Visitor Center

Review

of an Exhibition

by Hannah Hamill

Published on April 01, 2011

  • Description:

    Visiting the Library of Congress and observing visitors using the Visitor Center kiosks was an interesting experience. I am a big fan of interactive experiences in galleries, but I think that the kiosks could use some more publicity or better signage saying that the kiosks would enhance the user’s experience in the galleries and add an interesting modern twist to this historic building.

    As far as the functionality of the myLOC kiosks goes, they were very user-friendly and easy to figure out—touchscreens seem to be intuitive for both older and younger users. All of the kiosks were working, which was a bonus. There were instructions on where to insert your “passport” and step-by-step instructions on how to register with your email address. However, it wasn’t immediately clear to me that I didn’t have to register in order to use my passport, which would have saved me some time. According to my observations, many people seemed to think the same thing and only spent less than a minute on the kiosk before they decided they were taking too much time and wanted to move on. For this reason, marking the use of the kiosk as “successful” was very difficult—I defined “success” as at least knowing how to navigate the device rather than having to use the passport as well.

    For the most part, the patrons that did end up using the kiosks (as opposed to the many who glanced at them and just kept walking) seemed to be engaged. Most tested it out and left after less than a couple of minutes, but one group was engaged for as long as four minutes. I think that seems appropriate since similar kiosks are scattered throughout the galleries, so the bulk of the visitor’s time at a kiosk doesn’t necessarily have to be spent at the Visitor Center. I didn’t notice anyone asking the Visitor Center staff for help with the kiosks, but I encountered the staff myself and they weren’t especially friendly and I wouldn’t have wanted to ask them for help.

    I visited the LOC with my college roommate and her in-laws, which gave me a bit of perspective on how the technology in the Visitor Center may have been improved. I stayed in the Visitor Center to observe while my group went ahead of me (and not checking out the kiosks or taking a passport), and when I caught up with them they asked me where they could get a passport to use on the kiosks throughout the galleries. My roommate’s mother-in-law even said that she has been to the LOC a dozen times and usually picks up the literature at the Visitor Center, but never realized what the passport was. I don’t really blame them for not seeing the bins of passports in the Visitor Center, but at the same time, I’m not sure how else the LOC staff could have made it clear that the Visitor Center is more than just an information desk—stopping by the kiosks at the beginning could really make a difference in how the visitors experience the LOC galleries.

    Personally, I really liked the whole myLOC concept. I used my passport throughout the galleries and liked that I had the option of tracking my progress and save and/or email images if I wanted to. If I hadn’t been assigned to observe the Visitor Center, however, I’m not sure that I would have noticed the kiosks and passports.

    *Editor’s note: I wrote this review for a class on exhibition design. Since I wrote this review last fall, I started interning at the Library of Congress and have been able to give my input to the creators of the passport concept as they make improvements to the project.

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