In the library world information literacy (IL) is a major buzz word. It involves finding, gathering, and synthesizing information. Now, while IL instruction is definitely an important component to any library, it might be beneficial to use those same concepts within our own workflow as well. We talk about teaching others to organize and synthesize but often times we don’t organize and synthesize our own systems in such a way that users can efficiently retrieve information. A person can create excellent queries, but the query is only as good as the system (ex: library catalog). We need to be able to create and provide a system that supports the way users think. Trying to “bridge the gap between how information and knowledge are perceived, used, communicated and visualized by humans and how they are represented, stored, and managed with computer systems” (De Tre G. & Van Acker W., 2012, p. 305) is an ongoing problem.
ENTER…the User Experience Librarian! The user experience (UX) librarian bridges the gap between the back-end with the front end…the way computers organize data and the ways humans attempt to search for that data. User experience involves studying how users interact with a system and then creating that system to accommodate those users. A UX designer is one who executes these actions. User experience is not a new concept. Most major companies employ user experience designers who attempt to harness the wild wild web and synthesize that data into an intuitive system that users want to use. They study user’s:
- Past behavior
- Time spent on a page
- Interaction with a particular brand, etc
- If something needs to be changed
- If the website properly addresses user needs, etc
They take in all that information and then design/tweak a system with the user in mind. The more intuitive the system, the more it will be used. Have you ever read a news article and had a suggestion for a related article? Or purchased a book and been offered related books? That’s a facet of user experience. But in order for those suggestions to be accurate you need to properly create a system on the back-end.
In the case of libraries it involves a person who both understands technology’s architecture and how users prefer to use that architecture. In relation to the library’s catalog it could involve:
- Studying search functionality
- The need to locally create discovery tools
- Pagination study
Since librarians are better suited to understand library needs than say, a UX designer, a UX librarian might be helpful in your library. While dropping in at ER&L’s #ideadrop House I listened to Judy Siegel’s awesome discussion on UX and libraries during SXSI. She suggested a few ways that you can determine if your library has a culture that supports user experience design including:
- Form a committee
- Involve other departments and get feedback
- Implement changes incrementally to determine what works and what doesn’t
Here is a great UX librarian job posting from the University of Virginia. I predict that there will be a lot more library job postings for this position in the future. Do some research and determine if this position might work in your library!
Source: De Tre G., & Van Acker W. (2012). Spaces of information modeling, action, and decision making. Library Trends, 61(2), 304–324.
**Update 8/21/2014: Here’s a new User Experience Librarian posting from the University of Arkansas
**Update 5/4/2017: Here’s a new User Experience Librarian posting from the Illinois Institute of Technology and one from Westfield State University
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