Kindness Audit Adventures

I’ve got a Dungeon Master’s Guide/I’ve got a twelve-sided die*

You enter the keep from the East. Passing through a set of double glass doors, you enter the foyer. To your right, a peddler of gaudy trinkets, to your left you spy provisions. It has been a long journey, and will likely be a longer one–searching for the mysterious Librarian–so you decide to spend a gold coin on something to carry you through. A sign warns you that a million eyes are watching you, perhaps another warning that this quest will not be an easy one. As you approach the main set of doors, another sign: No Food or Drink Allowed. Quickly you down your +5 energy potion and make your way in.

no food or beveragesYou consult your map, and see the stairway exactly where it should be to your right. As you climb the winding flight, another warning. This time you must silence your +4G Device of Mobile Communication, or else suffer the wrath of the million watching eyes. Finally you reach the second floor and see a small group of guides waiting to assist anyone on their journeys. You sneak into the labyrinth of books to avoid their gaze (it’s okay, they were trying to avoid your gaze), and finally make your way to your destination: Administration. A single door, wood, with an etched glass pane that reads STAFF ONLY. Hoping the eyes are not watching you try the door. Locked. “Mellon!” you shout (okay, more of a whisper). Nothing. Then you realize it’s Saturday, and no one is there. You set up your laptop and begin doing your homework.


nacho cheeseDon’t steal the Nacho (with) Cheese! You Are Under Video Surveillance

The visit to my local library to do a Kindness Audit wasn’t quite the adventure as I made it out to be (there’s a reason I never was Dungeon Master). However, it make me really aware of my surroundings: things I have noticed before, and things that never caught my eye, all pertaining to User Experience.

First of all, the signage. It probably is nowhere near as severe as some of the examples in this week’s lecture on UX, but there is probably some room for improvement. The You Are Under Video Surveillance sign is accompanied by a happy face that looks straight out of my second-grade handwriting workbook. Really not a horrible sign, but the sign is posted in so many places throughout the library, pretty soon all I could see was second-grade happy face everywhere I looked. I was forced to relive the shame of not being able to write a capital Q in cursive, and barfing on the girl I had a crush on (second-grade memories are not ones this writer likes to conjure up). The other signage was not as traumatic. They attempted to mitigate the harshness of their messages with bright colors, jumbo-sized graphics, and the words “please” and “thank you”.

pamThe layout of the library is also a bit confounding. The entrance to the building is on the Northeast side of the first floor. However, the office of the City Librarian is in the Administration area in the Southwest corner of the second floor. It is practically the farthest point from where users enter. Probably not the most ideal for someone who is supposed to be visible. Administration is separated from the library space. It looms behind wood and glass, and, if you look at the map of the library, it has an elevator behind all the public space in which the librarian can get from floor to floor and never be seen. Worst of all, Administration  is guarded by a reception area that…well, maybe that wouldn’t be so bad.

Yes, let’s consider those checkout slips

penumbraThe checkout slip was something I hadn’t really thought about until I read the article by Schmidt (2012). It is very simple, yet not seriously offensive. However you will notice two things. First the library’s website:

That is a pain to type. But wait, do I go there or do I visit the site the check out slip says to visit to renew online: ?

The problem I have with these is that nothing in either of these web addresses screams LIBRARY!!! (I would only hope that any computer instruction classes taught at this library would include an extensive module on how to CTRL-D). This is the problem with libraries that operate under the strict ruling of the municipalities they serve. The library page is merely a small portion of the city government pages (and hope you don’t mistype that number at the end: type a 2 instead of the 0 and you’ll be dealing with sewage and trash). Again, a growing number of users will be accessing library services remotely. The website should be a portal to the magical realm of the library and should present the users with a welcoming look, a user-friendly interface, and a logical URL.

Always room for improvement

Like I suggested earlier, this library is by no means bad when it comes to the Kindness Audit. Most of the major infractions (architecture and web design) are out of the library’s control. Personally, the signage could use a little adjustment; however it is obvious that administration (in their back offices) made a legitimate effort to convey policies in a friendly manner. I would like to see what further improvements will be made to UX in the near future.

*Cuomo, R. (1994). In the garage [Recorded by Weezer]. On Weezer (aka The blue album) [CD]. Santa Monica, CA: Geffen/DGC Records.

Schmidt, A. (2012, February 7). Consider the checkout slip [Web log post]. Library Journal. Retrieved from


6 thoughts on “Kindness Audit Adventures

  1. I totally concur with you on the observation of the same sign (happy face) being plastered all over the library. In my local library, the banishment sign of cell phone use appeared on three different signs before you even step five feet in the door. It is overkill and kind of insulting to be bombarded with DON’T DO THIS signage. It gives off a negative vibe in my mind. Good observations!

  2. Great storytelling! Aaron has been quite a connoisseur of typography along with design, and I think he’d be quite pleased that you picked up on their attempts to manipulate emotion with how they presented their signs. I’ll second @solman14: good observations!

    • @kyle Typography is huge when it comes to getting a message across. I’ve always felt that overuse of particular font renders the message ineffective. Think: Tempus Sans in the early 2000s (still haunting us), or Impact (the ubiquitous “meme font”).

  3. Such creativity here – thank you @jamesmyurasek! I was reminded of the call at the Salzburg Seminar for the walls of our libraries and museums to be glass – so visitors could see what happens behind those locked, “staff only” doors. I think the administrator should be clearly visible. How about a glass cube in the center of the library? 🙂 #tooscifi?

    • What better way to convey transparency than glass? @Michael, sounds like Apple Store meets library (Or Biblioteca Vasconcelos in Mexico City ).

      As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in the very same library I mentioned in the post and noticing something I hadn’t noticed before. The glass that separates some of the back office rooms from public space are equipped with mini-blinds. More barriers!

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