At Chapel Hill Public Library, we had the great good fortune to spend the past 12 months working with Aaron Schmidt on a library-wide UX assessment and improvement project. The project was possible by the State Library of North Carolina, through an LSTA grant.
It was an AMAZING year for me, for CHPL staff, and for our users. I began the year as an UX noob and a year later, I am far from an UX expert. But I have learned and grown – professionally and personally – and will continue to do so.
I’ll admit, I wrote the grant as a means to an end – I wanted a new website and a new floor plan for the library, as both were far from optimal experiences for our users. UX was the way to get there and Aaron Schmidt was the ringer we brought in to get it done.
However, soon after reading his book, meeting him, and delving into the work, I realized that UX was WAY more than a means to an end – it’s the way we ought to do business. Not just CHPL. Not just public libraries. All the libraries in all the places should embrace, understand, and utilize UX as part of their core business model.
Why? There are lots of good reasons, but for me, the biggest one is that libraries are for people. As I’ve often said…
UX helps libraries of all types remember what’s most important – the people that use us. The people that sometimes struggle to use us. The people that often use us and seldom use us. The power patrons and the noobs. The people that love us and those that don’t –yet. The people that want to achieve something great – or just complete a simple task. As I’ve often said…
So, I encourage librarians everywhere to learn more about UX. Here’s how I’ve grown and improved myself and a little of what I’ve learned and been reminded of.
Because of UX…
- I have more empathy. I have always been a customer-first/customer-focused kinda gal, but UX made me examine that focus at a deeper level. As I wrote in a recent post, UX teaches us empathy so that we can understand that library patrons aren’t GIVING us a hard time they are HAVING a hard time. While I have always put the patron first, I now remember to put on their shoes and try and walk a mile – or just around the stacks.
- I ask better questions. Instead of asking “What can the library do for its patrons?” I now ask “What are the lives of our users like? What do they do every day? What do they want to do?” I encourage you to read what Aaron Schmidt wrote about this for Library Journal and see if you don’t start asking different questions yourself.
- I question the problem. When you adjust your thinking to the user, you focus on their problems instead of yours. And you realize that your problems are not their problems. And you understand that their problems are the ones to focus on solving. Because of UX, I now find myself asking “Are we solving a user problem or a library problem?”
I’m still processing and practicing and reflecting on all of the UX things I’ve learned, I’ll pull them together for Part 2 next week.
Are you new to UX? Are you an expert? What have you learned and how have you changed because of UX?