This year’s Greater Hartford Library Virtual Focus Group (see previous entry) got off to a challenging start with Hurricane Sandy and then a Nor’easter interrupting campus and library operations.  Prior to those weather events, we had offers to participate from 20 students.  At the start of the focus group process, however, only six had signed up to receive the necessary instructions.

To help “grease the wheels”, we discussed offering some kind of participation incentive which would increase our focus group numbers while at the same time providing an additional benefit to others.  We felt this kind of incentive would have a broader appeal than say $10 gift cards or other small monetary rewards.

We centered on an organization called Trees for the Future which plants trees in some of the world’s most challenged environments.  We settled on West Africa as a good place for our incentive,  checked with a Peace Corps volunteer who works there who spoke very highly of Trees for the Future, and announced we would plant 25 trees for each participant, up to 500 trees total.

The involvement of 12 participants translated into 300 trees.  We were so thrilled by the quality of their responses, however, we increased our donation to 500 trees which is a “grove” according to Trees for the Future.  The grove will be planted in the Kaolack district of Senegal — a very hot and dusty place much in need of shade  according to the Peace Corps volunteer who assisted us.

A green arrow points to Kaolack, Senegal

A green arrow points to Kaolack, Senegal

Please join with us in celebrating the outcome of our Virtual Focus Group and the good it has done both locally and in a very far off place

William Uricchio — Library Director


Our thanks go to 12 students, a mix of grads and undergrads, who participated in our Virtual Focus Group about library space. During the 10 days of activity we received 94 different comments concerning the size, usability and comfort our group study, quiet study, media, and other locations.

The Virtual Focus Group, still somewhat experimental,  is a process which uses internet based blog software to emulate an in-person focus group discussion (but with everyone getting a chance to “talk” without that interrupting big mouth at the table who seems to be part of every in-person focus group).

The focus groups were designed several weeks ago and were implemented at about the same time at each of the five regional campuses.  A few days after the Greater Campus effort began, we received a surprise announcement that plans were underway to move the campus to downtown Hartford.  This made the collection of library space information more pressing because, almost immediately following the announcement, our gears shifted from attention to improving our present facility to designing a new one from the ground up, a daunting task to say the least.

Responses Summary (By Question):

What is your favorite place to study by yourself in the library?  The glass-wall Quiet Study Room has a large number of fans who tout not only its quiet but also that it tends to draw others who like and respect the quiet atmosphere.  A number of respondents wanted to see more computers in the Quiet Study Room.


When you study with a friend do you choose a different space to study than when you are by yourself?  This depends on the kind of studying being done.  Quiet study people gravitate to that dedicated space.  Students working with others like the group study rooms which often are reasonably quiet even with groups in them.


If you are in a group project, where does your group choose to work in the library?  The large and small Group Study Rooms, the Social Work History Room, and the individual study rooms all have fans who generally praise them.  Some use each of these spaces depending on what kind of project they are working on.  Several comments criticized the claustrophobic nature of the smaller, individual rooms and the lack of chairs/tables in the Small Group Study Room.


Do you like to visit the library to socialize with others?  Most respondents were firm that they generally do not socialize in the library and that they wish others would not socialize also.  Quiet is valued very highly. The campus cafeteria was mentioned as the proper place to socialize.


Do you have any comments/suggestions about library spaces?   Popular comments were for more computers and more electrical outlets.

The following were among desired items:  A Husky Bucks machine; cleaner tables especially in the group study rooms; regularly updated computer software; DVDs and media which are more visible; and more instructions in the Media Room.

Sample Comments Included:

“I like to study in the Quiet Study area when it’s for a midterm or final but I like working in the group study area mainly because there are more people to study with and the chairs are comfortable. It would be better if there were more computers.”

“I like the individual study rooms but I’m a bit claustrophobic and they are kind of small. I like the rooms because it is quiet and I can actually get work done. If they were bigger that would be more helpful because then I can spread my work out. The rooms should be big enough for one person but small enough where it isn’t a group study room.”

“The group study rooms upstairs are ideal for studying with a friend because students are allowed to talk and the noise volume isn’t overwhelming.”

Socializing is an “absolutely inappropriate use of the library. If you want to socialize, go to the undergrad building. Real students have work to do, and don’t need you being obnoxious.”

I “used to meet up with a friend in the room to the left on the second floor. Also meet with my English teacher for peer editing sessions in the private rooms off of that room.”

“I want beanie chairs so I can comfortably relax and read!!!!”

Next Steps:

The information gathered via the Virtual Focus Group is already being put to use in initial planning for the new campus library.  In particular, based on focus group results and other source materials, attention is being  placed on the number and variety of learning/study spaces as we consider square footage allocations.

