Friday, September 16, 2005

Undercover market research

I was immensely intrigued by one professor’s attempt to get inside the heads of her target market—undergraduates.  An Arizona State University professor went “undercover” for a year by living and taking classes with students.  She did everything from eating in the cafeteria to balancing a full course load to taking residence in the dorms!  The results of her research prompted her to make changes to her classes by linking her assignments to current issues and events while only assigning readings with a specific purpose.

I’ve also found it beneficial to take classes with undergrads, since they’re the group I’m most focused on day-to-day.  I’m frequently reminded of the balancing act they have to perform between school, work and family, which helps me keep perspective.

The same strategy can help you too!  Get out of the library on occasion and try look at the world through your patrons’ eyes.  It’s all too easy to start thinking of the library as the Center of the Universe and loose sight of how our services figure in the flow of patrons’ lives.  You could think of the library as a puzzle piece in the greater jigsaw of everyday life.  How do we know what shape we should take if we don’t know the shape of the other pieces?  Accomplishing that perfect fit relies on knowing how patrons view libraries from their perspectives, not ours.

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