How do students use study rooms in the library?

Using data to redesign an online room reservation system

How do students use study rooms in the library?


The new Hunt Library has over 50 group study rooms of various sizes and furniture types that students can reserve online or simply use if unoccupied. These studies sought to better understand how students used these rooms to:

  1. inform the redesign of the online room reservation pages
  2. influence planning for future library renovations

Students working in the group study room, Hunt Library


The Web Team initially had a long list of questions about how students discover and select study spaces, but I was able to narrow their focus to the room reservation pages that they needed to adapt for responsive design.

screenshot of room reservation page, before study

While the existing site was pretty clean-looking, there were still some issues:

  1. The number of option filters would have taken up way too much space at the top of a mobile view.
  2. We were unsure how much value the detailed information about the rooms added.
  3. The quicklink to the room reservation page for a special branch library wasn’t easily spotted, as a lot of other page information was presented in a visually similar manner.

We decided on a two-pronged study: guided interviews with power users of the room reservation system, and observational studies of the rooms. For the observational studies, we trained student workers to collect data three times a day over a two-week period, recording over 1,800 unique observations.


I use Excel for data cleanup, calculations, and generating tables and graphs. I also created map-based visualizations, editing an existing Illustrator map to show room usage by location and room type.


Many of the findings from the interviews matched up with the behavior we observed. Students generally didn’t use a lot of the room features and basically just wanted to secure a room as quickly as possible.


Screenshot of room reservation page, after study

Here are the changes the Web Team was able to make as a result of this study:

  1. The data indicated that most of the filters weren’t needed, so they were removed.
  2. The detailed room information was also removed, as observations indicated that students rarely used these room features
  3. The space gained meant that we could add a photo next to the quicklink to make it more spottable.
  4. Interviews indicated that students wanted a quick way to get to their reservations, so this feature was added.

The Web Team was able to remove a lot of information from the room reservation landing page, improving the page’s signal-to-noise ratio and making it responsive-ready.