Have any of you who are working on UX outreach outside of the library participated in ad hoc projects? Trained or helped run usability tests for other departments?

Matthew Reidsma (Weave Editor):

That's kind of an academic library oriented question, so let me also bring in the public library and LIS education folks: do you have the sense that stakeholders outside of your library see the library as a place where this kind of help/training/service is available?

For Craig, do folks come in to the Library and Information Science (LIS) program at Pratt already aware of UX and its place in the library world?

Jennifer Anderson:

The UX work in my organization is split up in a couple different ways. First of all, there are two teams doing the work of building digital experiences: there's the main Digital Experience group, of which I am a member, and there's our Labs and Digital Collections crew, who work on more experimental interface design projects, as well as our digitized material discovery platform, Digital Collections.

Our group comprises three developers, a content strategist (our first! we're very excited to finally have this person on the team), an information architect, and myself, the senior UX designer. I'm responsible mostly for the visual design: I design the layouts and visual treatment, create wireframes, and write a little bit of code. I work very closely with our information architect (IA) who runs our user testing. Together she and I plan the site A/B tests, for which we use the product Optimizely.

UX thinking has definitely evolved over the last couple years at the library. I think that's due in large part to having an IA whose job it is to meet directly with the various stakeholders in the site. Having her available to present wireframes, get feedback, and communicate with our content partners has done a lot to involve those folks in our process.

I don't think our patrons necessarily think of the library as a place that does UX, although that may be because library work is so closely aligned with UX that the distinction is quite subtle. Like Amanda, we've done a lot of guerilla-style UX testing—our last big project involved testing prototypes with an iPad and a couple from our team grabbing folks as they came into the library. :) The more of that we do, the more visible the UX work becomes.

Incidentally, that big project was an overhaul of our locations section. That work was informed by a lot of testing, including staff surveys, card sorts, and in-person user testing of prototypes. It allowed us to reposition our locations section as a search-based service for our patrons, rather than a flat list of information. So far the response has been mostly positive (there are always a few who dislike any kind of change, as I'm sure you all well know from your own testing experiences! :).

Erin White:

I don't think most of our users see us as a UX hub, unless they're active in the UX community in Richmond. Other web folks at VCU and in Richmond know a little about what we've got going on. I've been brought in to talk to departments at VCU and a few area libraries about our processes and our user research.

It really helps that I've been involved in outside-the-library things like edUi Conference, Richmond-area web organizations, and the UX twitterverse. More importantly, my boss has supported me doing a good deal of this stuff during work hours.

Rebecca Blakiston:

I’m happy to say that over the past couple of years, our library web team has been building a reputation on campus as being the ones who know their stuff when it comes to UX. Much of this is thanks to involvement in various campus groups. We have a campus-wide web developers group (an informal group that meets monthly to talk web), and our developers have been involved in it for some time. Our UX-Dev work team leader, Mike Hagedon, is currently chairing the group for the second year in a row. We’ve delivered a few presentations on our work at this group and at campus events, like our Mobile Matters Symposium and IT Summit, as well as Drupal Camp up in Phoenix. Thanks to this exposure, we’ve been contacted for advice from other units. I helped the Graduate College organize a card sort, and they met with me several times as they did sessions and analyzed their results. I gave feedback on a website survey to our campus IT folks, and helped a recently-formed UX group on campus develop personas as part of a new re-branding initiative. Just last week, the Desire2Learn coordinator (D2L is our campus LMS [Learning Management System –ed.]) contacted me about how to re-architect their labeling to be more user-friendly.

Jennifer Anderson:

We've also got a bunch of folks participating in outside groups, such as Code4LibNYC, and METRO (the Metropolitan New York Library Council). Our IA helps to run the Museum Computer Network conference as well. I've spoken at Pratt Institute, to their UX group, a couple times.

Stephen Francoeur:

I know that at NYU the library’s UX staff (led by Nadaleen Tempelman-Kluit) and some part or unit in NYU’s campus IT put on a joint event every year for World Usability Day. Here’s a page about their 2013 event: https://wp.nyu.edu/ux/ux-at-nyu-2013/

Amanda L. Goodman:

I work individually with patrons to teach them how to build/manage websites, social media, email marketing, and graphic design. So while patrons may not knowingly come to us for UX education, they end up getting it anyways! I lead patrons through the usual questions about who is your audience, where can you find them, how to watch analytics to see how your efforts are doing, etc.

[In response to Stephen Francoeur –ed.] Wow that you’re in collection management! Then again, that makes sense as an alternative if you’re not in an IT-rooted background (we used to be IT before we became UX). I noticed that many library UX job listings focus solely on the website/digital aspect. The ads ignore the bigger components of physical space, personnel interactions, and just an overall holistic approach.

[In response to Erin White. –ed.] Ideally, I’d love to say we’re a 5 on the UX thinking scale by Coral. We strive to always be considerate, but in practice we’re probably more of a 3.5 (we care and try!). Since we don’t deal with a lot of red tape, staff are encouraged to dream up projects and then immediately put them before patrons with little to no oversight. Of course, we generally bounce ideas off each other before we take them live.

We just had a staff development day where everyone was invited to contribute any improvement, comment, or program idea. Large print outs of the building were marked up with all-hands-on-deck observations. For example, we need water fountains on all floors. While I doubt my colleagues would notice this was actually a UX exercise, they were all contributors.

