Debra Kolah, Texas Chapter
Envisioning the future from the user perspective helps us to create the most amazing experiences possible. If we have thought ahead and steered our way through the ever raging course of technology and change, then we are not shocked by the future, but rather feel the electricity of possibility.
The term “user experience,” while familiar in the context of computer usability, is fairly new in the library environment. The first user experience or “UX” librarian job descriptions started appearing only within the last few years.
But UX in libraries is gaining strength. The user experience deserves our attention. My own title changed in December 2009, I was one of three science librarians when I was promoted to the new position of UX librarian. Solo UX work is not uncommon, but it is hard. Now libraries have had a taste of it and the roles are beginning to expand. Over time, UX will become embedded in librarianship, and all librarians will focus on the user experience if we want to continue to exist and thrive.
The future demands that we create a holistic, user-centered, innovative approach to service design for virtual and physical spaces as well as digital and physical collections. Focus groups, surveys, usability studies, embedded librarianship and ethnographic studies are some of the tools used to gather data and anecdotal information about the user experience. We need to focus on the elephant which is the library website as well as the hundreds of little details that go into making libraries places where people want to go. Everyday we have an opportunity to make the library a user-centered place that teaches, inspires, and creates the future.
We must transition staff to new roles. These include: user needs assessment, usability testing, gathering and interpreting statistics, virtual sites design and production (web and mobile), embedding content outside of our own systems (in YouTube, Slideshare, course management systems, etc.), and marketing and communication.
The times we are living in call for creative ways of doing things that we might not have done in the past. We must look at new user needs and discover new ways to become the libraries of the future. That future has the user at the core of everything we do.
Debra Kolah is User Experience (UX) Librarian at Rice University in Houston, Texas. She is a member of multiple divisions and currently serves as Public Relations Chair of the Physics-Astronomy-Mathematics Division.