How is Ethnography Useful for Libraries?

In addition to its usefulness in building theory about the social world, ethnographic research is practically useful for addressing issues of library services design.  Libraries have been designed by experts who assume that they know how library users obtain, evaluate and use information.  However, librarians at our universities knew from experience that there was more to learn about how students did their research for class, and what students, librarians, and faculty expected from each other during the research process.  In exploring these issues, ethnographic research in libraries can powerfully represent the experience of library users, and this research can then be used to help libraries make decisions about library services.  The libraries participating in the ERIAL Project are using the data to improve how academic libraries meet their users’ needs.