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Personas and a user‐centered visioning process

Zsuzsa Koltay (Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA)
Kornelia Tancheva (Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA)

Performance Measurement and Metrics

ISSN: 1467-8047

Article publication date: 6 July 2010




The purpose of this paper is to outline a fast track process Cornell used to develop a user‐focused vision and recommendations on how Cornell University Library should present itself and the information landscape to its users.


A consultant was hired to conduct local interviews probing audience work habits and needs and to synthesize them into composite personas segmented on the basis of “like” behavior. These “imaginary friends” helped validate and supplement user studies done elsewhere and existing quantitative data from Cornell, thus influencing all the decisions and recommendations that the team produced.


The personas can also serve as a way to effectively communicate about and develop empathy for user needs throughout planning and implementation.

Practical implications

Understanding and assessing the information seeking and managing needs, habits, and expectations of a library's audience are crucial for creating a digital library environment that is relevant to users. While anthropological studies are most meaningful, can you be sure that results produced at other institutions are complete and relevant for your own environment and purpose? The use of personas provides an effective tool that validates such comparisons.


Personas have been mostly used in industry, but in our process they proved a useful and relevant benchmark for the academic library environment.



Koltay, Z. and Tancheva, K. (2010), "Personas and a user‐centered visioning process", Performance Measurement and Metrics, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 172-183.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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