Down the road, we hope to be able to provide other opportunities for the voices of our clientele to be heard as we consider the best ways to meet your personal and academic needs.

William Uricchio,  Library Director


Greetings Greater Hartford Campus Graduate and Undergraduate Students!  The Trecker Library is looking for information about how you use the Library when you visit.  We especially want to know if you find our spaces comfortable and whether or not our spaces meet your needs.

To encourage participation I will pay for the planting of 25 trees per participant, up to 500 trees, in Senegal, West Africa!

We are using an experimental technique called a Virtual Focus Group (VFG) which is based on  internet  blog software (see previous entry on this blog).   VFG users will converse with one another just like in a regular focus group but without a requirement for everyone to meet in the same place at the same time.  Earlier VFGs received high marks from participants who found them both easy and interesting to use.

The VFG has been rescheduled to November 7 to 16.  To participate you just need to respond to five questions and then go back in two more times and either add additional comments or respond to the comments of others.  Of course, you can then visit the blog as many times as you wish until it closes.

The information we receive will be used to plan improvements to the library to make it better for you.

Right now I need to know who is interested in helping us.  Please send me an e-mail with your full name, your status as a grad or undergrad, and which program you are affiliated with.  I will then create a mailing list so I can send more detailed instructions.  Your name and contact information will be kept confidential.

I look forward to hearing from  you!  Thanks very much for your assistance!

Bill Uricchio, Library Director

ps — I’ll post the number of trees to be planted at this blog when the activity is concluded.


Virtual Focus Groups, a new idea, have many of the same benefits of   in-person focus groups but are much easier for participants to use and moderators to implement.  Click on this thumbnail to see a conference poster describing the benefits and methodology of Virtual Focus Groups:

Bill Uricchio, Library Director


ImageDid you know that our Campus once had a championship basketball team?  Or that Charles Dickens ate supper in Hartford?  Or that you can make professional looking graphics in minutes on your computer for free?

The Trecker Library is beginning a new series of brief information sessions on a variety of topics.  Sessions are about 40 minutes long and will cover the history of the campus, introductions to free or low cost software, tips on database searching, and other subjects.  The overall program is tentatively called:  “Information Universe @ Trecker Library”.

The first three sessions, listed below, are being held in the Library’s Social Work History Room, directly opposite the Library’s main doors.  They will happen from 12:45 pm to 1:20 pm.  Due to the nature of the room, seating is limited.

The first sessions are:

“The History of the Greater Hartford Campus:  A PowerPoint Show”.   Over 100 pictures are used to trace the colorful history of the campus, including its championship sports teams,  beginning in 1939.   Wednesday, February 22 & Thursday, February 23.

“Searching the Hartford Courant Historical Database, 1764-1986”.  This session will show how to key-word search articles, advertisements, photos, obituaries, and more,  in our country’s “Oldest Continuously Published Newspaper”.  Wednesday, February 29 & Thursday, March1.

“An Introduction to Photofiltre”.  An experienced user will show the basics of this popular and free graphics program which can to used to edit photographs, create graphics from scratch, make flyers, and more.  Wednesday, March 7 & Thursday, March 8.

If the weather is dicey on the day of one of the sessions please call the Library at 860-570-9024 to confirm the schedule.

We will send campus e-mails to announce upcoming sessions and also list them on this blog.  If you have topics of particular interest which we should consider, please let me know!

Bill Uricchio, Library Director


An experimental virtual focus group process, developed at the Trecker Library, proved to be a success resulting in six campus students, three graduates and three undergraduates, providing almost 100 detailed comments concerning library spaces and services.

Responses covered a number of topics which will be made part of planning sessions for the 2011-2012 academic year.  Suggestions for service improvements were made for 1.  The building;  2.  Copying, faxing and printing;  3. Furnishings;   4.  Group and Quiet Study Rooms;  5.  Hours;  6. Marketing and increasing library usage; 7. Printed and electronic resources; and  8. Technology.

The virtual focus group concept developed from an effort to host an in-person session with volunteer attendees.  Respondents to the initial survey were asked to indicate interest in participating in a subsequent meeting.  Twelve of the original fifty-four respondents said they were willing to do so, but efforts to gather even a subset of that number of busy people in one place at one time proved fruitless.

Instead of working with two or three members of the campus community, a library staff member used online blog software to develop an experimental “virtual” focus group.  In a nutshell, eight questions were to be posted on a specially designed blog and respondents would be invited to comment on either the questions or on the comments of others.

Six of the twelve agreed to participate and over a three week span provided some 90 useful comments and ideas, vastly extending the library’s depth of knowledge of issues to be addressed in future planning/funding cycles.  The large number of comments compared very favorably to the 12 somewhat general statements received as part of the original survey instrument.

