Loughborough University
Bryant - Dissertation.pdf (1.83 MB)

An ethnographic study of user behaviour in Open3 at the Pilkington Library, Loughborough University

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posted on 2008-02-04, 08:56 authored by Joanna E. Bryant
Library and information science (LIS) research has a tendency to focus on quantitative research methods. This over-reliance on numerical data often means that valuable ‘soft data’ is missed or undocumented. This study uses ethnography, an observation-based methodology, to investigate the use of Open3, an open-plan learning environment in the Pilkington Library at Loughborough University. Over 40 hours of fieldwork was undertaken with observations recorded in a field diary. A thematic analysis of the field diary was subsequently undertaken, and key themes identified. These findings were triangulated with data from other sources, including a major survey of library users undertaken in 2006. The project demonstrated the value, flexibility and efficacy of ethnography as a LIS research methodology. The study concluded that the open-plan learning space was highly popular, especially with undergraduate students who were observed conducting academic work and social activities simultaneously. The provision of PC access and Wi-Fi internet connectivity was seen to be valued, with users competing for access to resources at peak times. The study demonstrated that the open-plan learning environment was fulfilling its purpose in providing a venue for members of the university community to undertake collaborative learning in an informal environment. However it was noted that the space was not widely used by academic staff or mature students. It was advised that the space be expanded to allow more users to make use of the area, although the importance of continuing to provide a diverse range of learning spaces was also emphasised. Finally, it was concluded that further investment in the furnishings of the area could result in a more efficient use of space.



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A Master's Dissertation, submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Master of Arts degree of Loughborough University.


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  • MA

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  • Masters

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