I’m also so jealous of content strategy and IA specialists within your departments. I’m a huge advocate for content strategy, but that’s an ongoing campaign.

Craig MacDonald:

From my perspective as an educator, there are two separate but closely related issues working here. First, there is a definite hurdle to UX being seen as a part of librarianship. Every semester at our new student orientation at Pratt, I ask our incoming students if they know what UX is and it's rare that more than a handful answer in the affirmative. I'd say it usually takes a full semester of coursework in UX before students can understand and articulate why UX is so important to the field, so I think there's a definite gap between UX and LIS from an education standpoint (but, if you look at library school curricula, I think that gap is slowly closing). With that said, I don't think this problem is unique to libraries or librarianship. This is the second issue I've noticed: for a lot of people—even those who work directly with technology and are very smart and forward-thinking—UX is a foreign concept. I've spoken to some of our graduates who work as UX professionals in very progressive, tech-centric organizations and they all tell me that a big part of their job is arguing and fighting (sometimes unsuccessfully) to do something UX-related (usability testing, user research, analytics, etc.).

The upshot for me, and what I've started emphasizing in all of my classes now, is that UX is not about tools or techniques: it's about people and relationships.

Jennifer Anderson:

I agree, Craig: the relationships are very important. Before we had a content strategist, I cofounded (with a colleague who oversees our blogs and other digital content) a content strategy working group, which brought together various stakeholders in the site from different departments. We used our working meetings to figure out issues on the site from a UX/content strategy perspective. But I found that what was most important about those meetings was that the right people were in a room together, discussing how their respective parts of the site fit together and informed each other. We solved some issues (one of the things that got off the ground was an editorial style guide!), but we also garnered empathy for each other. That can go a long way toward getting buy-in on projects, especially in an organization where the departments can be pretty siloed.

Rebecca Blakiston:

Craig—I love that and want to make a bumper sticker: “UX is not about tools or techniques: it's about people and relationships.” So true!

This reminds me of an excellent talk I went to by Lisa Hubert awhile back called, “Want to sell UX? Stop talking UX!” Her driving theme was that we need to take the UX principles of empathy for our users and use those in our relationships with our colleagues and stakeholders. Only by truly listening and understanding to our stakeholders can we truly “sell” them on the whole idea of UX.

Georgina Cronin:

So far I'm finding it interesting how many of you are involved in the traditional sense of UX (i.e., tech usability) while I'm working on a more qualitative ethno model of investigating user needs and experiences of our service. It is rather fascinating!

So, I have been involved in various projects outside of my library but mostly working with other libraries. I am currently on the project board for a great University-wide UX project which will be trialing different, new services to try and improve the student experience of the multitude of different libraries and spaces around our university. We have around 124 individual libraries, so it is often a challenge connecting them all up at times!

As far as running tests, not really my area. I suppose the closest things that I have been involved with is running mini-sessions on skilling up other librarians to do mini-UX projects in their libraries using ethnographic techniques, as well as helping colleagues test out new services such as better signage and other user-related things.

Heidi Steiner Burkhardt:

Our scenarios are really diverse, but I love that there are already a few common themes in the conversation standing out for me.

Rebecca's note that "we need to take the UX principles of empathy for our users and use those in our relationships with our colleagues and stakeholders" feels spot on. Trying to take into account where other people are coming from is something I have tried to work on personally over the last few years and it has really helped in terms of getting buy-in and building partnerships with my colleagues in the library and partners on campus. Honestly...cannot say I ever thought of this as an approach to building buy-in around UX, but so much of the time improving services for our patrons has been the motivation (things like working with campus IT to make things not broken, participating in selecting and piloting a new LMS, garnering support to change something on the website, whatever...).

Related to that, I find myself mulling the difference between people who have no awareness whatsoever of UX principles and those who are practicing UX in their daily work and do not even realize it. Not sure where that goes, it just stands out. Amanda's story about the water fountains and "while I doubt my colleagues would notice this was actually a UX exercise, they were all contributors" brought this to the forefront for me. I truly believe that everyone in the library can and should contribute to a more positive user experience, but do we have to sell it as UX to make it happen?

The last thing (then I need coffee) is again Amanda mentioning that many user experience librarian job postings are focused on the web aspect and completely ignore the public services, physical space, and more holistic pieces. This crumbles my cookies.

Georgina Cronin:

Your last comment about the holistic side of things (and physical space) is almost exactly what I'm doing in my role (so really struck a chord with me!), but then my job is shiny, new, and really unusual. More of the focusing on the user as a human being rather than a more removed, abstract user who interacts with digital services!

Heidi Steiner Burkhardt:

I hope positions like yours become a trend, Georgina! Our library is eyeballs deep in a renovation right now and I am helping coordinate all of the technology, as well as providing feedback on furniture, etc. So the physical space aspect has been particularly prominent for my colleagues and me lately as we work to advocate for how people are actually going to want to use the building.

Georgina Cronin:

You may find this interesting but to use an few examples of the work I'm doing and am involved with, as a direct result of studies such as our Graffiti Wall we've done things like get our doors to close more quietly, provided comfy cushions and bean bags, worked at getting our air con to hum quieter and installed new PCs in certain areas while removing some from others that weren't being used. All of this was based on feedback from students gained through ethno studies as opposed to anything we ever got from our annual survey. Hugely useful and the best bit is that so many of our studies are quick and easy to set up, so we get almost instant results that we can then implement almost overnight. A powerful thing, I'm sure you'll all agree!