These use scenarios are intended to guide our thinking as we consider the ways in which different types of patrons use the Urbana Free Library computer lab. We chose to focus on teens, business owners, job hunters, seniors, Parkland students, and casual users as we feel these categories encompass the populations in the lab.
Patron A is a student at Urbana High School. He does not have access to a computer with internet capabilities at home and so he uses the library lab quite a bit to work on school assignments and complete homework. He uses Microsoft office the complete word processing documents, create PowerPoint presentations, for English , Reading, Science and Social Studies classes. He works in Excel to practice activities he is learning about in his computer class about spreadsheets. He also uses the internet to research and access information for assignments and to access class web sites some teachers may have. John uses the library’s access to databases such as EBSCO and other supplemental resources such as encyclopedias and CD’s etc. to complete school assignments. Some teachers also use blogs in their courses and have students post to those, and so Patron A has access to blogs as well.
Patron B uses that lab for social networking purposes and to stay in tune with every thing that is taking place on all of her social networking sites. Patron B shares photos, information about events, and just connects and stays in touch with family and friends through these outlets. (Facebook, twitter, MySpace, blogs etc.)
Patron C uses the lab strictly to have access to email. He keeps in touch with friends and gets alerts etc. from the library about materials he has requested, books, etc. Patron C also uses email to communicate with teachers and keep track of his grades and assignments.
Patron D uses the lab for entertainment purposes. She gathers with friends and looks at YouTube videos, watches videos and movies, and uses ITunes to download music and videos to her IPod.
Patron A comes into the library to use the computer to make posters for a church function that will be going on at her church. This person will be named Vicki. Vicki goes to the computers and she sit down to use the computer to make the posters. Vicki is a 63 years old and she has a problem seeing the computer screen very well so, she will need help to make sure that the information that she is putting on the poster is correct. The computer that is designated for the seniors doesn’t have any software on the computer that will magnify the words on the computers, so this is a big technology problem that the library has for the senior citizens that come in to use the computers.
Patron B like to come in the library and use the library, however the space that is provided for disable patrons is not very good for the users. The computers desk doesn’t support his wheelchair. Sometimes he can use other computers to do the work he need to do on the computer, but sometimes it is a problem since the computer lab is mostly full at all times. The space need to be rearrange so everyone that come to the library can use the computers without problems.
Patron C often come into the library for group meetings with her friends so they can plan community activities. They want to have more seniors programs in the community and they want to get more seniors to come to the library to use the computers. They want to focus on creating programs that seniors can do when they come to the library. They like to use the computers and need the space and the necessary software on the computers to be able to use them.
Users Conducting Business
Patron A spends most of his days trading stocks online. We’ll call him James. James is middle-aged and likes to go to UFL to do his trading because from there he has free access to many business periodicals. It also gets him out of the house. He brings his own laptop and works at one of the tables on the 2nd floor. James is an experienced user and a regular patron and almost never needs assistance from the library staff. His only complaint is that that sometimes he wishes that UFL’s wireless connection was faster. He often has multiple browser tabs open and updating continuously.
Patron A is a middle aged job-seeker whose computer skills are fairly low. He comes to the library every day because he does not have a computer at home and knows that most jobs are now posted online. Each morning, he sits down at the same computer in the lab and logs in. He uses the library computers to search job sites, look up jobs he found in the paper, fill in online applications, and email friends and family about job opportunities. He struggles because he does not always feel comfortable navigating some company websites and is often unsure of how to submit his job materials because these sites are frequently not user friendly.
Some days he brings a friend with him who is a little more computer savvy. She is better at finding hidden “Employment Opportunity” links and at knowing what goes where on the forms. Other times, when he gets stuck, he will sit for quite awhile clicking different buttons and trying to figure out websites before he finally approaches the desk for help. He also often prints out job ads because he prefers to read them on paper. He rarely has trouble figuring out the printer.
During his initial visits to the library computer lab, Patron A had a lot of questions about what should be included in his online application forms (for example how far back should he fill in his job history) in addition to more basic computer use questions. He also had to set up an email account that he now uses regularly.
Patron B is just out of high school and trying to find a part-time job. She is good at navigating social media type websites but has little experience searching for jobs. While she does have a computer at home, it is fairly slow and unreliable. She depends on her smartphone for most of her internet needs.
