UX Pop-Up Table — Library Space Planning

Posted 5 March 2020 by Joshua Shum

This is 1 of 4 UX projects conducted during my time as the User Experience Librarian Intern at University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) Library.

In late 2020, the University of Toronto Scarborough intends to undergo a rennovation project of its primary campus library, the Vincent W. Bladen Library (or UTSC Library). As part of the planning process, I partnered with the Web & User Experience Librarian at UTSC as a UX consultant to the Library Space Planning Committee, conducting research to develop an understanding of the current patron experience.

The original plan—drawing from existing and draft library floor plans—proposed a weekly UX pop-up area for passersbys to write feedback, comments, or suggestions on sticky notes about the existing library space and services, in exchange for snacks and candy. With iterative feedback, there would be potential to return weekly with updated floor plans, and design study spaces (e.g. group study rooms, etc.) in a participatory design process.

Unfortunately, due to nearby quiet study space restrictions, this proposal had to be reworked. The final outcome was a one-hour, UX Pop-Up Table that was held just outside the library doors around late morning or noon, on February 27 and March 5, 2020. Although the study period was intended for a minimum of four weeks, we were unable to continue due to COVID-19 closures. However, despite our shortened study period, we were able to collect 28 comments and offered a summary of our findings and recommendations to the UTSC Library Space Planning Committee.

Additionally, we were able to make space on the table to include digital services and spaces in our research scope, by promoting our ongoing library website card-sorting study.


For materials, we took .SVG files of the existing floor plans and printed them on large sheets of gloss-laminated paper.

Participants were also provided with sharpies and sticky notes to write comments, ideas, suggestions, or feedback on. They were asked to either affix these comments directly on or next to the areas their comments referenced on the floor plans, or under a "General" category as seen below.


We received a mixture of positive and negative feedback. For analysis, we categorized the feedback by location and topic.

By location (# of sticky notes):

  • General: 15/28
  • Study Carrels (1st Floor, Near Archives): 1/28
  • Study Carrels (1st Floor, Near "Main" Stacks): 2/28
  • Information Commons / Computer Lab (1st Floor): 2/28
  • Silent Study Room (2nd Floor, Room AC338): 1/28
  • Study Carrels (2nd Floor, Single Carrel Desks): 7/28

Mentions by topic (# of sticky notes):

  • Amenities & Space Design Suggestions: 8/28
  • Additional Power Outlets: 6/28
  • Noise Complaints: 5/28
  • Technology Complaints: 3/28
  • Website: 3/28
  • Additional Opening Hours: 1/28
  • Staff: 1/28
  • Miscellaneous: 1/28

For examining user feedback on specific physical library spaces, we excluded 15 comments categorized under General and observed the following:

  • 5/7 users who commented on the 2nd Floor Single Carrel Desks suggested that there weren't enough power outlets for charging. This greatly detracts from the overall user experience, as it can interrupt study sessions.
  • 5/13 users who left a sticky note by a specific area identified noise disruptions as a reoccuring negative experience.


Learning Experiences

Although our study was cut short by the COVID-19 global health crisis, we were still able to conduct meaningful user research that will be passed onto the UTSC Library Space Planning Committee.

What I am most proud of from this experience, is the fact that I was able to propose and pilot an idea that I came up with that followed a design thinking methodology of repeated iterative development.

Time & Cost-Effective User Research

Despite a short amount of time, this pilot project is a successful example of cost-effective user research. Overall, this entire study cost less than $50 CAD. The only costs incurred were to purchase candy as an incentive (~$5), the printing costs of the floor plans ($~30), sticky notes (~$5), and sharpies (~$5).

Next Steps

Pending the ongoing crisis, our next step would be to begin Phase 2 of this project—DIY group study space/room kits, where users can design their ideal studying spaces using sharpie, paper, and cardboard cut-outs. This is not only a cost-effective way of developing an understanding of user needs and expectations of library spaces, but will as a result, help inform our decision-making processes when it comese to purchasing equipment and budgetary concerns.