User Experience For Every Library

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Today, at NJLA, I’ll be presenting on “User Experience for Every Library (Via User Testing)”. This is the result of some conversations about website design I had with other NJLA attendees at the Annual Conference last year in 2018.

User Experience (UX), Usability, Web Usability, User Testing, and so forth are data-driven, user-focused processes and concepts that are core to what I feel is the best way to design, organize and run a website– especially a library website. And in the early 2000s, there were lots of people in the library tech-o-sphere talking about them, at least where I was listening.

But it turns out that the ideas of user testing– and the revolutionary concept that user testing and UX design doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg– didn’t always make it out of the library tech-o-sphere.

And so, as Douglas Adams would say, the problems remained, and lots of the websites were bad, and many of the librarians were frustrated, even the ones with iPods. Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake getting on the web in the first place…

When I started talking about cheap, simple user testing methods with my fellow New Jersey library staff, some of them were excited and curious. This suggested an opportunity, and I’m running with it: a 50 minute presentation presentation/workshop explaining 4 kinds of user testing (card sort, paper prototype/paper-and-pencil testing, user observations, and journey mapping), with lots of opportunities (I hope) for brainstorming among the attendees.

I don’t call myself a usability expert (in fact, I heavily defer to the many usability experts out there, including the irrepressible Steve Krug and the eminence grise of usability Jakob Nielsen, but a presentation of this kind doesn’t have to be perfect for people to find something in it they can take home and use: it merely needs to arrive at the proper time. So, here’s to the idea that for some of the people who come to workshop tomorrow, the User Experience/User Testing ideas I’m presenting will arrive at the proper time.

If you’re curious, you can find my handout for the session here:

(also available via tinyurl:

A Librarian adrift

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Currently, I’m a librarian more or less without an institution, though I think that will be changing in the near future. However, there’s this about librarianship: you can take the librarian out of the library, but it doesn’t help. As the t-shirt says, it’s like the Mafia: you know too much.

I’ve had the opportunity to visit a number of libraries lately, both public and academic. All of them have exciting and interesting programs that others don’t have. Someone suggested on Twitter that a program like Diners, Driveins, and Dives, but with visits to different libraries to see their specialities, would be incredibly popular with librarians and library users, and I agree.

If there are still people out there who think of public libraries as gray and gloomy, it’s possible they haven’t visited very many lately. Yesterday I was at a public library with an amazing water feature, as well as a tropical-themed children’s room. Another library near me was setting up a murder mystery game when I came in, so I saw 5 library staffers deciding exactly where to put the chalk outline in the lobby when I came in, and the chalk outline being drawn as I walked out. (That library also has a study loft.)

Many of the local academic libraries allow outside patrons, often including using their computers and/or scanners. (Both of the academic libraries I visited in the past month had self-service scanning stations, where you can scan to Google Drive, email, or a memory stick.) Being in the library, especially if you bring your own device, often means you can access and view their online resources (which only makes sense, since being in the library means you can use their print resources).

Living in NJ means living high on the library hog, too. My local library offers Mango Languages, Overdrive books (now with an easy to use mobile app interface), reciprocal borrowing with all the libraries in the county (plus online requests– 5 per day!), 6 different regular clubs, and all kinds of activities. That’s in addition to the regular circulating collection, children’s activities, films, ESL conversation group, etc. Public libraries are really hopping these days. Also available through many public libraries are technology training, either one-on-one coaching or classes– some libraries have or other online training subscriptions.

In addition to continuing to belong to NJLA, my state library/librarian association, I am keeping up with my fellow infophiles on Twitter. Twitter has drawbacks, of course. But the nature of the medium, compared to Facebook, seems to be more conducive to professional and informational discussion.

Wow, an Update!

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I finally started updating my article “Historical Research in the Modern Library”– which hasn’t been updated in probably 10 years. I’ve posted the updated verison on this site, and I’ll be redirecting from my old site.

[But first, I’ll be grabbing the URLs that are no longer good from the old version to put in the WayBack Machine, to see if I can find archived copies of those sites I loved so much. ]

The updated version still needs a lot of work, but at least all the links work, and the primacy of online resources is acknowledged.

Now, the links I’ve been using in my Online Tips and Tricks for SCA Researchers page is now on this site as well, and of course I’ll be updating that too.