April 24, 2018

Getting Everyone on Board | The User Experience

Aaron-Schmidt-170x170I’m working with the Chapel Hill Public Library (CHPL), NC, on a unique user experience (UX) project, and I’d like to share a bit about it over the next few columns. The project, quite expansive in scope, started in September 2015 and runs though April 2016. During this time, we’re working to improve many different aspects of the library. All touch points are on the table for discussion. Some of our first efforts have included high-level strategic planning: developing a new mission statement, organizational values, and a service philosophy. A small sampling of things we’re studying and improving includes holds shelf location, printing and computers, service delivery methods, collection size, bathrooms, furniture placement, teen services, the website, library lobbies, and telephone service.

Project kickoff

We started with an all-staff kickoff meeting, introducing both the concept of library UX and the general outline of the effort. Importantly, library stakeholders from the Town of Chapel Hill were also in attendance. Next, we spent time observing the library and interviewing staff. Based on this data, I wrote a report that shared my perspective on CHPL’s strengths and areas for growth.

From there, we determined what activities we wanted to tackle. Staff were given the opportunity to sign up based on their interests. Then the research began. And, to be honest, it hasn’t stopped. We’ve been gathering lots of data about library use, batting a lot of ideas back and forth, and talking to users. From the outset, all staff were invited to participate and are free to get involved when they’re inspired. This can take any number of forms: offering feedback, joining a project team, or suggesting a specific task.

To get the plan rolling, CHPL assembled a group of people we named the “core team.” The core team consists of managers and frontline staff from across the library. The diversity of this group brings different perspectives, which consistently benefits conversations. Core team members have helped scope out ventures and were integral to the entire process.

It is worth taking a moment to talk about the term core team, since it actually has more to do with everyone who isn’t on the core team than those who are. The library has made it clear from the beginning that everyone on staff is on the project team. We’ve encouraged staffers to share their perspective, not only because it is the right thing to do but also because UX improvements are most effective with widespread staff ­involvement.


In the end, UX design is composed of people, and effective communication is a crucial element of this project.

Open communication is both an internal goal and, clearly, will help the project to be as successful as possible. Therefore, we’ve spent a decent amount of time both thinking about communication and communicating. Here are the channels we’re using to communicate:

  • The core team members are project ambassadors. They are point people for questions and are tasked with specific communication duties as needed.
  • CHPL holds monthly all-staff meetings, and a significant portion of recent sessions have been dedicated to spreading the word about aspects of the UX efforts.
  • There are two main hubs of information about the project online: the CHPL UX Project Site (chplux.tumblr.com), which contains updates and often links to important documents. Also, the CHPL UX Project Timeline (weareinflux.com/chpl), which provides a high-level view of how the work is progressing.
  • All staff are alerted to updates via email, and some conversations about potential UX projects have been initiated via email.

Communication is a two-way process. To encourage feedback, facilitate engagement, and check in on the project, we sent out a small survey to all staff. Overall, the results were very positive. Outstanding questions or issues—along with a general summary of the survey results—were covered at the subsequent all-staff meeting.

Not only do we want employees to be aware of project happenings, we’re aiming for a deeper level of engagement: we want folks to have a stake in the program. Providing as much information as possible and consistently letting folks know that they have a voice is an important part of this process. It is our hope that open communication will make people feel empowered and facilitate significant staff buy-in.

Next month, I’ll share more about some of the projects, including some of the research methods we’ve found to be most helpful.

This article was published in Library Journal's February 1, 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Aaron Schmidt About Aaron Schmidt

Aaron Schmidt (librarian@gmail.com) is a principal at the library user experience consultancy Influx (influx.us). He is a 2005 LJ Mover & Shaker. He writes at walkingpaper.org