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It Takes A Village: Building UX Capacity in Libraries

  1. “It Takes a Village” Building UX Capacity in Libraries Craig M. MacDonald, Ph.D. Assistant Professor School of Information ASIS&T @ Pratt Faculty Speakeasy November 2, 2016
  2. Citation Craig M. MacDonald (2016): “It Takes a Village”: On UX Librarianship and Building UX Capacity in Libraries, Journal of Library Administration, DOI: 10.1080/01930826.2016.1232942
  3. UX is everywhere – or is it? Today, many organizations are beginning to acknowledge UX as a competitive advantage. But, knowing UX is important and actually making UX a priority are two different things. Many organizations (including libraries) struggle to define a coherent strategy or outline a realistic roadmap to get them into a more user-focused mindset.
  4. UX in practice Cisco: adoption of an internal UX consultancy model increased its ROI 60-fold, from $50 million to nearly $3 billion. Building a design culture re-frames role of UX designers as “change managers.” One successful approach is a “dual strategy” of both evangelizing UX and teaching UX practices throughout the organization.
  5. Librarians are talking about UX Conversations about UX in the library community intensified in around 2007, when the dual ideas of “user experience librarian” and “design thinking for libraries” emerged. Many articles about using specific UX methods (e.g., A/B testing, user surveys), with some general advice about building a UX culture: Lead by example Create a permanent, library-wide “Web team” Include “UX Lead” on two-person project teams
  6. But how are they doing UX? Part 1 of this research looked at the role of UX librariansand reported 3 major findings: 1. Most UX librarians have more in common with UX researchers than UX designers 2. UX librarians often struggle to balance UX work with other library responsibilities 3. UX librarians tend to operate as internal UX consultants with minimal authority and decision- making power Part 2 of this research focuses more broadly on the organizational factors that impact how UX librarians carry out their work.
  7. METHODOLOGY How the study was conducted
  8. Semi-structured interviews Interviews were approx. 45 minutes long Conducted remotely via Skype and Google Hangouts Held between July-September 2014 Covered 4 broad areas: 1. Their background and type of UX work they do 2. A current or recent UX project and their role 3. History of their library’s focus on UX 4. Challenges of doing UX in their library
  9. About the participants Interviewed 16 librarians from: 1 Public library 2 Library consortia 8 Academic library (small or mid-sized) 5 Academic library (large) Geographic representation: • South: Texas (2), N. Carolina (2), Tennessee, Kentucky • Midwest: Michigan (2), Illinois • Northwest: Oregon • Northeast: New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine
  11. Where does it come from? Personal, bottom-up advocacy 3 participants cited their own personal efforts to grow and build a UX culture over a period of many years. Top-down decision 4 participants said it was a philosophical shift in how their dean/director wanted to make decisions; e.g., make library “more self-aware.” 4 participants said it was director’s vision to look like the library is “hip and moving forward.”
  12. Opportunistic or strategic? Staff departures or changes 2 participants said it was a result of staff leaving or retiring which prompted a revision of roles and responsibilities. Strategic re-organization of staff 3 participants cited purposeful strategic efforts to re-organize the library around UX; goals were to create a more cohesive vision and promote “evidence-based practices.”
  14. Benefits (1) Increased empathy and responsiveness (8) Library is more responsive to user needs and staff are more aware of the need to be user-focused Helps libraries adopt a more evidence-driven approach to decision-making Improved public relations and outreach (6) Regular contact with users and evidence that you are responding to their requests/feedback engenders positive relationships with constituents
  15. Benefits (2) Promoting a ‘big picture view’ (3) A dedicated staff member “looking over the whole scheme of things” can help library be more consistent and aware of how well its services are meeting users’ needs General website improvements (3) Generally, participants felt their library website was “much easier to use” and “more user-centered” though did not provide any specific measure to support this claim
  17. Challenges (1) Navigating the library’s culture (12) Sometimes there’s clash between departments with different ways of thinking/doing Some were “the only person in the building” doing UX, which created a bottleneck that was hard to break through Overcoming resource limitations (10) All participants had other responsibilities and feel crunched for time: “I only have bandwidth for so much.” Many admit that “UX stuff gets pushed aside” in favor of day-to-day responsibilities of running the library
  18. Challenges (2) Finding ways to scale/scope UX work (7) UX work is time-consuming by nature, so librarians are challenged to scale/scope their work to make it more efficient and productive Gaining trust/support from colleagues (6) Sometimes hard to explain why UX was important enough to put on other people’s schedules General fear of “assessment” because people don’t always like hearing the results
  19. Challenges (3) Not having enough training/expertise (4) Being the only person skilled in UX means it takes time to get colleagues up to speed Not being trained in UX means some projects are “a little half-assed” and not implemented in the most effective way Troubleshooting technology problems (2) Sometimes, technology doesn’t work. Technology decisions happen outside the library, but impact how librarians do their work.
