Walk-up user interviews, July 2017

Interviews were conducted with users in MD Anderson Library in a recent User Cafe session. Users were asked broad, general questions regarding their use of and feelings about the library.

A total of 6 valid interviews were completed.

In this post:

  1. Methods
    • Interview questions
  2. Results
    • Participants
    • Core findings
    • Satisfaction with the library
  3. Lessons learned
  4. Next steps


A “user cafe” was set up in the MD Anderson Library lobby. Passers-by were enticed to complete an interview with promises of free coffee and snacks after completion.

Credit: This “cafe” protocol of user testing has been adapted from a presentation by Zoe Chao, UX Librarian at Penn State University Libraries.

This new method of collecting user research data is currently being piloted over the summer. More will be written about this “user cafe” method in the coming months.

Users were recruited by Mario Gonzalez, student employee in Library Technology Services. Mario also controlled passers-by to avoid interruptions to participant interviews, as was the case in the last cafe pilot session.

Light screening was used during recruiting. We only were interested in users that came to the library at least once per week.

A screenshot of the survey given to participants before usability testing
Survey given to participants before usability testing

Users filled out a brief survey before starting, seen above.

A recording was taken of the participant’s voice during recording.

Interview questions

The questions below were asked to each participant in this order:

  1. Tell me how long you’ve been here at UH.
  2. How often do you come here? How many times in a week?
  3. What do you usually come here to do?
  4. In a normal visit, how long do you usually stay in the library?
  5. Where do you usually go? Are there parts of the library you avoid?
  6. Tell me your favorite spot in the library.
  7. Tell me one thing you’d change about the library if you could.
  8. Pretend I’ve never been to this library before. What’s one thing I should know before coming here?
  9. On a scale of 1 to 5, what is your satisfaction with the library?

Additional follow-up questions were also asked at times.


There were 7 interviews conducted in a 1 hour and 45 minutes span. Interviews lasted 5 to 9 minutes.

A recording of one participant was lost, resulting in 6 valid interviews.


Participant 1
Math, education undergrad
Reason for visit: To study

Participant 2
Reason for visit: WiFi

Participant 3
Pharmacy staff
Reason for visit: Graphic novels

Participant 4
Geophysics grad
Reason for visit: Training class

Participant 5
Physics undergrad
Reason for visit: Computers

Participant 6
Computer science undergrad
Reason for visit: To do homework

Core findings

Lack of space terminology

No one used the library’s own terminology when describing the library space.

Participants used Leisure Reading, the Learning Commons, the ARC, etc., but did not use any of these terms to describe these spaces. Instead, participants gestured toward the space and/or described it.

Sleeping in the library

3 out of the 6 participants brought up the issue of sleeping in the library.

Two participants had overall positive experiences with sleeping or “cat-napping” while visiting.

One participant expressed extreme frustration and aggravation toward library policies that prohibit sleeping.

Issues and pain points

Specific issues and pain points include:

  • Broken stands on some computer keyboards
  • Frustrating sinks in the first floor bathrooms (water turns off too fast)
  • Too much noise in certain areas
  • Service desk employees cannot always answer questions
  • Lack of privacy in certain areas
  • Poorly functioning equipment
  • Uncomfortable temperature in certain areas

UH Libraries staff: The full page of notes is available on the Libraries intranet.

Satisfaction with the library

Participant Score
1 4 / 5
2 5 / 5
3 4 / 5
4 4.5 / 5
5 4.5 / 5
6 4 / 5
AVERAGE 4.333 / 5

Participants generally seemed satisfied with the library’s offerings, with satisfaction scores averaging at 4.333 out of 5.

One participant described the library as “state of the art” but at least one other participant said that “nothing is perfect,” resulting in a less-than-perfect score.

The incentive of free coffee and snacks may have influenced perception of the library.

Although participants were told from the beginning to be honest, participants might’ve been more positive to please use and receive incentives.

Lessons learned

1. Making future cafe sessions that involve interviews more quantifiable might make analysis quicker and easier.

2. Simple screening of participants worked reasonably well but might be complicated if made any more strict. Finding users that come to the library at least once per week as simple enough, but finding a more specific segment of library users might be more difficult.

3. Having a recruiter/crowd-handler worked excellent for avoiding interruptions.

Next steps

These observations will be passed to the necessary contacts in the library, if necessary.

This method of collected qualitative user data will be assessed, edited, and re-tried in a later cafe session.