Observation of the Jerome Library Common Space on the first floor Num 1
With the exception of some of the posters, the color scheme is very drab and dingy—mostly tans and browns
Virtually everything has a hard surface. It’s all made of stone, brick, and metal- with a touch of wood
From left to right—what I can see
Stacks, circulation desk, middle seating area, computer area, more books
There are five different “READ” posters. They all face the same direction and they are all in or close to the computer area. The rest is without clearly visible pictures of people
Virtually everything that can be seen is made of sharp angles with an overabundance of vertical designs and objects
There is a stone pedestal that greets people with directions
The art is all metal—the is a heavy, metal sculpture of angled metal—even the fake tree on the wall is made of metal
There is very little natural light—from where I sat, there are only two plants visible—one appears fake and the other is dying
There are several signs hanging from the ceiling—they are all very standardized
There are tons of electrical chords and sockets
Most of the things around have some sort of wheels – there are tables with wheels, chairs with wheels, racks with wheels, and computer stands with wheels
There is very little visible text around of that visible text there is only one example of playful text
The color scheme is very subdued
Everything is very stiff
It’s all about function
Things seem a little forced and unnatural
The signs are very road signish
There is almost a faux relaxed feel as everything is about movement and hurrying
It really feels like you are not supposed to stop
Observation of the Jerome Library Common Space on the first floor Num 2
In the computer area there is very little interaction – even though the users are facing each other, they rarely look across the short divider
2 Staff members are sitting in the research help area—they are talking but without looking at each other—there is a short burst of excited discussion about a wedding over the weekend. They face each other during this discussion but then quickly turn away.
People will come very close to each other either walking or at tables but they avoid all eye contact.
When someone gets up from a computer, the spot is filled very, very quickly. Others circle the computers waiting.
Even in the chair area where the are groups of chairs facing each other either one person takes up the whole space or the people there don’t talk
When people walk past each other there is very little if any acknowledgement
There is a lot of movement in this area
There are lots of ipods and cell phones—a lot of people are communicating with people outside the library but not in
A loud cart is literally drug through the area but only one person looks up
The research people that were having the conversation are now down talking with each other
One girl looks up and realizes that I am watching—they eye contact is jarring and she quickly goes back to looking at her computer screen
When people do occasionally stop and chat they remain very separate in physicality
There is a lot of frustration with the computers and printers
A group of young men come in, stop, and all get a very confused look. The form a tight circle and talk in hushed tones but don’t move
There is finally a relaxed person—he is one of the library administrators
A couple, clearly a couple but walking very separated, comes and starts talking to one of the research people—The group of young men separates and one goes to talk with the research people—the library staff becomes very exuberant—there is suddenly a ton of energy
After a few minutes the energy goes away with the questions and everything returns to what it was like
The separation is very clear but it seems to be imposed by something other than the computers
Everything feels kind of heavy
This is a little surprising. I never realized how hard the environment is in the library. The way I look at libraries seems to almost be tainted, but now that I think about it, my interaction with the library is very functional as well. I look up the resources elsewhere, right down the numbers, go find them, and then leave. This seems to be the way that this part of the library is designed and what it encourages. This area is purely functional, not fun. It is meant to be a place where people get things done.
There are places where the library is more fun and social. The seventh floor, where the food is, is decorated in brighter colors and all the tables are in groups. There is much less of a vertical perspective there. It is much more comfortable by design. I guess I was expecting a little more collaborative, shared experience in the library. Also, while I wasn’t expecting the types of visual displays one might find in an elementary library, I had expected to find more playful with text, more visible text in general.
I also found this to be a kind of tough exercise. Even in the library it was hard to keep track of everything that was going on. I could easily have spent hours just documenting the physical aspects of the library. Likewise, it was hard to keep the two set observations separate. When I was concentrating on the physical, I couldn’t help but notice the interaction and when I was documenting the interaction I was constantly noticing different things about the physical environment.
I also noticed that people don’t like the presence of the person watching. There were people that would look hard to see what I was writing as I sat at the table and they were quick glances from time-to-time in my direction. They were not aggressive, but even with all the focus on the separate things going on, people noticed me sitting quietly watching.
There is so much to watch for and so many ways of interpreting what our see. I suppose that the color scheme I find to be drab may also be found to be natural and the stone and metal I find to be somewhat hard might be seen as clean and crisp. The text and vertical feel of everything that I find to be imposing might be seen as professional.
Overall, this has been an interesting activity.