At the conclusion of the virtual focus group,  “themes” (similar remarks from more than one respondent) within each of the categories noted above were identified.  For example, several respondents felt that students, as well as the library, would benefit from an expansion of orientation sessions to include all new students, not just incoming freshmen, as part of Trecker marketing efforts.  Library staff will now investigate the feasibility of implementing this, and a number of other very interesting suggested service improvements, in the months ahead.

Regarding the virtual focus group process itself, five of the six students who participated indicated that they found it preferable to in-person focus groups.  The one person preferring the in-person approach still rated it eight on a scale of nine for its value.  All six found the process easy to use and one commented that “I enjoyed the virtual medium so much, it gave me time to think about my answers and give good responses. I would love to answer more questions online”.

We are grateful to the six students who took time to participate.   We gained a large amount of valuable information which helps provide context to the numbers resulting from the online survey.  And we may have also discovered a relatively painless and yet productive way to inform our future planning efforts.

Bill Uricchio, Library Director


Scanning services have been a frequent request from library users and we are happy to announce the arrival of BookScan, a color scanner which is available for self service and which is free.

With BookScan, you can send scanned images to your e-mail address, where they will arrive as attachments, or you can save them at the library on your  flash drive.

BookScan can convert the scanned image to a number of file formats including:   pdf, jpg, and tiff.  It can even translate printed text into Word .doc format so it can be utilized in your word processor*.

And it is VERY easy to use as shown in  this video from the Fairfield Public Library:

Please come by and try BookScan — it’s located just inside our front door.

Bill Uricchio – Library Director

*Note:  As with any text converted from an image file, users will have to examine the results very carefully.  In tests we discovered that BookScan did not covert very large fonts on a chapter title page and instead left blanks.  Also, page “71” at the bottom was converted to “7i” because the original utilized an uppercase “I” instead of a “1”.  Anyone who has used Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software will recognize these as typical conversion issues.  Happily, the remainder of the text on the page was flawless.





Trecker Library Survey Tracks Space Use

If you have visited the library in the past few months you certainly will have noticed that the number of people using our various spaces has increased tremendously.  Based on recent surveys, we are certain that among the reasons for this change, which is an increase of over 30% from a year ago, are our reconfigured spaces and many new furnishings.

Although our strategies to improve the usability, look and comfort of the library appear to have us moving in the right direction, we are always wondering if we can still make improvements for our users.

To this end, we joined with the other four regional campus libraries (Avery Point, Stamford, Torrington and Waterbury) to develop an online survey process.  Although slightly different at each location, the surveys were designed to poll our campus communities about how our spaces and furnishings are being used and in support of planning for future upgrades.

Our online survey was conducted in late February and early March.  Along with questions about specific usage, we included an open ended comments box and an invitation to respondents to join us for a focus group to provide further context to the survey results.

A future blog entry will summarize the results of the focus group.  This posting is to provide an overview of the findings of the survey process itself.

Beginning with some demographics, we received 54 responses with the vast majority of respondents being master’s degree students from the University’s School of Social Work, which is headquartered here, and undergraduates from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.  These two groups  represent the largest elements of our overall campus population.  We also received twelve comments and, while mostly positive, they pretty much “covered the map” and there were no obvious themes that emerged from them.

Regarding space use, the following pie chart summarizes responses:

Observation:  The general seating areas are all frequently used, less so the two specialized areas for videos and multi-media.

The following pie chart provides an overview of which furnishings are used:

Observation:  The variety of furnishings are all in used in similar manner.

The following bar chart provides more specific  information on what is used, and what isn’t used:

Observations:  Soft chairs are the most popular seating type.    The main floor seating to the right of the entrance, which we call “The Parlor”, and the Quiet Study Room have the heaviest usage.  Least used, as noted earlier, are the video and media rooms.

This table indicates which items listed in our survey were “unknown” to respondents:

Observations:  The fact that many respondents seem unaware of the existence of the video and media rooms is consistent with the previously reported lower usage of both of those spaces.  This probably means the library needs to do a better job of marketing those services.  The same can be said for the main floor lobby room, also known as the Social Work History Room, which is directly across from the library’s entrance and which contains one of our two hi-tech Media:scape workstations.  It may also be that terminology like “Media-scape” is not descriptive enough to let users know what it is and what it does.

Finally, comments about space use included:

“It would be nice for more large chairs. Sometimes they are a turn off though because they have stuff spilt on them.”

“The study spaces upstairs doesn’t seem to receive as much attention in terms of design the way the area downstairs does. Better, updated design would aid in more students choosing to study upstairs.”

