This post is a guest blog post from Meg Westbury, Projects Officer for Cambridge Judge Business School Information and Library Services. She tweets at @meg_librarian and blogs at Library Pie.
Founded in 1990, the Cambridge Judge Business School is a world-class business school offering a wide-range of graduate and undergraduate degrees in business and finance. Information & Library Services seek to support the mission of the school by offering a wide variety of electronic and print resources, along with regular workshops in new and social media and experimenting with innovative ways of marketing its services. Over to Meg…
We want a mobile app – library specific or wider organisation app?
In the summer of 2011, we decided to make a library app. We had just revamped our blog/website, but were not happy with how the site looked on mobile devices. We thought that an app would be the best way to deliver mobile content, as we reflected that we personally didn’t do much on our smart phones if there wasn’t an app for it!
We planned to develop the app separately from the business school at large, as we thought it would be done quicker that way, but political and collaborative pressures led us in the autumn to team up with other departments to create a school-wide app, one component of which would be for library services. The app committee that was formed consisted of people from IT, Information & Library Services and staff from the school’s various programmes.
Who is our audience?
From day one, the app has been thought of as being for current students enrolled at the school. Another approach could have been to make an app for external audiences, which largely presented information about the school’s programmes. But we wanted to make the app super useful – a Swiss army knife of sorts – that would help students get to information and services they needed quickly.
What do they want?
Initial focus groups
To understand students’ needs, we set up two focus groups to have discussions about what ideally students would want out of an app. We asked for volunteers for these groups, and we gave them lunch: an approach which yielded two focus groups of about 5 students each, with representation across the school’s programmes.
At the focus groups, we tried to make questions open ended, concentrating on asking about what information students regularly needed to find and what they currently found difficult about the process. The results were helpful though predictable. Students mainly felt frustrated about all the different places they needed to go for information (e.g., the school intranet, the library portal, their course VLE, etc.). With an app – i.e., with a single press of a button – they wanted all their most important information at their fingertips, especially information about timetables, library services, school events and room bookings.
The focus groups were helpful and gave us a starting point for discussions about what the app should do overall, but we still didn’t feel we had a strong sense of what to prioritise and put into the first release. The focus groups generated a lot of ideas – too many really for the first version of the app — and we weren’t sure how the larger student body would rank those ideas.
So in January 2012, we developed a general survey for students about what ideally they’d like in an app. After asking about what programme they were in and about their usage of mobile devices, we asked them to brainstorm how an app could help them and then, in the next question, listed all the suggestions from the focus groups and had the students rank them using a point system. (We offered 3-£20 vouchers to Amazon as an incentive to complete the survey.)
137 students completed the survey, representing 23% of the students. 53% of the respondents were from the MBA and EMBA programmes, with the remainder from the various Masters, MPhil and PhD programmes.
In terms of mobile device usage, 60% said they use Apple iPhones or iPads, and another 18% use Androids. 12% use Blackberries and 1% use Windows phones. The remaining respondents use other devices such as the Nokia Symbian.
Not surprisingly, up-to-date information about time tables was first in both the suggestion- and ranking-portions of the survey. Not-so-predictably, however, was how high library services ranked. In the free-suggestion part of the survey, library services were the second-most frequently requested feature for the app (tied with information about school news and events). In the ranking part of the survey, 4 of the top 10 features prioritised by students were aspects of library services. Wow.
What library services did students ask for? The top requests were the ability to
- Access ebooks the library offers, especially those on reading lists
- Access mobile-friendly research databases
- Request and renew books
- Ask a librarian a question
We at Information & Library Services were pleased (ok, chuffed!) with the results, not least because they showed the school that we are not an antiquated little department, quietly guarding our dusty collection of books (which is how we seem to be perceived by some parts of the school). The students clearly said that along with other crucial information they regularly need, library services were an absolute necessity for their success as students.
So what now?
We are now working intently to have a version of the app ready for the new students in September 2012. We are proud that the first release will feature library services so prominently. It feels like a nice reward for all of the outreach, marketing and good public service we’ve done over the past years. The students very clearly value our resources.