What is happiness? What makes us happy? Do libraries have the capacity to deliver a happy experience to those who use them? All good questions. The answers are elusive, but thanks to a body of research on happiness accumulated over the past quarter century we are better able to answer those questions. Librarians are increasingly expressing an interest in the design of experiences that improve how community members interact with the full range of service, resources, and staff. Think of it as the “totality” of all that the library has to offer as an experience, not just the usability of the catalog, the cleanliness of the restrooms, or the smiles on staff faces at service points. Each, no doubt, is important to the overall experience. Great library experiences are delivered at every touch point where community members connect with the library.
By now the concept of user experience (UX) has shown up on most librarians’ radar at some point. Whether you’ve found yourself curious about how better digital design could help your library’s traffic, you wish had a UX specialist on staff, you’re engaged by Aaron Schmidt’s The User Experience column, or you’ve considered learning more about user-centered design yourself, the chance to improve the library’s user experience is within everyone’s reach.
I’m so happy I could be twins. We now have an honest-to-goodness Library User Experience (UX) Specialist: Amy Deschenes, who came to us from Simmons College, where she was the Systems and Web Applications Librarian. Amy has only been here for a couple of months, but the buzz has already gotten around about how much she can help us gain a user’s point of view; she did some work with undergraduate and graduate students right away upon getting to campus. I’d heard a lot of good things about her, and this summer our library is transitioning to LibGuides 2.0, which means it’s time for an overhaul of my LibGuides…so I wrote and asked if I could meet with her for pointers.
Chances are your library shouldn’t hire a user experience (UX) librarian. Surprised? Don’t get me wrong, I think it would be fantastic if all libraries had a staff member dedicated to UX. But hiring a user experience librarian isn’t as simple as securing the funds, writing a job description, and conducting interviews. In fact, that’s probably the wrong approach.
If your library has a website, you are in the publishing business. Taking your role as website publisher seriously means taking writing seriously.