  21. Degree of UX awareness Low (4) Colleagues are ”siloed” and busy doing their own work; role is hard for colleagues to understand. Variable (5) Some have no idea, but others are very knowledgeable – usually those who they worked with directly or see what they do on a regular basis. High (7) A majority understand what they do, and colleagues go to them when projects arise Required persistent effort to raise awareness and understanding throughout the library.
  22. TOWARD A LIBRARY UX MATURITY MODEL Synthesizing the findings and looking ahead
  23. Maturity models Originally known as a “Stages of Growth” model They delineate a logical path from an initial state of maturity to a high level of maturity Each stage represents an organization’s capability with regard to a specific domain or set of competencies
  24. UX Maturity Model Note: This is not a thorough or systematic review of UX/usability maturity models! Generally, there are six distinct stages of UX maturity based on the following indicators: • The extent of UX awareness • The extent of UX knowledge, skills, and resources • The extent that UX methods and techniques are employed • The extent that UX is incorporated into leadership and strategy • The extent that UX integrated with workflows and processes
  25. A Library UX Maturity Model Stage Description No. of Libraries 0 Unrecognized Superficial understanding of UX; UX was an afterthought and not part of decision-making. 2 1 Recognized One individual responsible for UX; UX projects were ad-hoc; frustrated by lack of momentum and support. 3 2 Considered UX valued and understood; projects completed regularly, but face bottlenecks due to resource constraints 6 3 Implemented Dedicated UX departments/units; UX is prioritized and valued by leadership; UX part of library decisions but struggle to balance competing responsibilities 4 4 Integrated UX is core part of organizational strategy; UX librarian empowered to make decisions but other librarians are also encouraged to make UX decisions 1 5 Institutionalized Non-UX staff members make UX decisions; shared understanding of UX standards and guidelines; UX knowledge fully de-centralized and distributed. 0
  26. Is this bad news? Notably, 11 of 16 participants interviewed in this study were at or below Stage 2. But, increasing UX maturity is a long and arduous process. May take 2-3 years to move between early stages. May take 5-6 years to move between later stages. All participants said their libraries only began focusing on UX within the past 5-6 years, with most starting in past 2-3 years. Thus, the fact that so many libraries are already at Stage 2 or 3 is an encouraging sign.
  27. DISCUSSION Implications for the future of UX librarianship
  28. Implications (1) Adding a UX librarian isn’t enough; must also commit additional resources and alter organizational strategy and decision-making process. “It’s kind of the ‘it takes a village’ kind of thing. If everybody in a library can work closer together on improving things … then maybe [having] a UX librarian isn’t necessarily important.” A UX librarian can be a great bottom-up advocate, but growing a UX culture also requires top-down leadership that values and rewards the use of UX methods.
  29. Implications (2) UX is more than just a philosophy or staffing structure – to persist, it must be clearly articulated in the organization’s written strategy and be supplemented by design principles and guidelines. No participants said they had either a written UX strategy or guidelines. UX librarians need to embrace the “dual strategy” of advocacy plus education/training that empowers colleagues to make informed UX decisions. Distributed knowledge is more effective and reduces potential bottlenecks.
  30. Implications (3) UX librarians must hone their skills and become more knowledgeable of UX principles and techniques that are used in the UX industry. Improve design skills and learn from UX practitioners, not just fellow UX librarians. Libraries need to find and tell more UX success stories, preferably with metrics or other data demonstrating tangible benefits. Specific, quantifiable impact measures can convince libraries to invest the time/resources necessary to grow their UX culture.
  31. FUTURE WORK Where do we go from here?
  32. Future areas of research Develop and validate a comprehensive library UX maturity model. Identify specific strategies and techniques for building a UX culture in libraries. Help libraries prioritize UX through written strategies and experience guidelines. Consider possible ways to show UX impact and share success stories with the library community.
  33. Q&A Questions, comments, feedback?