Blog Task 1

July 30, 2014

(a) Describe a Problem Space

The Health Sciences Library at SUNY Upstate Medical University is a large academic library that serves not only the faculty at Upstate Hospital (doctors, nurses, etc.), but also students and professors of the university, and the general public. It is hard to cater sufficiently to all three diverse communities, but it is certainly not impossible. While there are four floors that can provide different services to each group, people tend to congregate on the ground level, which creates for a noisy atmosphere and it confuses the purpose of the library.

(b) why that space might benefit from some thinking on its design

There is one suggestion box in the library to encourage patron participation with how the library should be used or improved upon, and it is located on the third floor which is available only to students. Not only is this a passive way of trying to engage the community, but it also excludes the other communities. Having the user’s input or understanding the user’s needs is an integral part of design thinking (Brown, 2009, p. 1). In this case, the focus must be on the needs of all three different communities, not just one.

There are numerous constraints to redesigning the library: bureaucratic constraints because it is a state-owned facility and changes must be approved through a lengthy process, followed by physical space constraints, and budget constraints. But these constraints can be a source of inspiration (Kuratko, Goldsworthy, & Hornsby, 2012, p. 110). The library doesn’t need new equipment or furniture, rather a restructuring of what exists. Since prototyping is another integral part of design thinking and for producing new ideas through experimentation (Seidel & Fixson, 2013, p. 21), changing the library’s layout in small increments may produce more user feedback, negative or positive. This feedback could fuel further small changes, making the process continual and making it so the library is always bettering its services for its members.

(c) describe the changes in order to create a better space for learning

There is a simple short-term solution to this problem that could alleviate the congestion that is typically found on the main floor. If there was better signage regarding the purpose of each floor, who can use it, and the appropriate noise level, then each user can settle on the floor level that fits their needs best. Or perhaps people congregate on the main floor for a reason: either they don’t want to travel too far to find information, or maybe they like to be located next to the reference librarians who are also on the main floor (this is something to find out by asking the community and getting them involved). If this were the case, creating a new layout for the main floor can make it multifunctional and can cater to more studying styles. This could be done through experimentation and small increments of change, as aforementioned. Usually when something changes in the library, people will come up to the service desk and talk about it, or the service desk will ask patrons how they feel about the changes as they check out books. It’s a more active way of getting the community involved, rather than scattering boxes with paper surveys around the library. These are but small changes that influence the library’s short-term goals, but to apply true design thinking among a diverse crowd could create more meaningful ideas for change and help the library in the long term, or help it to see the bigger picture.


Brown, T. (2009) Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation. Summary by Get Abstract. Retrieved from

Kuratko, D., Goldsworthy, M., & Hornsby, G. (2012). The design-thinking process in innovation acceleration: transforming original thinking. (pp. 103-123). Boston: Pearson. Retrieved from

Seidel, V., & Fixson, S. (2013). Adopting design thinking in novice multidisciplinary teams: The application and limits of design methods and reflexive practices. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 30, 19–33.


(d) feedback comments:





Entry Filed under: INF536. Posted in  INF536 .

11 Comments Add your own

  •    msimkin  |  July 30th, 2014 at 7:02 am     Reply

    Some signage sounds like a great solution Shannon. I am lucky that I can do most things I want to in my Library that will fit within the budget and as long as changes to the building itself are not involved. Being multi level adds another dimension altogether. I hope you are enjoying the course and that distance doesn’t make you feel academically a bit different. I’m based in South Western Victoria 4 hours from Melbourne and many, many hours from the CSU Campus that is the centre of this course. It’s good to have Ewan involved – and who knows where he is going to pop up. He ran a PL I attended in Melbourne last term. it was very interesting and included some design thinking processes.
    All the best with this subject!

    •    Shannon Campbell  |  July 30th, 2014 at 4:35 pm     Reply

      mskimkin: I’ve done online classes before, but learning all the new systems is the most overwhelming part! I’m really enjoying it though. I would love to get over to Australia at some point if I could! Thank you!

      •    Jim t  |  August 4th, 2014 at 12:10 am     Reply


        Well done describing a problem space and referencing the readings. I can relate being overwhelmed learning the new systems, as a distance student of syracuse taking a distance course at csu.

