Research Methods for Information Research

4. Observation

4.2 Accompanied visits

This activity is regularly used by museums education staff who want to find out how people are really responding to their exhibitions. One of my museums research colleagues explained the power of accompanied visits by saying that if conduct an exit interview and ask people whether they felt lost at all when going round the exhibition, nobody ever was, but if you accompany people round an exhibition, a combination of observation and discreet questioning will establish that most people are confused about where they are and where the exhibition is leading them most of the time! Transferred to a library context the accompanied visit can provide a valuable picture of the interaction between the user (especially the new user) and the institution. Accompanying new users of the service on their first visit may throw some light on the phenomenon identified by former Education Inspector Trevor Dickenson who described the library experience as “intimidation by furniture”.