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Personas Citizens’ Services and Libraries The Main Library, Aarhus

© Citizens’ Services and Libraries The Main Library, Aarhus Editing Anne-Marie Christensen David Gråbæk Jannik Mulvad Margit Fischer Pauline Kerrn-Jespersen More information about the project ‘Unleash the Users’: or contact project manager Jannik Mulvad, Layout Thomas Kallmoes Vestergaard, ITC Communications, Aarhus Municipality Print: DigitalTrykkeriet, Aarhus Translation Annette Tjerrild, ITC Communications, Aarhus Municipality Subsidised by Danish Agency for Libraries and Media Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Access to Learning



















Building personas


What is needed?




Personas Personas are fabricated but realistic characters representing various groups of users at the library. Using the personas method, you can transform factual knowledge about the library’s users into vivid characters, whose special needs and wishes you can easily relate to and take into account when making decisions which affect your users. Motivation: Why the method works well Personas provide an overview of needs and wishes which various groups of users have in relation to the library. Personas provide sympathetic insight into the users of the library in a fun and captivating way, making it more likely that needs and wishes of the user groups are automatically considered in the development of new initiatives. Personas can be included in a long range of decisions such as targeting PR, service and guidance of us-

ers, planning of events, interior design, acquisition of materials, and internal decision processes, which will influence the users. Personas can undergo continuous development in order for them to reflect the user composition at the library at any given time. Pitfalls Make sure that your personas are as precise as possible before deciding on their backgrounds. The amount of time you have spent, the number of sources of factual knowledge on which your personas are based and how many people have been involved in developing them should be proportional to the importance of the decisions you make based on your personas.

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Anne Mainstream cultural shopper. Motto: “Amazing, how much you can do”. Special features: Eager to learn – interested in many topics, patient, grateful and calm.

Profile Anne is 55 years old and married to David. They live in a small house in a quiet neighbourhood in the Western part of Aarhus. They have lived there for many years and know their neighbours fairly well. Their three children, (two of which are children of the marriage), have moved out and are doing fine. One daughter is living in Australia. Anne is generally interested in politics and society as such. She has always voted for the Social Democrats. Anne is a clerk and is currently employed part-time in Citizens’ Services at the Town Hall. She prefers to ride her bike to work, but takes the bus when the weather is poor. She plans to retire, when she turns 60. Anne diligently uses many of the things which a city like Aarhus can offer. She is curious and of an inquiring mind and is up-to-date with exhibitions, events and concerts. She engages in various hobbies and goes to night school to learn new things and meet new people. Almost every winter she enrols in Cinema Club Denmark. She also likes to be updated about popular books, and she is thus a frequent library user.

What makes Anne happy? Qualified personal service, cosy atmosphere, the many opportunities offered by the library, which may inspire new reading or new hobbies. What makes Anne sad? When users scold library staff, when library materials are not being treated properly, when other users are illmannered. Anne’s use of the library Fiction, hobby literature, concerts, lectures. How could Anne potentially use the library? Reading groups at the library, magazines / journals, music, audio books. Job: Part-time employee at Citizens’ Services at the Town Hall Residence: Housing estate in the Western part of the city Age: 55 years Marital Status: Married to David, 3 children Leisure and hobby: Night school, culture Media: TV, radio, magazines, cinema Political party: Social Democrats

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Sherin The hard working, goal-oriented immigrant girl. Motto: “I know what I want”. Special features: Responsible, ambitious, goal-oriented. Profile Sherin is 17 years old and is on her second year at high school. She lives with her mother, father and older sister in an apartment near the city centre. During the last couple of years, Sherin has had quite a few after-school jobs, partly to make money for clothes and parties, partly to contribute rent money. Sherin’s family came to Denmark from Iran in the 1980s. Her father arrived with an education in engineering, but had to work as an unskilled worker. Both of Sherin’s parents are working. The family is relatively well integrated into the community and has both Danish and Iranian friends. Her studies mean a lot to Sherin. She is doing well in high school and would like to study medicine at university. She is very goal oriented and wants to live up to her own and her parents’ ambitions for her future. Sherin has relatively few limits at home and is allowed to join her friends for parties. Her close relationship with her family is important to Sherin, but she is well aware that she has a different background than her Danish friends. Sherin reads a lot, and for her the library is a great place to be, with both tranquility and the possibility to meet other people. Sherin also uses the library to do her homework if her home is too noisy.

