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DESCRIPTION: The Chicago Public Library's goal is to inform, educate, inspire, and surprise visitors. The library wants to transform into a cultural destination for all and remain relevant in the 21st century.

THE CHALLENGE: Improve the library's digital solution to attract a diverse range of visitors to the library in hopes of providing individuals with access to education and resources, which in return will benefit the city of Chicago.

MY ROLE: UX Researcher 

MY RESPONSIBILITIESEnd-to-end UX design including planning, research, design, user testing, and UI


TOOLSSketch, Invision

Want the full story? Read on...
"Building the library of the future"

What is the challenge?  Attract a diverse range of visitors by staying relevant and transforming the library into a cultural destination.

How?  Continual rollout of smaller, digital initiatives.

Why does this matter? More people in the library means more people who are learning and growing which leads to a stronger economy in Chicago.

The Chicago Public Library's Strategic Plan:


Domain Research: The CPL consists of the main library (Harold Washington) and 80 smaller branches throughout Chicago.


We discovered that the library is beginning its transformation with the physical space (starting with the Children’s library) and has plans to redesign and update the website.


These findings led us to focus on the mobile application, since attention is already being given to the website and physical space.

The Chicago Public Library is focused on serving its patrons effectively, providing access for all, and hopes to accomplish its goals by focusing on three key initiatives: Nurture Learning, Support Economic Growth, & Strengthen Communities.

What did our users say?

User Research & Secondary Research: 

Survey, Yelp Reviews, and approx. 20 interviews with visitors & staff members.

“My reaction was, ‘what is in the world in that building?’ I looked at Google maps and I would have never guessed it was a library though.” — Yelp Review​

“People are very surprised when they come inside and see that we have music rooms and a makers lab” — HWL Staff Member

"I come to the library [in our neighborhood] with my kids in hopes of meeting people and getting involved in the community" ---- Parent at Lincoln-Belmont Branch

"I like to study at the library, it's so quiet. But it is HUGE, it can be hard to find book and all the things I need without asking for help" ---- Student

95% of people surveyed

associate libraries with books, or say they are 'outdated' and 'quiet'

100% of people surveyed say they would use at least one of the library's free resources, but didn't know about them until now

What did we learn?
Affinity Diagram showing positive findings of library, negative, and neutral


  • Chicagoans and tourists alike are not aware of the resources offered other than books therefore do not view Chicago Public Libraries as cultural institutions in Chicago.

  • There is a sense of uncertainty about how to navigate the libraries and all the resources available which leads to less productivity, frustration, and inconvenience among its visitors.

  • Each CPL branch offers different value to its diverse variety of visitors, and most people desire a connection to be made with people in their community at a local library.

  • People find that the mobile application is helpful with book navigation, but it does not meet their desire to connect with the community, educate, learn, and grow.

  • People are more likely to use the library and its resources when they have a tool that helps them learn, plan, and connect with what the library has to offer.


To help us ideate, we created three personas based on our research --  Student, Parent, and Tourist.

Our two primary personas, Alice and Jen, are shown here:

Alice's Pain Points: Unproductive and inefficient because time is spent finding resources

Alice's Goals: Professional Growth and Education, Make Connections, Efficiency, Productivity

Jen's Pain Points: Cannot easily connect with others and engage in community activities using the app

Jen's Goals: Socialize and meet new people, educate children, and explore new city

We can't solve for everyone, so my team and I focused on our primary user: Alice (Student)

Create a tool where students can be more productive at the library and connect with others.
Focus on fostering a sense of community and awareness of library's resources.

Design Studio: By holding a design studio, we were able to collaborate with others to determine some design ideas and solutions focusing on two main areas: Community & Awareness


Ideas generated were primarily centered around a mobile application that connects people and gives users information about the library. We then created a design studio matrix to guide a clear direction for our designs. 



Now, we had a ton of ideas circulating.


We sat down with the MOSCOW framework to determine what elements were our

Must Haves, Should Haves, Could Haves, and Won't Haves.

Must Have:

Book Finder

Should Have:

A profile feature for customer engagement

An events and connect page for community engagement

Highlight opportunities to Learn and Grow

Could Have:

Resources, Chat, Locations, Map, Library News





Prototyping and Wire-framing:



User Testing: We wanted to ensure that our solution worked well and was solving the right problem. While the navigation and overall layout of the app appeared to be a success, we were not sure if our solution was a complete success.


We asked ourselves:

  • Did our solution solve for a large enough demographic?

  • Was our solution feasible for our client?

  • Did we tackle the main problems we were solving for (community and awareness?)

The answer:

Sure, but we could do better.  I hope to come back to this project in the future, updates to come!

Ideas generated from Design Studio

Check out our prototype and the clickable prototype here! We incorporated the library's new branding that we discovered during our research. 


Main Menu: Events, Learn, Grow, and Connect Bottom Menu: Search, Saved Events, Locations, Resources, and Chat

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Users can choose to create a profile by selecting their interests. The app will make suggestions (groups, events, connections, etc.) based on your interests.

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Users can read descriptions of groups and events, as well as view other library user's profiles.

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Main Menu: Events, Learn, Grow, and Connect Bottom Menu: Search, Saved Events, Locations, Resources, and Chat

press to zoom