“Our study group used the room directly across from entrance on the main floor for co-writing an assignment together. It was extremely helpful to see our work on the large screen.”

In conclusion, we are happy to learn that, speaking generally, our new spaces and furnishings are in steady use by library visitors.  That said, we most likely need to ramp up publicity about our many services so we can reduce the percentage of library users who responded “Don’t Know About”  on the survey form.  Hopefully, we will learn more when the focus group convenes.

Our many thanks go to those who responded to the survey.

Bill Uricchio – Library Director


If you have visited the Trecker Library in the past few months you have encountered some new furnishings, equipment and reconfigured study spaces.   Now that library users have had a chance to interact with our upgrades,  we would very much like to hear  if you are using them and what you think of  them.  To facilitate the receipt of information,  we’ve created a short online survey:

The deadline for the survey is 5 pm on Friday, March 4th.

All information provided by you will be confidential except that at the end of the form there is a place to optionally  provide contact information if you are willing to participate in a one-time focus group for the gathering of more detailed information about how we can improve our spaces.  Attendees will receive a $10 gift certificate from the UConn Co-op.  Early survey responders will receive preference in our eventual selection process.

By way of background, we had a major furnishings upgrade in 2009 including the replacing of virtually all of the chairs and tables in the library’s public areas.  In 2010 our attention turned to equipment including the installation of first floor media room, the addition of three large collaborative study workstations, the upgrading of our network wiring and also the replacement of our existing, and the addition of new, public computers.  More improvements are in the works for 2011 (information about them will appear in a future blog entry).

Much of what we have been doing has been in response to user feedback which we receive via e-mail and in-person, as well as by way of the University Libraries’ survey instruments.  Until now, however, we have not held a focus group to learn in more detail what a subset of our users think about our current  public spaces and how we can make them better in the future.

We look forward to your responses.

— Bill Uricchio, Library Director

Cash Printing, We Hardly Knew Ye

As the last of the University Libraries to take cash for computer printing, the Trecker Library has been running on a wing and a prayer with a very elderly printer.  Our hope was to phase out cash printing over the summer to allow plenty of notification but, probably due to a record setting busy fall semester, the cash printer gave up the ghost about a week before the start of the spring 2011 semester.

We considered a number of alternatives including trying to get a used machine, buying a new one and repairing  the current printer.   We decided that a repair was probably not worthwhile given that the unit we have been using is well beyond its service life and not likely to go much further before the another part breaks, that putting another used machine in place might lead to the service stopping sometime during the semester without warning, and that a new machine is not economically feasible given our original plan to phase out the service in a few months.

Why, you might ask, are we phasing out the service?   The increase in business at the library has led to a number of discussions about ways to maximize our staff resources.  While a valuable service to some, cash printing requires a lot of staff time to collect, count and deposit cash according to the University’s rigorous bookkeeping standards.  Additionally, our cash register, which is almost ten years old, has been showing stress and the cost of replacing it is prohibitive.  Finally, we clearly have been increasingly out of step with the rest of the University which has been encouraging use of the Husky One Card to provide users with more convenience (it can be used at the Co-op and elsewhere as well as at the library) and to reduce the amount of cash handling done by University employees, including student assistants.

The Husky One Card has been in increasing use at the Trecker Library and a new, state-of-the-art, One Card printer was put in place just a few months ago.  With the cessation of cash printing, that service will obviously be increasing.  To help the transition for users who have yet to use their One Cards for printing, and for those who are not able to receive One Cards including public users,  we have developed the following information:


For Members of the University Community With UConn I.D. Cards:

If you have a Husky One Card (your official UConn i.d. card) you can load funds (called “Huskybucks”) on it and use it for printing in the library.  Funds can be added via the internet if you have Visa or Mastercard cards.  You can also add funds to it at the Co-op (in the Undergrad Building).

For general  information:

For information about adding funds to your One Card:

For Anyone Without a  UConn I.D. Card:

The UConn Co-op sells cards which can be used for printing.

Please Be Aware that the UConn Co-op on our campus has these published hours:  Monday – Thursday 8:30 am-6:30 pm & Friday 8:30 am-3 pm which are not the same as the library’s regular hours:  Monday to Thursday 9 am – 9 pm  &  Friday and Saturday  10 am – 5 pm.

For All Users: Some, but not all, library databases and electronic journals allow files to be saved on user supplied flash drives or e-mailed for later printing.  Also, word processing files can be saved on user supplied flash drives for printing elsewhere.

We hope this transition is smooth for most of our users and we apologize in advance for any inconvenience it causes.  As a public service operation we strive to be sensitive to our users needs.  Please feel free to ask our staff for assistance at any time.

Bill Uricchio — Library Director