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Identifying Customer Personas

Do you know what your users really want? They trust us and expect us to help them, but we face many challenges in filling that role as connectors. Keynoters Mary Lee Kennedy and Stephen Abram spoke to a rapt audience this morning of their ambitious project to identify the personas of library customers. By seeing the world through the lens of the customer we can create opportunities to increase customer satisfaction and have clear and achievable directions and goals.

Kennedy started her work on identifying personas in 1999 while at Microsoft, with the goal of understanding company demographics, employees’ challenges, and information seeking behaviors. Key factors were found to be length of employment, age, and mobility. Personas are hypothetical representations of natural groupings of users that can be used to drive decision making for projects. Personas are discovered by gathering data, observing behaviors, and from patterns that emerge in narratives.

Abram and Kennedy are now working on their Public Library Pilot Project, which is recording stories of users in public libraries in the northeastern U.S—rural, urban, and suburban—and then putting them into a database with pattern recognition software. This data on personas will also be combined with data on transactions from 3,500 public libraries (from the Normative Data Project of Sirsi Corp. and Florida State Univ.; and with census and geographic databases.

Abram and Kennedy plan additional phases for the Project, with studies planned for college and academic users and others. We look forward to seeing the results of this Project, which they say will be reported at next year’s CIL and possibly sooner. Their groundbreaking work on this should help us all design products and services for the future.

Paula J. Hane
News Bureau Chief
Information Today, Inc.

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