that improve year on year, and yet I actually thrive, and probably implement most change, based on qualitative ‘stories’.
So obviously I’m biased. I’m writing on here because I’m a firm believer in using in-depth qualitative data collection to learn about what people are doing in libraries. When I presented in London at the end of March as part of the ‘Spaces, places and practices’ seminar, organised by UCL and IoE, I can’t tell you how excited I was to see so many people there interested in the same thing, in trying out the same methods, and most importantly a desire to learn about their patrons, their community of visitors, to try and provide the best user experience they can. The following is roughly the same stuff I said at the seminar, but I’ve got more room here to add some qualifying information and some useful links/info!
On 31 March 2014, I was fortunate to be invited to a seminar on anthropology in libraries called ‘Spaces, places and practices’. This seminar was a joint venture by UCL and IOE, with generous support from the UCL/IOE Ideas Incubator Fund.
In the morning, we heard from several speakers who discussed the work that they were doing in different libraries and using different methods. I took limited notes because I was listening so intently to what everyone was saying so I hope my write-up is at least a fairly accurate representation of what was discussed. We hope to be able to present a more detailed picture of some of the content summarised below on this blog in due course, thereby covering anything that I’ve missed.
Lots of tweets came out of the seminar and I have collated them all as a Storify.