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Creating Meaning for Library Users

Two weeks ago I attended an event for the kickoff of the Native Creative Consortium of Vermont. They brought in Nathan Shedroff, a pioneer in Experience Design. His talk was fascinating. He talked about how everything is an experience and that companies and organizations, whether consciously or not, are creating certain types of experiences for their users. Instead of thinking that you’re a shoe manufacturing company, or a computer company, or library, you should be thinking more deeply about what experiences and expecially what meaning you are creating for your users. Shedroff’s main point’s are well captured in this TED talk:

Shedroff discusses 15 core meanings that we have as humans. These meanings are:

  1. Accomplishment – Achieving goals and making something of oneself; a sense of satisfaction that can result from productivity, focus, talent, or status
  2. Beauty – The appreciation of qualities that give pleasure to the senses or spirit
  3. Community – A sense of unity with others around us and a general connection with other human beings
  4. Creation – The sense of having produced something new and original, and in so doing, to have made a lasting contribution
  5. Duty – The willing application of oneself to a responsibility
  6. Enlightenment – Clear understanding through logic or inspiration
  7. Freedom – The sense of living without unwanted constraints
  8. Harmony – The balanced and pleasing relationship of parts to a whole, whether in nature, society, or an individual
  9. Justice – The assurance of equitable and unbiased treatment
  10. Oneness – A sense of unity with everything around us
  11. Redemption – Atonement or deliverance from past failure or decline
  12. Security – The freedom from worry about loss
  13. Truth – A commitment to honesty and integrity
  14. Validation – The recognition of oneself as a valued individual worthy of respect
  15. Wonder – Awe in the presence of a creation beyond one’s understanding

Thinking in terms of meaning when creating resources and services can be a really helpful framework in libraries. At a more professionally focused school (like my institution), accomplishment is likely a meaning that would be important to many students. With this meaning perhaps services would be designed in such a way that students could learn on their own and there are a lot of ways they can Do It Yourself (DIY). Perhaps at liberal arts college, enlightenment would be a more relevant meaning. For these type of users you may want to design more around the “a-ha!” moment. Using this model, you need to examine your own community and tap into what is meaningful to them.

We are not simply delivering access to e-books or databases. We are not only conducting reference interviews or doing information literacy. We are doing something much more important than that.

Andy Burkhardt

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