        I’m curious if the library has been partitioned so that the most common resources are readily available to all three diverse communities (first floor) while other resources more frequently used by faculty and students are housed on the higher, less crowded floors.


        •    Shannon Campbell  |  August 4th, 2014 at 12:37 am     Reply

          All three communities have access to the computers which gives them access to all the databases that SUNY Upstate subscribes to. This is the good part. Also, anyone can ask for help from the reference librarians. Though not all can check out journals or other medical reference books (only students and staff can), everyone has access to the books and can photocopy anything they may need. The only real exclusive part is the second floor, which only gives access to SUNY Upstate ID holders. The second floor contains more computers and private study rooms that can be checked out. Sometimes students from Syracuse come in and want to check out a study room, which they are unable to since they are not part of the SUNY Upstate system. This exclusivity is a perk of paying tuition or working fo SUNY Upstate – not something that will change soon, nor do I believe it should.

  •    Miriam Edwards  |  July 30th, 2014 at 10:09 am     Reply

    Hi Shannon
    That certainly sounds like an interesting dynamic place to work and study. Signage design (environmental graphics) is an interesting discipline. Small steps, like you mentioned could be simple signs directing different audiences to particular places. Maybe even color-coding signs and spaces with corresponding trails ie. blue lines go to general collections/public space. It’s the sort of thing that could be done in a small way or a big way I suppose

    •    Shannon Campbell  |  July 30th, 2014 at 4:38 pm     Reply

      Miriam: I LOVE the idea of color-coding with the corresponding trails… that’s something that I may suggest to my manager. I’m not sure how the trails would go (something as difficult as paint? or perhaps some sort of large sticker to go on the ground that can be removed?) Maybe this is something simple that my library can do, plus I think those types of things tend to look visually appealing and functional. Thanks!

  •    Heather Jesuadian  |  July 31st, 2014 at 2:11 am     Reply

    I really agree with both of the concepts that you propose here – responding to the needs that you observe in your users and introducing change in small increments to allow you to evaluate each change carefully in response to how it works for the user. I also agree that sometimes the verbal feedback that you get, while less formal, is sometimes the most useful! I am torn about the signage around purpose/noise level. I can see so many benefits in having the signage but then again, I wonder if the organic use of the space is then limited. I will really be interested in following your evaluation of these ideas to see what you find! Such a thought provoking blog post!

  •    jerry.leeson  |  July 31st, 2014 at 10:04 am     Reply

    HI Shannon,
    Love the revelation that the suggestion box was on Level 3! It’s great to see the different approaches that people are taking in tackling these design problems within the constraints that we each face. I like your determination on getting the community involved.


  •    rmasaoka  |  August 3rd, 2014 at 7:15 am     Reply

    Hi Shannon,
    I really like that you have focused on the what you can have immediate impact on. Constraints becoming a source of inspiration is something that struck a chord with me too. I think so long as well are open to changes and have access to examples of good space design, then we can imagine the possibilities in our own situation. I enjoyed reading your post.

  •  |  August 4th, 2014 at 1:56 pm     Reply

    Hi Shannon,

    I like the particular focus you put on patron feedback/active instead of passive community involvement. I’ve always found that people are REALLY good at telling you what they want (sometimes even when you don’t care to hear it…) Tuning in to that feedback is an excellent starting point for effective and beneficial space design.

    Bureaucratic constraints can be especially difficult to navigate. In the article “Design Thinking Starts at the Top” by John Miziolek ( it is suggested that, “unless there is a strong figure there to properly determine what shape design thinking will ultimately take, there will be no firm direction and there will be no significant follow-through.” Are your supervisors open to potential changes to the library’s space design?

    •    Shannon Campbell  |  August 4th, 2014 at 2:59 pm     Reply

      I think they are open to potential changes normally — now, they are focused more on staffing the place. We’re pretty short staffed at the moment. I have two supervisors and one of them left to get something more in his field, which is great for him! But I usually tell him my ideas and he was responsive. I’ll have to see how my new supervisor responds when it calms down.

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