Seats in the time of COVID: Improving new services with user feedback

In fall 2020, the Libraries quickly developed several new COVID-safe services as we reopened our facilities to students and faculty in the midst of the pandemic. Two such services were Library Takeout, which allows Duke affiliates to pick up reserved books with minimal contact, and an online reservation system for seats and equipment in library study spaces. 

Libraries staff spent significant time over the summer of 2020 developing these new services. Once they were put in operation in the fall of 2020, Assessment & User Experience staff knew we needed to gather feedback from users and analyze data to better understand how the services were working and what could be improved. We developed brief, anonymous feedback surveys to be sent during two-week periods to each person who reserved equipment or a study seat or made an appointment to pick up books. 

 

What did we learn?

The vast majority of the 111 patrons who responded to the Library Takeout survey were extremely satisfied with both wait time and safety precautions, as shown in the figure below.

Satisfaction levels by library location with Library Takeout service

Patrons were also asked what worked well about the process, what did not work well, and whether they had any additional comments or suggestions. There were 69 comments about things that worked well. The most prevalent themes in these compliments were clear instructions, very short wait times, friendly security and staff, access to parking, and adequate safety precautions.

The directions were clear, the parking pass for the Upper Allen lot made arriving on campus for pick up easy, the security staff were helpful and efficient, and the library staff was cheerful and helpful as I’ve come to expect.

Very rigorous about precautions. Keep it that way.

There were 34 comments about things that did not work well, many of which also make suggestions for improvements. For example: 

  • There was interest in the Libraries offering weekend hours for materials pick-up
  • Several students found the check-in requirements at the library entrance confusing 
  • There were complaints about having to make appointments at all to pick up materials 
  • Several students reported issues with their parking passes not opening the gates
  • Interest in having the confirmation email for a scheduled pick-up be sent earlier
  • Several felt that the security presence at the doors was uncomfortable

The survey for seat and equipment reservations received 114 responses in the two-week period in which this survey was distributed at the beginning of the fall semester. Users were asked how easy five activities were: using the online system to book, checking in, finding the seat/equipment, using it, and cleaning up/checking out. An overwhelming percent of users found it “extremely easy” to use their seat/equipment (89%). In general, close to two-thirds of users found each of the other activities “extremely easy.” When “Somewhat easy” and “extremely easy” responses are combined, between 85-97% of respondents found each activity easy. The activity with the lowest “easy” score (85%) was “cleaning up and checking out after your reservation.” 

Seat/equipment reservations: how easy or difficult were the following activities?

When asked what worked well about reserving and using a seat or equipment, many praised the booking website for its clarity, simplicity, and ease of use, and also praised the entire process. Students were happy to be assured of a seat when they came to the library, and many commented on how clean, quiet, and nicely socially distanced the library was. Compliments were offered for the signage as well as for the security staff’s assistance in finding seats.

It was easy from start to finish. The security guard at the front was very helpful in explaining how to find my seat.

Was happy to see cleaning supplies to wipe down the desk area. felt safe. good social distancing precautions!

When asked what did not work well about reserving and using a study seat or equipment, reported issues included the following: 

  • Some respondents hadn’t realized they were supposed to check out online or clean their seating area when they were finished. The Libraries should add visuals next to the seats instructing on these procedures. 
  • When reserving, patrons can’t tell which seats are close to electrical outlets or windows. They requested a floorplan, map, or photos of the spaces so they can see where the seats are in relation to other things. 
  • Multiple people asked for the ability to easily extend one’s study time in the same seat if no one had booked it after them by the time their session was up. 
  • For the website, several people complained about the inability to edit reservation times without canceling and rebooking the whole thing, and a few other clunky visual things about the tool used for reservations. 
  • Several people requested weekend hours for the service. 

 

Changes we were able to make based on feedback

By gathering student feedback when we first began offering these services, we were able to quickly make changes so that the services better met our users’ needs. Below is a list of some of the key changes we made in response to survey feedback. 

  1. Revised and expanded opening hours in both Lilly and Perkins & Bostock Libraries in response to student requests and an analysis of usage patterns based on reservation system data.
  2. Removed the “check in” requirement for study seat users early in the fall semester, once we realized this was posing problems
  3. Added floorplans, images, and descriptions to the study seat reservation system so that users can get more info as they book study seats (here’s an example)
  4. Added more physical signage in the buildings to help students find their seats
  5. Developed a guide to study seats, including pictures, descriptions, and amenities of seats in Lilly, Music, Perkins, Bostock, and Rubenstein 
  6. Added online information so that students can easily see which seats do not have access to electrical outlets when deciding which seat to reserve (see this example)
  7. Added an Interview Room for students to book for 90-minute periods. Students can use this space to participate in virtual interviews.
  8. Added information about parking, elevator access, and daily reservation limits to the Reserve a Seat webpage and Reservation system.
  9. Increased outreach and marketing about reservable Study Seats through email blasts, social media, and blog posts. Library Takeout got plenty of buzz through this catchy video that went viral this past fall (870,000 views and counting)!

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