Rachel Payne Karasick

Minimum Viable Protoype

I’ve been taking an unusual course this summer: Library Test Kitchen. It’s a joint offering between SLIS and Harvard’s metaLAB, and it’s focused on designing new services, technologies, physical materials, and spaces for libraries.

Although I’m no stranger to daydreaming about far-fetched library solutions, I haven’t spent much time actually hacking apart my ideas to decide what the bare minimum deliverable would be. Since the class is only six weeks, we have been tasked with creating some sort of prototype for our final class. My plan is to design something to bring more attention to Simmons’ rad zine collection, but the idea is still taking shape. Last week I answered a set of questions that helped me think through the concept a bit more concretely.

Here’s the plan:

Project name
Zine Browser

Tweet-length summary
Simmons Library zines live in mylar baggies. Mylar = alienating.
Zine Browser makes use of intuitive, localized technology to offer an alternative browsing experience of containered collections.

What’s your minimum viable product (MVP) going to be? At the end of LTK, what will you have?
Minimum: Cardboard prototype and demo video.
Maximum: Constructing a stand/kiosk, scanning some zine covers, and installing it on the half-height shelving that houses the collection. We have a staff iPad in the library that spends most of its time sitting in a locked drawer, so this could be a useful redeployment.

What are you trying to learn from it (e.g. is this something people need/want? What’s its effect?)
How can strangely sized/fragile/packaged library materials be more browsable? How do we make our special collections more accessible to a new user? While digitization is a great way to get more visibility and increase accessibility to collections on a global scale, how can we locally engage users with hard-to-access collections on site? Will this draw greater attention to hidden-in-plain-sight collections? Will this increase use of the collection?

What are your challenges/concerns
Conflicting ideas about digitizing the medium.
Questions about what to include in the browsing experience – simple visual slides vs. links to catalog records vs. grouping by subject, etc.

What tools and materials will you use
Min: Cardboard, hot glue, cover photocopies, phone camera, basic editing software.
Max: staff iPad, birch plywood, socket fasteners, pivoting wooden base (would be nice, but not essential), drill, miter saw, wood glue, sandpaper, poly, removal mechanism TBD. Could be nice to have undergrads do some zine-esque collage work of the stand before poly.

What resources do you need from us
Vinyl cutter for signage? Support for shifting the idea in a different direction.

What you’ve done so far
Cardboard prototype in the Collaboratory. More focused on the idea of browsing than the actual kiosk design, but was still a useful exercise.


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