What makes Sherin happy? When she is with her family, when she goes shopping with friends, when she experiences that her work at school is rewarded, when her family appreciates her efforts at school. What makes Sherin sad? When she experiences that her friends do not attach the same importance to studies as herself. If she meets prejudices about her immigrant background. Sherin’s use of the library: Non-fiction for studies, Internet, wifi, fiction, magazines, loaning films, use of study cells when available and quiet enough, bookings via the Internet, ( Job: Student Residence: Apartment on the outskirts of the city centre of Aarhus Age: 17 years Marital Status: Lives at home Leisure and hobbies: Plays handball and jogs, goes out with friends Media: Internet for information search, gossip on MSN Political party: Not really active, but keeps informed about Danish immigration politics

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Jacob Expectant user, quality-conscious. Motto: “It simply has to work”. Special features: Ambitious and selective user, goal oriented, non-orthodox.

Profile Jacob is 39 years old and an engineer. He is married to Annette, who is a nurse. Together, they have two children of 11 and 6 years. The family lives in cooperative housing in the northern part of Aarhus. Jacob is employed by the municipality’s Technical Department and likes his work. Previously, he worked for a major construction company, but that included a lot of travelling and with Annette’s shifting working hours, it was impossible to have meaningful family life. Jacob is a modern family man, who is very conscious of his priorities in life and of giving his children the very best. He is well educated, and it is important for him that his children are introduced to reading and self-education at an early age. He sees the library as a key element in this development. In his spare time, Jacob is very interested in digital photography and he constantly keeps updated on new equipment and techniques.

Jacob’s use of the library Books for children, crime novels, cook books, photo books, movies for the children and sometimes music and magazines. Social meeting place – quality time with the children. Reservations via the Internet. How could Jacob potentially use the library? Events for families and children. Cosy corners for families with room for both adults and children. Job: Engineer at the Technical Department Residence: Cooperative housing in the northern part of Aarhus Age: 39 years Marital Status: Married to Annette, two children of 11 and 6 years Leisure & Hobbies: Family, photography, cinema, theatre a few times a year, concerts Use of media: Internet for news, culture and recipes; TV for children, journals, crime novels Political party: Social Liberal

What makes Jacob happy? When things work and are logical/easy to grasp. What makes Jacob sad? Defective library materials, when something is not working. When he and the children cannot find a good place to sit down together.

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Casper Quick user / the library is for picking up media. Motto: “It has to be professional, accessible and reliable”. Special features: Impatient, lead web user, specialised interest in a narrow range of subjects.

Profile Casper lives alone in a studio apartment in the city centre, which he was lucky to get through a friend. He studies Information Science - a study that he is very devoted to, and which he also considers a hobby. The studies take longer than expected, as he is constantly offered exciting tasks at an advertising agency where he works in his spare time as a web developer. He has built a site on the web with a few of his fellow students on avant-garde music. At the moment it is a hobby, but he hopes to develop the site commercially in the future. He is not very interested in cooking, so the menu often consists of take-away food. He plays football twice a week with a group of his old friends from high school. At weekends, Casper is usually with friends, at concerts or out on the town. Politically, he leans towards the Social Liberals. What makes Casper happy? When he finds new media within his areas of interest at the library. When he is met with efficiency and expertise.

ficult access to the Internet, mix-ups in bookings or long waiting periods for booking. Casper’s use of the library Specialised knowledge of avantgarde music, picking up non-fiction and music, news lists. How could Casper potentially use the library? Odd events, lectures he helps to organize, non-mainstream concerts. Job: Studies Information Science at Aarhus University Residence: Centre of the city Age: 27 years Marital Status: Single, no children Leisure and hobby: Studies, the Internet (primarily web 2.0), avant-garde music, football, friends Media: Mainly digital media; TV once in a while, where he mostly watches American sit-coms; non-fiction about web development and IT Political party: Social Liberal

What makes Casper sad? When something or someone is too old-fashioned, dif-

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Marie User of study cells. Motto: “The best of all worlds”. Special features: Goal-oriented and motivated, structured, sensible, quality-conscious.

