When a range of ethnographic research techniques such as study diaries and contextual interviews revealed that Cambridge students were regularly struggling to find spaces matching their study needs and preferences, Futurelib set about developing a solution. Named ‘Spacefinder’ this new web-based service which would seek to match students with appropriate study spaces was tested in a rough prototype form with students, while co-design workshops offered further proof of concept. It was always intended that Spacefinder would not only include library spaces but also other places where students work such as cafés and common areas around the University, in this way the service would recognise Cambridge’s wider learning landscape.
The end result, still in its pilot form, is a product comprising over 180 spaces that can be searched by a variety of preferences and criteria. Users can search for spaces that are extremely quiet and disciplined or alternatively, informal spaces where discussion and groupwork can take place. Facilities and features are also listed such as WIFI, food and drink, natural daylight, while the use of GPS technology means that if you are using Spacefinder on a phone or a tablet you will be alerted to study spaces nearby.
Launched at the 2015 Freshers’ Fair Spacefinder was an immediate hit with new and existing students, quickly finding 1000 users in its first month alone. The Cambridge Student hailed it as ‘the website that will change your studying life forever’ while the Student Union’s Welfare and Rights representative expressed gratitude for the creation of a service that is ‘so up-to-date and relevant to student life!’ The service continues to be developed with new spaces added every month. Recent enhancements to the product include different coloured pins to denote different types of spaces and improved disability and access information.
Spacefinder can be accessed at spacefinder.lib.cam.ac.uk