Itâ€™s been a while since Iâ€™ve posted, but I have a good reasonâ€”Iâ€™ve started a new job. Iâ€™m still at Georgia Tech, but now I am the User Experience Librarian. Iâ€™ll get into what exactly that entails in a future post, but for now I wanted to share some thoughts on being â€œuserâ€ centered.
There has been a lot of talk about libraries becoming more â€œuserâ€ centered, even back in 2000 I recall seeing user-centered or user-focused in several job postings. With the emergence of all the Web 2.0 magic, this term has become even more prominent.
But are libraries really any different? Can patrons detect a difference? I think that those of us working in libraries have seen a change, but what about our users? Has any of our rhetoric translated into a noticeable change? Do they perceive us as being user-centered, or is it just us who perceive ourselves as being more user-centric?
Taking it a step further, can we ever break the boundaries of departmental self-interest? The Reference department has one perspective, while Circulation has another; Systems/IT has their agenda, while Cataloging has anotherâ€”and so on. Iâ€™ve worked in several large academic libraries and this territorial thinking seems to be universal. If each department perceives the â€œuser experienceâ€ differently than how can we ever truly be user-centered? Thatâ€™s one of the challenges I face now since I am essentially floating without a department… but perhaps that is a good thing? I’m trying to take a more holistic approach.
The book Understanding Your Users provides a good illustration of this problem. When it comes to designing services, we each hear different things.
So where do we go from here? Sure there are strategic plans, vision and mission statements, and maybe a library brand, but do these unify staff? Do we really hear what patrons are saying or are we only listening to ourselves?