Profile Marie is 25 and soon Bachelor of Commerce from the Aarhus School of Business. She enjoys her spare time job at an accountant’s office. Marie shares an apartment in the city centre with a friend and expects to move in with her boyfriend, when she has finished her studies. All in all, she is girl with many resources who has high hopes for the future, in terms of both love and career. Her political standpoint is with the Liberal Party. She comes to the library to study, because it’s too easy to be distracted from the studies at home. Usually, she meets up with a friend from Business School to study. Marie is a heavy user of the Internet. She uses her laptop for many other things in connection with her studies, and in her spare time she is almost always connected to the Internet. She finds cheap offers on music, movies, branded products and new technologies and generally keeps up with new products and trends in fashion, interior decoration and IT. She often communicates with friends and family on the Internet. Occasionally, when she wants to relax, she goes home to her parents in Ikast for the weekend. Marie goes to the fitness centre and jogs at least once a week because she finds it important to be in good shape.

What makes Marie happy? When there are vacant study cells in the library, tranquility, and when she finds new and interesting books. What makes Marie sad? Noise and disturbances, mix-ups in her reservations. Marie’s current use of the library Peace to work/place to study, chick-lit, travel books, novels, picking up reservations. How could Marie potentially use the library? Magazines about lifestyle and training, events, net music, (A Danish web-library on literature). Job: Student at Aarhus School of Business and spare time job with an accountant Residence: City centre, sharing an apartment with a friend Age: 25 years Marital Status: Michael is her partner Leisure & Hobbies: Exercise, fashion, cinema, goes to cafés with friends Use of media: Internet, mobile phone and mp3 player, TV Political party: Liberal

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Mehmet The traditional, elderly immigrant. Motto: “What more can one ask for”. Special features: Traditional, family man.

Profile Mehmet came to Denmark in 1969 from Lebanon to work as an electrician at the floating dock at the Port of Aarhus. Mehmet worked at the port until 1995, when he was injured at work and was forced to stop working. He lives in an apartment in the western part of Aarhus together with his wife. The children have left home a long time ago, but visit several times a week. Also other elderly immigrants often come to visit for dinner or just to have a chat. Mehmet visits the Main Library a few times a week to read Arabic newspapers. He likes the tranquility in the newspaper reading room. At the same time, the library visits are a good opportunity to get away from home sometimes. When he does not go to the library, he meets with friends and acquaintances in the Arabic club near his home. Here they drink tea, talk and smoke. Mehmet speaks Danish quite well, but often has trouble understanding letters from the municipality. When that happens, he turns to Citizens’ Services for help.

What makes Mehmet sad? When he wishes to be left alone and people do not respect that. When his children are being treated badly. When the library is not quiet enough for reading. When he cannot understand letters from the municipality. When he experiences ingratitude and disrespect. Mehmet’s use of the library Foreign newspapers, Citizens’ Services, Arabic TV, news in Arabic, newspaper reading room as a meeting place. How could Mehmet potentially use the library? Internet courses and introductions, events, social activities. Job: Retired Residence: Apartment in the Western part of Aarhus Age: 65 years Marital Status: Married, three children who have left home Leisure & Hobbies: Family and friends Media: Arabic TV, Internet, newspapers and movies Political party: Not really active, but keeps up with news from Lebanon

What makes Mehmet happy? When he gets together with family and acquaintances. When he sees that his children are doing well

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Method The development of personas is a so-called ‘iterative’ process, which consists of a range of steps in order to build personas and breathe life into them. The aim is to create a number of unique personas, which represent the most important user groups at the library. They are deeply rooted in tangible knowledge about the users and they are recognisable and perceived to be in accordance with the every day knowledge you have about the users at your library. Personas must be easy to remember and must thus be as simple and precise as possible. Building personas Step 1: Gather knowledge about the users First step is to gather factual information specifically about the users of your library, about the use of libraries in your region and/or about the library habits in your country in general. You can also gather information yourselves through methods of user involvement: qualitative methods (e.g. interviews or observation) or quantitative methods (statistical material such as questionnaires, traffic census a.o.) The personas method is scalable. Thus, you can include all the information about the users you can gather. The more information on which you can base your personas the more realistic they can become. On the other hand, including large quantities of information can be very resource consuming and confusing. Prior to gathering information, it is a good idea to consider which resources (time, money, competences) are available to you for the development of personas.