Patron B generally often does not quite know where to start her job searches. She pokes around websites of stores in the area until she finds job listings. Filling out the application forms is usually pretty simple for her. She is extremely hesitant to ask questions because she is afraid of looking stupid and so has really benefited from librarians who simply ask if she needs any help as the push in chairs and walk around the lab. When approached in this way, she is more comfortable.
Recently, librarians have directed Patron B towards larger job boards such as Monster.com and she has begun working on a more formal resume in the hope of landing a better part-time job. She has lots of questions about how to format a resume and what belongs on it but is still clearly unsure about asking for help. Librarians often see her searching for websites that provide more direction and templates for these tasks.
Elizabeth, a Parkland College student, walked into the computer lab. She’d gotten here right at 1 pm on Sunday, since she knew the lab would be pretty busy soon. Given that she lived in Urbana but did not have a car, getting to Parkland was difficult on weekends, because it was a long way out there and the bus ran infrequently on weekends. This made the Urbana Free Library’s computer lab the most convenient choice for doing her work on weekends. She didn’t have a computer of her own, so needed to use the lab’s computers for everything from email to taking tests. Today, she was planning to use Angel, Parkland’s classroom management system, watch a video assigned by one of her professors, work on a paper, check her email, and take an online, timed test.
Elizabeth picked a computer in the front left corner of the lab, hoping it would be reasonably quiet. She was facing directly towards the wall, and had a wall to her left, to try to reduce the level of distraction from other users. She settled in and began logging into Angel. Right away she had a problem; the site was timing out and not letting her log in. Elizabeth asked a tech volunteer if he had any idea what was going on, and was told that the bandwidth cap on the public computers sometimes caused problems when accessing larger or more complicated sites. At his recommendation, she refreshed the screen and was able to log in.
Now Elizabeth was ready to try watching the video her professor had assigned. When she clicked on the link to watch the video, however, she was told that the Flash on her computer needed to be updated. She called the tech volunteer over again and was informed that, unfortunately, there was nothing he could do, since he didn’t have administrative privileges and couldn’t approve a Flash update. Apparently, Elizabeth was going to have to go in early to class on Monday and see if she could into an open lab on campus in order to watch the video.
Frustrated, she moved on to working on her paper. She opened up Word and started typing. She carefully saved her drafts every few minutes, saving onto a USB flash drive she had brought with her. This way she could take her paper with her anyway. She had already done most of the work on the paper at school during the week, so finished the final section of the paper, gave it a quick run through, and uploaded it to her professor’s drop box on Angel. It took a little while for the upload to complete, but since she was already in Angel, was able to successfully submit her paper.
Next, she checked her email to see if any new important messages had come in. She spent a few minutes reading and replying to email, before moving on to her test. Soon enough, she decided she was ready for the exam. She opened up the single-access, online exam and began working through the problems. She was moving along nicely, but had only answered about three quarters of the questions. Unfortunately, Elizabeth had not noticed the room filling up behind her. She was so busy she didn’t take note of the popup box warning her of the upcoming thirty minute limit on the computer, since the first thirty minute limit already came and passed while she was doing her email. Since there had not been many users in the lab at the end of the first thirty minutes, she’d been able to easily extend her time. This time around, when the thirty minute limit hit, her screen shut down. Aghast, Elizabeth went running over to the tech desk. Again, however, there turned out to be nothing they could do since she hadn’t requested a time extension in advance. The test Elizabeth had been taking could not be re-opened, since it was designed as a single-access link.
Therefore, despite the fact that Elizabeth’s leaving the site was not her fault, she had no way to get back to it. She was going to have to go to her professor on Monday, or even try to write her an email today, once she could get onto a different computer, and ask if there was any way she could finish the exam. If not, despite Elizabeth’s certainty that she had done well on the questions she had already answered, she could get at most at 75%, since that was about how many questions she had already finished.
Really upset by this point, Elizabeth waited for access to a computer again, in order to send her professor an email about her test, then gave up and went home. She could easily do Word processing and email on the library’s lab computers, but had been unable to watch her video or finish her test. She wished the system worked better for her own needs, since going to Parkland was very inconvenient on weekends, but despite the helpfulness of the tech volunteers, using the UFL computers for her specific needs proved too hard.