Because of UX… (Part 1)

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…

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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…

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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’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?

 

#TBT – Going Rogue for Summer Reading

In honor of the season and the day, I am reposting an article I wrote for Novelist a few years ago for this early summer edition of Throwback Thursday.  At the time, this felt like edgy stuff – ditching the CSLP theme felt like a crazy move!  However, based on responses to the piece, I learned that many other libraries were also (and were already) rethinking summer reading.

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Fast forward to 2016 and libraries are still doing just that – rethinking, reframing, and redesigning summer reading programs to create more value, reach more people, and have a greater impact.  Inspired by what many other libraries are doing, Chapel Hill Public Library is embracing the summer challenge framework and expanding the scope beyond just reading to embrace experiential learning as well.

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Charlotte Mecklenburg’s Summer Break Program 
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Chicago Public Library’s Summer Learning Challenge

As I post this, and thanks to our fabulous Youth, RA, and Marketing staff, we are launching our 2016 Summer Challenge: Read More, Do More, Learn More – I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Raise your hand (and comment below) if you and your library are rethinking the season and your approach to it.  I’d love to hear about what you are doing!

Going Rogue for Summer Reading: A Totally Local Approach to our Busiest Season

Originally appeared in the October 2013 issue of Kids & Books

It all started in the fall of 2011. After another summer — our busiest season at Lawrence Public Library — staff from Children’s, Teen, and Adult departments gathered to discuss how the summer reading program went. Good participation numbers? Check! Engaging slate of programs? Check! Lots of happy readers? Check!

But there was an elephant in the room. As the newly appointed Marketing Director, I waited for someone else to say it. I knew they were thinking it. Finally, someone made the comment that started a deeper conversation. A conversation that eventually led to us “going rogue” for summer reading. A member of the adult services staff said, “I just wish the swag bags had our name on them. I see people carrying these cute cloth bags all over town, which is great. But you can’t tell that people got these bags from us, which isn’t so great.”

This comment led to a weeks-long discussion about the marketing and promotional piece of summer reading. For years, like many libraries, we bought into the CSLP — the Cooperative Summer Library Program. We liked how everything was pre-fabricated. The theme for the year was done, all of the graphics provided, and all of the incentives ready to hand out. But this was also exactly what we didn’t like about it. We were trying to figure out ways to make our marketing and branding what I termed “hyper-local.” The way we’d approached summer reading was easy, and the themes were good, but they did not speak to our community. We decided to re-think summer reading from top to bottom. The result: a totally local summer reading program that looks great, is easy to engage with, and is more successful than ever.  Read the full article here.

50 More Shades of Change

“To practice leadership, you need to accept that you are in the business of generating chaos, confusion, and conflict.”

– The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools & Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World, by Ronald Heifitz et al

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A few weeks ago, I wrote about how people approach change in different ways, according to their preferred “change style.”  Just as there are different approaches to change, there are also different types of change – and it is just as important to understand them.

Technical change can be successfully executed with knowledge, skills, and expertise that already exist within the organization. The problem to be solved is clear, the solution can be provided by an expert, and resolution comes relatively easily. Technical change requires management.

Adaptive change requires an organization to think differently, question the status quo, and, in order to be successfully executed, it often requires a paradigm shift. The problem to be solved is hard to discern, the solution requires new learning and thinking, and that solution cannot be provided by the leader or expert – in order to be lasting, it must come from within the organization.  Adaptive change is not easy. And it is often messy.  Adaptive change requires leadership.

I was introduced to this model of change in a leadership seminar that was built around Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading by Ronald Heifitz and Marty Linksy.  If you are leading through change, and I believe we all are, I encourage you to check out their work.  For me, it has been incredibly useful as I seek to continually learn and grow as a leader.

Learning to recognize technical and adaptive challenges, and lead accordingly, is essential for success – and sometimes it is hard to tell the difference.

Just after I came on board as Director, I started a process with staff to review and revise our key policies and procedures.  One area we attacked was our fines and fees schedule and borrowing limits. In my mind, this was a technical challenge – we needed to lower our fines, raise our borrowing limits, streamline our fee schedule, and abandon outdated borrowing policies.  No big whup, we’d knock it out in an afternoon meeting.   Continue reading “50 More Shades of Change”

Designing for Dementia (and ALL)

I’m far from a UX expert, but I am learning more and more all the time, thanks in large part to working with Aaron Schmidt over the past year.  Here’s the thing about UX – once you know it, you can’t unknow it.  Once you see it one place, you see it in all the places. Like Mojo Nixon once said of Elvis, “UX is everywhere, man.”