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Step 2: Focus: What would you like to use personas for? It is also a good idea to consider what you would like to use your personas for once they have been developed. You may want to know the overall library-related wishes and needs of your various user groups. Maybe you would like knowledge about how to become really good at rendering service, which is tailored to the various user groups. Or maybe something completely different is important to you. Your focus can depend upon the factual knowledge already available to you and whether you have the resources to gather the specific information you would like. Remember to consider your focus when gathering information if you carry this out yourselves. Step 3: Segmentation of users Segmenting your users is difficult and can be the most time consuming part of developing personas. It is a loop-process where you need to compare the factual information you have about the users to the gut-feeling you have as a result of the relations you have with users on a daily basis at your library. There is not one correct set of parameters to grouping users. Parameters can be the age, address, needs and wants of the users; their use of the library; borrowing patterns; frequency of library visits; or other factors depending on the focus you have chosen. When you develop personas, you are working towards a perception that your personas are based on factual information and are realistic and ‘real’. Make sure that more than one person with user contact works on

segmenting users. Search for facts that are unique for each user group based on a wide range of parameters. You can use post-it notes and write a unique piece of information on each. When you begin to see the contours of one or more personas, you can stick post-it notes on various posters, boards, walls or the like for each persona. Continue this process until you have 4-6 unique personas, which are dissimilar and represent the most important user groups at the library. Refrain from developing more than 4-6 personas as it is difficult to embrace and remember more. It is up to you to decide which user groups are most important. It can be an issue of the number of users in the group, the frequency of library visits, borrowing patterns, who you would like as library users in the future and much more. You can proceed in the development of personas when you feel that you have a clear picture of your personas.

It is a good idea to determine how often they should be revised (if not continuously) and who is responsible for them. You can keep your personas alive in innumerable ways. Here are a couple of suggestions for using and keeping your personas alive:   Involve your personas in decisions: How will your personas react to new initiatives?   Print t-shirts, create screen savers, print your personas on cardboard with their name, photo and motto. Once you start talking about how persona Peter will think and react then you know that the method is working. What is needed?   Staff with practical knowledge of users of the library.   Factual information about users.

Step 4: Breathe life into your personas When the 4-6 personas seem representative for the users of the library, you can start breathing life into them by providing them with names and building a character for each based on the facts which are unique to them. The description of a persona should not be longer than an A4-page. You can test your personas on the other members of staff at the library. Step 5: Keep your personas alive Personas are alive only as long as you remember them and consider them in your decision-making processes.

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Literature Mulder, Steve & Yaar, Ziv The user is always right. A practical guide to creating and using personas for the web. New Riders, 2007 Lindholdt, Signe Erichsen Voksne ikke-brugere – En undersøgelse af ikke-brug for folkebiblioteket Greve Bibliotek. Erhvervsrelateret projektopgave Danmarks Biblioteksskole, 2005 Brugernes adfærd på folkebibliotekerne KL’s trafiktælling 2004. KL, 2004 Danskernes kultur- og fritidsaktiviteter 2004: med udviklingslinjer tilbage til 1964 by Trine Bille ... [et al.]. AKF, 2005 Results from an outcome-driven innovation study carried out during the project ‘Unleash the Users’. Møller, Mikkel Randlev Trafikanalyse – Brugerne på Hovedbiblioteket i Århus. Århus, 2005. This publication can be located in PDF-format on:

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Personas have been developed during the project ‘Unleash the Users’. Subsidised by Danish Agency for Libraries and Media and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Access to Learning.

Unleash the Users