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Designing Better Libraries by steven j bell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Librarians Are Spreading The Word About User Experience

When a few colleagues and I launched Designing Better Libraries in February 2007, I was pleased to have the opportunity to introduce to the library profession a new blog dedicated to exploring and discussing two important concepts, design thinking and user experience. Since then DBL has regularly shared ideas and resources about how design thinking and user experience may be applied in libraries to create a better user experience. We hope this has inspired some of our readers to contemplate practicing these ideas in their own libraries, and I personally appreciate being invited by a variety of library groups to come and speak about design thinking and user experience. But back in 2007, as this blog was originally conceived to promote new ideas then virtually unknown to the profession, I was convinced they would resonate with others, and I anticipated that in time those librarians would pick up the torch and spread these ideas through their own writings. I believe that is now coming to fruition.

Just a few weeks ago my good colleague Pete Bromberg, familiar to some of you as a blogger for Library Garden (just named one of the 10 blogs to read in 2010) wrote an excellent post at ALA Learning about creating a great user experience for learners. I’ve had a draft post brewing about creating a user experience for library learners for some time now, and am still thinking this through. Bromberg was clearly inspired by the Jesse James Garrett video on the state of user experience, as he identified four ways to engage learners in giving them a great experience. I know that Pete is interested in UX, and has even organized some staff development programs related to the topic, so it was great to see him writing about it – and his mention of DBL is greatly appreciated. Then a few days later, Stephen Abram wrote a post on his blog about user experience that pointed to Bromberg’s post. Given the wide readership of Stephen’s Lighthouse I’m sure that helped to further spread the word about UX.

I expect that a new development will be more significant in spreading the word about UX to the library community, and I hope that my recent American Libraries article about user experience (“From Gatekeepers to Gateopeners“) has contributed to that process as well. Library Journal, one of our profession’s mainstream practitioner publications, has introduced a new column dedicated to user experience called “The User Experience” (you can’t get much more direct than that). I was also pleased to see that LJ has chosen Aaron Schmidt to write this column. I had the pleasure of working with Aaron a few years ago on a Soaring to Excellence program about web 2.0 for libraries. Aaron is well recognized in the library profession as one of our more innovative thinkers about how to better serve the library user community through improved usability and design. I’m sure he’ll do a great job with the column, and I’ll look forward to reading future entries – and I encourage you to read it as well. And it didn’t take long for another well-known blogger, Michael Stephens, to spread the word about Aaron’s new LJ column on UX via his widely read Tame the Web blog.

When you add up these recent events I think it points to a growing awareness and acceptance of the importance of user experience in creating better libraries. What I am not hearing in these conversations is a parallel recognition of design thinking, and how it is important in helping to design staged user experiences. As in so many other things, a great user experience is the outcome of a thoughtful design process that incorporates, among other things, totality, meaning and relationships. I hope that other librarians will be inspired by this growing cadre of library colleagues spreading the word about user experience – and that they will make Designing Better Libraries a part of their personal learning experience.

Comments

Comment from Connie Crosby
Posted: January 14, 2010 at 1:26 am

Thank you for the great run-down, Steven. There is more going on in this area than I realized. A couple more things:

– Aaron Schmidt has also recently teamed up with Amanda Etches-Johnson to create INFLUX http://influx.us/ , a consultancy specializing in library user experience

– David Lee King ( http://www.davidleeking.com/ ) authored the fantastic book Designing the Digital Experience that, talks about experience design for websites. It does use libraries as some of the examples, but this book is written for a wider audience

As a librarian-turned-consultant, I have been trying to learn as much as I can about UX, and take part in my local UX Bookclub. Your readers can see if there is one in their area or just see the lists of recommended books by visiting the website http://www.uxbookclub.org/. Again, not specific to libraries, but lots of others to learn from!

Cheers,
Connie

Comment from susan rector
Posted: January 16, 2010 at 1:43 pm

hi stephen,

agreed – great post. i’m also collecting a ton of articles, tools about ux over at my blog. i also just became the director of technology for the triangle usability professionals association, an association that is putting the good word out there about user centered design practices – check them out at triupa.org and triux.org.

i think it’s great that librarians are looking at ux issues and grappling with designing good experiences on their sites – i would like to see more of this on academic sites, however. i think we have a long way to go. i was having a conversation with a colleague yesterday about the fact that banks, book stores, shopping sites etc. have a user experience model for their websites – they use terminology and concepts that users are now familiar with and expect. we need to get there on library websites (particularly academic). we need a good, solid user experience model imho.

cheers,
susan
web design project librarian

Comment from StevenB
Posted: January 17, 2010 at 2:12 am

Glad to hear you are now with the Research Triangle Libraries group Susan – and for sharing news on your UX-related activity. While creating a good user experience for the library website, you’ll see that here at DBL we have a much broader vision for the UX – not just the site – but at every touchpoint where the user comes in contact with the library – like the website, but also the reference desk and in the book stacks. If you are new to DBL I hope you’ll look through some old posts, and I think you’ll see that broader vision to which I refer.

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