Here’s a recent example:

This week, staff at Chapel Hill Public Library have had training sessions on how to best serve users facing dementia.  Sponsored by Dementia Friendly Orange County, a non-profit whose goal is “to raise awareness and make life better for people with dementia and those who care for them.”  Their new initiative is to train local businesses and organizations about ways to recognize and serve people facing dementia, leading to a “Dementia-Friendly Business” certification.

To help staff understand what’s going on with users facing dementia, the quote that was repeated throughout the session was “They aren’t giving you a hard time.  They are having a hard time.” The trainers stressed that if you find yourself interacting with a user who is facing dementia, remember this to help you empathize, strategize, and ultimately help them.

 

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As soon as I heard this statement, I thought, “If you find yourself interacting with ANY user, remember this to help you empathize, strategize, and ultimately help them.”

Sure, there are a few folks out there whose sole purpose is to give you a hard time.  I’d argue that they are rare.  Most people want to have a successful outcome and genuinely accept help, but they are often having a hard time.  As I’ve learned through working with Mr. Schmidt and garnering some basic UX skills, that hard time is often caused by policies, procedures, places, and spaces that were not designed with the user in mind.

Here are a few more slides from the training about working with folks facing dementia.  I think these are good ideas for working with all the folks:

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Patience, respect, and dignity for all.  Simplicity in interactions and information.  Yes, please.

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Helpful attitudes, easy signs, and simple options.  Sign me up.

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Use jargon-free communication?  Monitor body language and tone of voice?  Be patient and flexible?  Let’s do that with all the people, okay?

You can find the training video here and more about the Dementia Friendly Movement here.

Rethinking the Rules of Behavior: Part 2

“A policy is a deliberate system of principles to guide decisions and achieve rational outcomes.”

Wikipedia 

Last week, I wrote about how we ditched the rules and came up with a set of Expectations for Behavior at Chapel Hill Public Library.  This approach represented a pretty radical departure – both in the wording of the policy and the mindset at its foundation – so we knew that engaging staff on this approach would be critical to success.  Here are some of the ways we did that:

We made it easy.

We created a three question test to use when faced with a situation:

Is the situation at hand illegal?

Is it unsafe?

Is it making others uncomfortable?

If the answer is yes, then staff should act.  They don’t have to remember all the words of the policy, just these three measures to apply.   Continue reading “Rethinking the Rules of Behavior: Part 2”

OMG! We got a JCD!

Recently, I received two great phone calls within a few weeks of each other.  The first was from Chapel Hill, NC, offering me the position of director at the Chapel Hill Public Library. The second was from the John Cotton Dana Award committee, letting me know that a project I spearheaded at Lawrence Public Library was selected to receive a 2013 John Cotton Dana Award.  If good things come in threes, I hope that Publisher’s Clearinghouse pops up on my Caller ID next!

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The John Cotton Dana Award is called “the most prestigious award of the American Library Association.” Here’s a little more about it:

“The John Cotton Dana Award, provided in conjunction with the H.W. Wilson Foundation, the American Library Association and EBSCO Publishing, honors outstanding library public relations, whether a summer reading program, a year-long centennial celebration, fundraising for a new college library, an awareness campaign or an innovative partnership in the community.”

LPL received the award for our Banned Books Trading Card project, which we summarized for the judges:

“With seven collectible trading cards featuring art inspired by banned books and created by local artists, Lawrence Public Library’s Banned Books Trading Card project sought to raise awareness of Banned Books Week in a unique way, engage the local arts community, and bring wider exposure to the talented artists living and working in our community.  The project achieved these goals, garnered national media attention, and resulted in a few surprising outcomes that have given the project an extended life, long after the end of 2012’s Banned Books Week.”        Continue reading “OMG! We got a JCD!”

Social Media on the Move – Part 1

As a $19 million renovation and expansion project begins, my library – Lawrence Public Library – is in the process of moving into temporary headquarters.  We are closed for two weeks while we move our collections and offices into – wait for it – a building that last housed a Borders bookstore!

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This is not only a huge logistical undertaking, but it has been a major communications initiative as well. We have successfully used traditional tools – flyers, signs, e-blasts, press releases, etc. – to keep our community informed about the move.  However, we have turned to new media methods to keep our community engaged and excited about what’s happening at their library.   Continue reading “Social Media on the Move – Part 1”