Columbia GSAPP 
Fall 2020
NYPL, New York, NY
Academic Seminar - Human Centered Design
Faculty: Laura Kurgan 
Project Team: Adela Locsin, Carlos Rosas, Kamrul Hossain
This seminar titled "Public Interest Technology" tasked teams from the Engineering, Journalism and Architecture schools to create a tool that served a need that would benefit the public.  Our team was prompted with addressing the needs of librarians in American public libraries using the double-diamond method of developing a solution: Discover, Define, Develop, and Deliver.
Our Discover phase involved a deep dive into the current landscape of public libraries:  the services they provide, how they are funded [or, more often, underfunded], the new challenges Covid-19 created.  We developed a series of personas, themes, and user journeys (above) to describe some of the joys and pain points based on a series of interviews and blog posts detailing the challenges of being a librarian.  
Libraries hold knowledge; Librarians manage knowledge.
Early on, many of the the themes revolved around the ability to communicate information clearly. How might we ease the burden of managing knowledge?  How might we aid librarians in communicating to their superiors, their peers, their patrons, and the public?  We continued to Define the problem by creating mind maps (above) to scope the problem and propose responses.
One of the ideations that we chose to Develop into a low-fidelity prototype (Google Slides) was a peer-patron mutual aid network.  This idea was based on expanding the number of people that can help patrons by tapping into a network of fellow peer patrons for assistance.  This key benefit of this solutions is that it creates a new resource and does not directly use precious resource of librarian labor.  Other ideas developed included a Searchable FAQ and a Polling Board.

Peer-Patron Network: "I need help!"

Peer-Patron Network: "I can help!"

Searchable FAQ

Polling Board

As part of the final Deliver phase, a high fidelity prototype (Figma) hybridized the above low-fi solutions into a "Patron Help Center:"  the ability to search for information and prior answers (Searchable FAQ), the ability for patrons and library staff to rank or prioritize queries or notices (Polling Board), and the ability for patrons to ask questions and for patrons to respond to other patrons. (Peer-Patron Network)
Patron: Asks a Question

Once an account is created, a patron is able to browse open or previously answered topics or questions as well as create a new query.  Some information such as Name, Contact Email, and Primary Branch is editable but can be auto-filled from the User Profile of the patron.  The interface was purposefully designed to be as streamlined as possible to accommodate patrons that are not confident with their computer skills or otherwise tech-phobic. 

Library Staff: Receives a Questions

A novel element from prior prototypes is the ability to Assign Questions to different staff members or departments to review a drafted answer or write their own answer.  Each entry comes with an Activity History providing additional clarity to the origin and path of a query.

patron/staff: follow a thread

The feature of 'following' a thread provides the ability for other patrons or library staff to remain updated via notifications on the home screen.  In addition, this may address the need to create duplicative questions and to consolidate information onto relevant threads.


Completed as the final deliverable for the course "Public Interest Technology" taught by Laura Kurgan at Columbia GSAPP. Contributions to the project included: research, concept development, low-fidelity prototype design, and high-fidelity prototype design. 
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