Library spaces, services, and technologies work better when the community of users participates in their design. Not only that, engaging the community is the right thing to do. Academic and public libraries are institutions for the public good and the community has a rightful role to play in design processes and decisions.
Nancy Foster Design Anthropology engages the community through a wide range of design activities, including interviewing, photography and drawing, mapping and logging, and working with prototypes. The information provided by library staff, faculty members, and students allows the analyst to identify the design problems that need to be solved. These problems may relate to work tasks that must be completed, desired states of mind, or the sharing of goals and ideals. It is these particularities that are discovered through structured activity with members of the community. Once they are identified and presented as a set of desired affordances, a technical team (e.g., architects and interior designers or software engineers and interaction designers) can propose ways in which to support as many of these activities and orientations as possible, given cost, time, and other constraints.
All experts work in their rightful roles, contributing their respective knowledge and expertise. Library users are experts about their work and the needs of the community. Technical team members are experts in devising and applying practical and aesthetic solutions. At the end of the process, technical experts can do their job better; they have received a rich set of information that enables them to develop design solutions that directly address the discovered needs of the people who will use the space, service, or technology.