User testing of Find-a-book

At the start of this academic year, we launched Find-a-book – a new way of showing users the location of books in LibrarySearch (our catalogue), combined with new shelf signage. All the previous tools for finding books have remained in place.

Find-a-book gives people the wing, floor and row (ie the exact bookshelf) on which a book is shelved. This information is two clicks away from the search results screen on LibrarySearch.

See more about Find-a-book, including a short video.

To new students attending our library inductions, Find-a-book was shown as the way to find books in the library.

With returning students, we shared a news item through our blog, email, and social media to inform them of the change. But the penetration rates of our news are quite low, so we had to rely on them finding this service intuitively through the LibrarySearch interface.

We wanted to find out how well Find-a-book works and how widely it is used by students. We used two methods of testing:

  1. short user interviews/user led tours, to find out how students find books in the library
  2. quick surveys for staff at the Loan Desk, IT & Library Support Desk and East Help Point to capture what stopped students from finding books on the shelf.


We asked students if:

  • they were in the library to find a book
  • they’d mind if we tag along to observe them as they go to find the book on the shelf.

We incentivised with a free drink voucher for the Library café. Most students were very happy to help.

We interviewed 10 students in Templeman East and 8 students in Templeman West.

We captured the following information:

  • their year of study
  • their course or subject
  • how often they use the library
  • what information about the book and its location they use to find it
  • what happened.

Support desk surveys

We knew that the students we spoke to in the interviews would be those who were likely to do well in finding books on the shelf.

For balance, we also wanted to capture those students who failed to find books. To understand what went wrong for those students, we asked staff on the IT & Library Support Desk, the Loan Desk, and the East Help Point to fill in a short questionnaire when they got a query about finding books.

We captured queries from over 100 students, which showed that the problems encountered by first year and returning students are remarkably similar.

What we learned

For the students who know about Find-a-book it works well, but awareness is actually very low, which shows that it is not obvious enough in the LibrarySearch interface.

Returning students, in particular, seemed to do what they’d always done: go to the area where they know the classmarks for their subjects are shelved.

We didn’t get to watch a lot of students search LibrarySearch, as many had looked up the book information before coming to the Library.

For the full report of the testing and results please go to our Sharepoint Community of Practice site (IS staff only).