How can libraries share stories of their UX success in a way that actually helps other libraries implement meaningful changes? Weave is a great start, as is the increasing popularity of UX sessions at library conferences, but how can we take this further?

Jennifer Anderson:

NYPL is definitely one of the "UX-haves," but we weren't always! :) I was the first person hired to what has become the Digital Experience group, way back in 2007. My title has always been UX Designer, which I thought was a little trendy at the time (because if you don't inherently care about UX, what kind of designer are you?), but ultimately I've been glad it's visible in my title. When the group was in its infancy, we struggled to get stakeholders throughout the library to understand what we were trying to do. I've found that the thing that intrigues people and makes them want to know more is something they can see and touch. And it doesn't have to be a sophisticated mockup! It can be paper prototyping using Post-its! You could take a series of photos, moving the Post-its around, and turn it into a short video! It can be anything visual—so long as it's a compelling illustration of the concept you're trying to express. It really works.

I once saw UX guru Leah Buley speak at Adaptive Path's UX Week conference, and she gave a talk called "A UX Team of One." Since then she's written a book (here it is in our catalog! and here it is on Amazon), and if you Google her talk you can find her website, as well as a video on YouTube. She talks about a lot of good ways to do much with not much.

Eric Larson:

True story; found this classic over my lunch break.

Figure 1. Library UX find.
Figure 1. Library UX find.

“How can libraries share stories of their UX success in a way that actually helps other libraries implement meaningful changes? Weave is a great start, as is the increasing popularity of UX sessions at library conferences, but how can we take this further?” –Craig

We could share more of our tools.

A big piece of my job is analytics. We've put a good deal of time into monitoring user activity on our homepage. We systematically record web form events and link click events to inform future design decisions. We capture this data using a jQuery / Google Analytics plugin I wrote.

We keep the data cleansed of any identifying features (usernames, IP addresses, etc.).

At the end of each month, we aggregate these event data in a business intelligence database and run reports to better understand trends and patterns. We can see things like which are the top used links and sections of the homepage, what types of queries people perform on the library catalog versus a "collection-scoped" search form (e.g., the Upper Midwest Jewish Archive). We use this data to better identify what common queries cause problems in our discovery service and make changes to our relevancy rankings.

This might sound beyond reach for a UX team of one or zero, but even at a large university developer time is pretty scarce. The more data we have to back UX recommendations the greater chance we have to see them come to fruition.

Georgina Cronin:

One word: blogging.

Through sharing techniques, times when things went well and times when they didn't so much, we can peer support our colleagues. I'm a coeditor of the UKAnthroLib blog where we've encouraged people to write up their UX studies and share their experiences with others (always looking for new content by the way!).

Consistent sharing and communicating is key and something that we can sometimes be amazing at as a profession, but also sometimes awful at it too. By isolating projects away to a local level, other professionals never stand a chance of learning about new options to learn new things about their users. Publishing in journals is ace but it isn't for everyone and I quite like the free flow offered by blogging and documenting things in a shared space that anyone can add to.

Erin White:

Discussions like this and our push to move conversations into the free web rather than academic journal-land have been great. Weave and Michael Schofield and Amanda's LibUX initiative (podcast, mailing list, active tweeting) really upped the ante for all of us and have provided somewhat of a starting point for library folk ready to get into UX.

Future steps to fostering UX awareness in the profession: I think it's coming, slowly, and will gradually become a thread that weaves (timely pun!) throughout the curriculum in library school. It sure seems like UX and CX/customer experience are peaking in the private tech sector. And, we are already seeing more conversation about assessment in libraryland, which is a perfect complement to UX. But, it'll take time. I would love to hear others' ideas.

Amanda L. Goodman:

I think the way to increase UX awareness is just keep talking about it. Make demands that libraries should do better. While I loathe to bring up stereotypes, we all need to work hard to get rid of the image of the nasty-tempered librarian. I know someone who went to give a talk about creating a better user experience for staff and patrons. The audience became outright hostile! The barrier was a refusal to adapt and to change. They preferred doing things their own way.

