• September 9, 2015

Shaping the future of the University of Birmingham Library

The University of Birmingham is building a new library which is due to open in Autumn 2016. To inform future developments, Library Services commissioned Alterline to help them better understand their user’s needs, perceptions, experiences and journeys.

“The research that Alterline conducted on our behalf has provided us with a rich resource of data and insights into how our students view and use our services and what they would like us to focus on in future developments.  We will be using the research outputs to improve current services and, most important, to help us design spaces and services within our New Library, which opens in Autumn 2016.”
Elizabeth Warner-Davies, Assistant Director: Library Customer Support


A large-scale quantitative survey was completed by 2,360 students, and a series of focus groups were conducted to explore key themes and trends from the survey. A vital part of the project was to explore and document the students’ physical and digital journeys when using Library Services, and this was done through ethnographic observations (getting beyond what people say, and understanding what people do).

Following on from in depth analysis of the quantitative and qualitative data, the results were written up in an extensive report. The aim of the report was to provide The University of Birmingham with a full picture of the user experience, provide suggestions on how to improve the existing Library services (physical and digital), and make recommendations for the design of the new building. Alongside the written report, evidence was provided for the research in the form of a series of edited video clips.

As part of the project we used ethnographic observation and video to get to grips with what students actually do, not what they say they do, when in the library building.