Encouraging Good Library Habits?

January 26, 2012, 5:59 pm

I’m fascinated with how memory (experience) influences habits (behaviors) within a particular space.


When I moved to Blacksburg I discovered Firehouse Subs and now I go there every weekend for lunch. During the workweek I typically bring my lunch, but my go-to lunch spot is Jimmy John’s. Besides my obsession with sandwiches there is something else going on here, cognitively speaking.


There are other places with more convenient and aesthetically pleasing locations, larger and more diverse menus, and possibly better prices or deals. So why am I loyal to those restaurants?


It has something to do with the psychology of place and the whole habit-forming mechanism in our brains. We’re comfortable with the known—and so we keep coming back to it. Also, when it comes to food, I’m not very adventurous. When I find something that works I tend to stick with it. I order the same thing over, and over, and over again. This is probably connected to the same phenomenon in which students love JSTOR.


I’ve been thinking about this in terms of the library’s learning environment and the early impressions it has on students. During your first visit or two does it look old, modern, high-tech, crowded, empty, friendly, confusing, etc. (I was walking around with a design student last week and asked him to sum up his initial visual impression from the front door: “a neutral non-place that tries hard to be invisible.”)

This is an area that I intend to have my First-Year Experience Librarian explore, with the obvious objective of connecting library spaces, services, and personnel to good habit-forming behavior. Building confidence and familiarity so that it can become a repeatable behavior and a preferred destination. Likewise with interacting with librarians, attending a workshop, studying late at night, using a database, borrowing an iPad, or finding a book. We might consider these common activities, but what’s the psychology behind making them repeatable?


Just some rambling thoughts today—nothing concrete– but I’m really interested in the concept of trying to encourage positive behavior that becomes long-lasting good habits. Over the next few years I want to delve into the first-year experience and find logical ways for this population to engage with the library brand in the largest sense possible.

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