Heidi Steiner Burkhardt:

My library probably falls more or less into Craig’s UX "Teams of None" category. As I mentioned early in the conversation, it is not in anyone’s job description here...so all work has been out of individual initiative. The suggestions so far of sharing tools we create, blogging, and moving conversations out on to the free web are awesome, but the folks who find that stuff are most likely going to be the ones actively looking for it.

Obviously I do not have a solution to this, but I do believe in the inside-out, grassroots approach, which echoes what Amanda just mentioned about simply continuing to talk about it. If we build consensus and inculcate a UX mentality in our organizations, hopefully that eventually bleeds out into the world. I also think it is good practice to start with little chunks. I feel like if we can get people to bite on pieces of user experience (for me it has been web writing...and Rebecca was a great teacher!), maybe they slowly get on board with the whole shebang. After my writing for the web presentation at last year’s Vermont Library Conference, the State Librarian invited me to give it again to all of the State Library and Department of Libraries staff. Win.

Stephen Francoeur:

I’d like to build on Heidi’s comment about the “inside-out grassroots approach.” I just got back from a committee meeting with librarians from each of the 24 colleges in the CUNY system. The committee is comprised mostly of reference librarians and is tasked with the job of making sure the look and feel of shared systems (the catalog, our new shared discovery system, and our forthcoming IR) meets with everyone’s approval. Today we were focused on a redesign of the discovery service that goes live next week.

First, major thanks go to Erin for sharing her code for the redesign of Primo at her school. After I saw Erin’s post last fall, I passed it on to the CUNY central folks who manage and develop these shared services for us and was happy when they decided to re-use her design.

Second, as we wrestled with some relabeling we wanted to do, I was pleased how quickly debates over the best label for this or that could be tabled after I announced that in my imminent usability tests for Primo that I’d try to create tasks to address these thorny labeling issues. I was even more pleased (and a bit surprised), though, when a colleague at another school spoke at length about how great usability tests were in finding solutions and how her school would also be doing lots of testing this winter.

At my own library, I’ve seen colleagues changing their tune about what they “know” to be best for users after they’ve watched screen recordings of usability tests. It’s so hard for us to truly see our systems from the (hapless) user’s perspective; watching a test live or as a recording can often shift dramatically the perspective of librarians about “what’s best.” I’m not saying that showing screen recordings or watching live tests is going to change libraryland into UX enthusiasts overnight, but it can be one of many useful ways to nudge us into a point-of-view that is more empathic toward users.

I think Erin is onto something when she suggests that conversations in academic libraries about assessment complement our work. In a large academic library (which isn’t my situation), I can imagine that if you had an Assessment Division it would be a good home for your UX people instead of having them in a division/office that is all about systems or digital strategies or digital initiatives etc.

I also would like to think that just as it’s preferable for an academic library not to have an “information literacy librarian/coordinator” but instead weave information literacy responsibilities into all aspects of reference services and instructional services, it’d be better if UX were something that becomes baked in to the ethos of all of our services.

Erin White:

Wow, Stephen, talk about a day-maker! I'm happy CUNY found the customizations useful. Can't wait to see how you've used/improved on our code.

This idea of UX being "something that becomes baked in to the ethos of all of our services" is where I see us going as a profession. I don't necessarily think it should mean the end of UX-focused staffing—if anything, it should mean more staff.

I agree we should spend time doing the work Heidi and Stephen describe: using evidence to get people across the organization to think beyond "as a user, I..." and toward "our users." It inspires UX thinking and helps spread UX work across the organization.

During our last web redesign, I asked our task force (yep, a temporary web committee!) to sit in on or lead in-depth interviews with individual students and faculty so we could develop personas. The librarians got information that confirmed some things they already thought, but also heard things that challenged their assumptions. There's nothing like seeing the light bulb go on over a colleague's head when they participate in user research. After the interviews, the members of the task force were really sold on the UX process and also advocated for these ideas with folks in their departments.