Explore the library

tags: interaction,  narrative



Create a new product using data visualization and show it in action

The goals of this project were for us to create a future product that deals with visual data and to demonstrate how this product would integrate into our lives with a video sketch. The video sketch acts as a part of the prototype for the object to show an imagined future of how the product would function.


Finding the right data set to visualize

Getting the data was a little trickier. I have worked and volunteered in libraries before and think patron statistics are so interesting. But when I went to the Carnegie Public Library to ask if they had any general data (on even the most checked out book) they were unable to provide me with any for security reasons, especially with such a short turn around time for a small class project. I collected general data from their annual reports, but it wasn’t very evocative or complete. Ultimately, I ended up using my personal GoodReads data and focusing on personalized account use for my project.

Example of annual report data:


Imagining your product

Some of my data visualization ideas and initial sketches:


We could choose any data we wanted for the project, however, we just had to keep in mind that the final product should not be a mobile or web-based screen. I felt fortunate that I found an idea that I was happy with and wanted to work toward right away because I have volunteered in a library and had wished there was a way to get people more engaged with the books at library.

My initial idea was library shelf panels that get show display shelf-specific information on its books. For example: the shelf genre(s), the most popular books on the shelf, new books, and staff recommended books. It would also assume that the library had an account system that is similar to GoodReads and could see what your favorite or to-read books were.


Learning Processing and then putting it into action

After seeing all the incredible things processing can do, I was pretty excited that we would get to try it out. Processing is a java-based language for visualizing information. It is intended for designers and so it’s supposed to be an easier programming language to use. Learning the language was largely self-directed with the professor helping us de-bug along the way. It was a struggle, but eventually I created way display my to-read books in a grid that was supposed to approximate its distance from where you are in the library.

The my final design plotted all the books on a map according proximity to where you were standing and interacting with the screen. Final data visualization deliverable:



Showing your data in use and your product in space

While working on the programing side of things, we also had to work on our scripts and storyboards for our video sketch in order to really convey our idea. I was really excited about my product so one of the hardest parts for me was focusing my story on the interactive data functionality of the panels and not everything I wanted my panel to do. I photographed, edited the photos, and created the video using Adobe After Effects.

What did I like, what would I change?

This was a great project and good practice in rapidly learning new skills for work. I had no interactive programming or film story-telling experience so this project was certainly a handful.  I was grateful for the opportunity to learn processing and was so inspired by the projects I saw on the web that are working towards making large data accessible to the average audience (like this one).

If I did this project again, I would definitely give myself more time to learn and perfect both sides of the project, the processing and the video. I even ended up re-doing my video after the project was turned in because I felt like it didn’t represent the project well enough.

Hope you’re excited for the library of the future!