People Interact

Blog about people-centered design by Lisa Chow and Sandra Sajonas.

Tag Archives: field trip

Hackspace Prototype in the Library

While on a recent trip to DC, I decided to check out the LibLab prototype.  The LibLab is based loosely on FanLab and is meant to be a “hackspace for knowledge”.

“LibLab has a modular design, with up to a dozen research and collaboration modules. Each module provides the tools and space needed to work on collaborative knowledge production, research, or learning and teaching.”

Admittedly, I was not very impressed when I finally saw it:

1.  On the wiki, it sounds very impressive and built my expectations overly high.

2.  The wiki description is a little incoherent and I’m not completely sure what exactly LibLab is.  It sounds like it’s trying to be everything.

3.  By calling it a “hackspace”, it implies that this is going to be very tech-centered, maybe beyond the comprehension of average people like me.

There are some redeeming qualities to the LibLab:

1.  The project is very loosely defined and flexible and seems open to suggestions from the public.

2.  The project emphasizes roundtable collaboration and community learning.

3.  Despite its seemingly intellectual intent, the LibLab does have workshops and modules meant to educate the general public.  On my visit I had the chance to see their Wikipedia workshop for the community.

All in all, the idea of LibLab is exciting.  The execution just needs some work.

Visit LibLab at the Martin Luther King Library in DC before it disappears at the end of December.

Talk to Me before November 7th

Recently, we took a field trip to see MOMA’s Talk to Me exhibit which explores the communication between people and things and how design enhances communication possibilites.

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The exhibit is broken up into 6 categories: objects, worlds, city, life, double entendre and bodies.  Each category explores the impact of design and how design facilitates this communication.

One of our favorites is the SMS Slingshot which allows you to slingshot text messages onto the walls of buildings.


Some of our other favorites include:

My Block NYC –  an interactive mapping website that  presents personal video accounts of the life and culture of New York City.

EyeWriter – an eye-tracking apparatus & software that allows graffiti writers and artists with paralysis resulting from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis to draw using only their eyes.

Tweenbots– a cute robot navigating its way around cities, depending on the kindness of pedestrians to send it in the right direction.

While the objects themselves were interesting, the exhibit curation was a bit confusing and pretentious.   We don’t think it’s worth the high cost of admission ($25). Either go with a discounted admission or on Target Free Fridays.

p.s. We do recommend visiting the MOMA’s Talk to Me site just to see what the exhibition is made up of and then going to each pieces’  webpage.

Hey, look!

That book that I want to read was just returned.

Display screen of library items just returned

One of the first things that we saw on our field trip to Darien Library is this screen that displays a real-time list of library materials just returned.

Rethinking Libraries: Anythink

Is it a doodle or a scribble? Or maybe it’s a piece of spaghetti. Whatever it is, it’s the logo of Anythink Libraries, located right outside of Denver, Colorado.


Some interesting tidbits, points, and thoughts:

  • No Dewey.
  • No reference desk.
  • Like Darien Library, they changed staff roles by matching skills with duties (i.e. those that are better at handling materials than providing public service are responsible for back-end processes).  
  • When designing the buildings, the new director said “focus on the quality of the space, rather than the number of books we’d put in the space.” In my conversations with librarians who were involved in library renovations or relocations, shelf space is a top priority. While shelf space is important, it’s more important to look at the library space as a whole. 
  • Not everyone is going to like the changes and that’s okay. You can’t please everyone. “Achieving culture change hasn’t been simple—for instance, one new hire, shocked to see the reference desk gone, bowed out.”
  • “Because the library pays many bills (on time) with credit cards that accrue points, it can send staffers to conferences and training events without cost.” What a great and simple idea to reduce the costs of professional development and conference attendance.
  • “Instead of trying to get everything perfect, we work to get the big idea right, then circle back to work on correcting and refining the details.” Someone once said perfection is the enemy of progress. Just get it out there and you can tweak it along the way.

Library field trip to Anythink! (One day…maybe when there’s a conference in Denver. Darien, CT is a lot easier to get to than Thornton, CO). Check out the LJ article for more info about Anythink.

Library Crush

Dear Darien Library,

I’ve got a crush on you. It was the day before Sandra and I went on our field trip to visit. I was checking out your site and saw some of the things you have:

  • Power Library – library users can borrow all sorts of gadgets like digital cameras, e-readers, GPS devices, LCD projectors, and video camcorders.
  • Free web hosting – nonprofit organizations can have their websites hosted by you
  • Wireless printing
  • Notary services

Amazing. These are pretty simple and basic things. I found myself telling people about you that day. Darien this. Darien that. A crush, an infatuation, an obsession – call it what you want, but you’ve got to be one of the coolest libraries out there.

After our visit, I was hooked. I’m particularly amazed by three things:

  1. the trust that you have for your staff and patrons
  2. big picture thinking & doing
  3. the focus on empowerment and choice

And then there are the little things like being able to see what items were just returned.

You made an unforgettable impression.


P.S. You’re my first library crush.