Using Library Patron Feedback to Improve the Online User Experience

Do patrons notice the design of your catalog and your website? They sure do, and at BiblioCommons, we’ve found that library patrons are very proactive about sharing feedback when given the opportunity. Their feedback can be your library’s secret weapon to improving the online user experience (UX.)

Librarians and library staff are no strangers to UX. It’s a known fact that the library user experience is about more than the digital touchpoints. It extends to the entire experience patrons have with their library, from the moment they physically enter the building and speak with a library staff member, to searching in the online catalog, to the emails they receive. UX is approached with a holistic lens, and like a domino effect, one touchpoint can affect another.

What’s interesting to note is that in the last year, digital use and online content consumption increased significantly. In fact, a study conducted in five countries with over 10,000 people shows that online content consumption doubled in 2020. There’s no doubt that digital use will continue to grow post-pandemic. Consumers are more technologically savvy than they’ve ever been before, and the rate of digital adoption is incredibly fast. The audiences who spend vast amounts of time on social media, news websites, and streaming services are also the same people that libraries are trying to reach with their services. As the speed of tech advancements increases in other sectors, users will expect libraries to keep up.


Study published in Forbes. % of consumers soubled the time spent on each channel during the pandemic.

In 2020, consumers doubled the amount of time they spent on social media, news websites/apps, streaming services, TV, and video/mobile games.


Learning from Other Sectors

Looking to other sectors for inspiration helps libraries keep up with patrons’ demands and expectations. The Adobe and Econsultancy 2021 Digital Trends Report includes data from an annual survey that charts the evolution of marketing, advertising, ecommerce, creative and technology. When asked about emerging trends, “over 80% of executives see their customers’ move to digital channels as disruptive, with the vast majority seeing the shift as a positive.” The key takeaway here is that “how companies prepare for and respond to change has always been the basis for their success or failure.” Public libraries are no different; keeping up with patrons’ digital expectations will help power the success of their services.

A McKinsey Quarterly report shared that, “Only the best designs now stand out from crowd, given the rapid rise in consumer expectations driven by the likes of Amazon; instant access to global information and reviews; and the blurring of lines between hardware, software, and services.” Organizations have adopted the concept that good design matters whether your company focuses on physical goods, digital products, services, or some combination of these,” and public libraries should do the same if they want to keep up with patrons’ expectations. “The good news is that there are more opportunities than ever to pursue user-centric, analytically informed design today,” if libraries and library vendors are willing to listen.


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Digital UX and Your Library

Patrons care about UX, and they increasingly understand the difference between great and poor digital UX. Users can now identify when an aspect of the library website or catalog could be more efficient and straightforward, plus they are very adept at also recognizing potential solutions. This wasn’t the case years ago, but the general increase in technology use (outside of the library) has amplified everyone’s exposure to digital experiences.

To this end, BiblioCommons places a lot of importance on patron feedback to inform the development of the entire product suite. For example, the latest release of the BiblioCore catalog title record page, known to the BiblioCommons community as the ‘Bib Page’, was available in preview mode for some libraries for months. The newest version, Bib Page V2, is officially launching next month. The journey to this latest launch involved receiving feedback from patrons. Online library users could opt-in to use the preview version of the title record page and ‘Give Feedback’ about their experience. This feedback was collected and shared with the libraries, and BiblioCommons used it as an influential factor in redesigning the page. The feedback was so varied that it helped generate a balanced big picture view of what patrons from many different libraries and levels of experience expect from an online catalog.


Public Library Patron Feedback about the Online Catalog Improves the User Experience

The latest launch of the BiblioCore BibPage heavily relied on patron feedback to inform the design of the page and create an optimal UX for all patrons using the online catalog.


Much of the BibPage redesign feedback showed that patrons notice design and are very aware of UX. Now that we are at the cusp of launching the new BibPage, the comments have been overwhelmingly positive. Below are some of our favorites.

“Much easier to follow, more linear and aligned with current UX practices. Great to be able to select format and other preferences on same page, much faster.” 
- Chicago Public Library Patron 


“Easier to read both typographically and informationally. The basics are right there; if you need more info, clicking "more" is right there, too. Elegant design for those of us who like elegant designs. Thanks for the hard work!” 
- San Francisco Public Library Patron 


“Loaded REALLY quick - looks modern and easy to navigate - works great responsively - really nice update! (I'm a web designer)” 
- Hennepin County Library Patron 


“I LOVE IT!! Nice clean layout-easy to read, I like the way you've hidden all the extra 'stuff' like the ISBN info-it's an easy click if I need it but out of the way. Great job with this design-can't wait for it to go live.” 
- MidContinent Public Library Patron 


“I particularly like the clean, modern design/format. It's extremely efficient and effective and is by far the best online library experience I've ever had.” 
- San Diego Public Library Patron



What Do Patrons Expect from a Title Record Page?

Library patrons are looking to explore collections in a way that is pleasing, intuitive, and personal. They want to see large cover art, clearly displayed titles, and easy-to-read descriptive summaries. They want to be able to choose the different formats (book, eBook, downloadable audiobook, CD Audiobook) depending on availability, all from the same page. Placing items on hold or on a shelf for later is important to them. They also want to have an experience that is fully optimized for mobile devices.



The latest release of the BiblioCore BibPage includes large cover art, and clearly displayed title, description, and ratings. Plus, an intuitive way to place holds or save titles for later. The discovery journey also contains an about section with information about the author and other books in the same series.


Patrons find that their catalog visits are more exciting and rewarding when they involve exploration. They want to shop around for and discover the next great read by relying on ratings, opinion from the critics, and reviews from the community. Plus, related staff lists, and other title recommendations enhance their sense of discovery and enjoyment. In short, the experiences they are used to having on Amazon and Netflix are the experiences they also want to have when they visit the library’s online catalog.


The Direct Patron Voice Matters

Digital transformation moves at a rapid pace and it’s important for libraries to keep up with the standards of the web to remain relevant in an ever-changing technology landscape. User feedback plays a critical role in maintaining tech-relevancy. Patrons not only know how they want their library experience to be, they are also very good at sharing that feedback. It’s up to public libraries and technology vendors to hear them out and dig deep to understand where there might be areas of improvement. No one is alone here and we can all lean on each other to make the online library experience as relevant and rewarding as possible.




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