When a few colleagues and I launched Designing Better Libraries in February 2007, I was pleased to have the opportunity to introduce to the library profession a new blog dedicated to exploring and discussing two important concepts, design thinking and user experience. Since then DBL has regularly shared ideas and resources about how design thinking and user experience may be applied in libraries to create a better user experience. We hope this has inspired some of our readers to contemplate practicing these ideas in their own libraries, and I personally appreciate being invited by a variety of library groups to come and speak about design thinking and user experience. But back in 2007, as this blog was originally conceived to promote new ideas then virtually unknown to the profession, I was convinced they would resonate with others, and I anticipated that in time those librarians would pick up the torch and spread these ideas through their own writings. I believe that is now coming to fruition.
Just a few weeks ago my good colleague Pete Bromberg, familiar to some of you as a blogger for Library Garden (just named one of the 10 blogs to read in 2010) wrote an excellent post at ALA Learning about creating a great user experience for learners. I’ve had a draft post brewing about creating a user experience for library learners for some time now, and am still thinking this through. Bromberg was clearly inspired by the Jesse James Garrett video on the state of user experience, as he identified four ways to engage learners in giving them a great experience. I know that Pete is interested in UX, and has even organized some staff development programs related to the topic, so it was great to see him writing about it – and his mention of DBL is greatly appreciated. Then a few days later, Stephen Abram wrote a post on his blog about user experience that pointed to Bromberg’s post. Given the wide readership of Stephen’s Lighthouse I’m sure that helped to further spread the word about UX.
I expect that a new development will be more significant in spreading the word about UX to the library community, and I hope that my recent American Libraries article about user experience (“From Gatekeepers to Gateopeners“) has contributed to that process as well. Library Journal, one of our profession’s mainstream practitioner publications, has introduced a new column dedicated to user experience called “The User Experience” (you can’t get much more direct than that). I was also pleased to see that LJ has chosen Aaron Schmidt to write this column. I had the pleasure of working with Aaron a few years ago on a Soaring to Excellence program about web 2.0 for libraries. Aaron is well recognized in the library profession as one of our more innovative thinkers about how to better serve the library user community through improved usability and design. I’m sure he’ll do a great job with the column, and I’ll look forward to reading future entries – and I encourage you to read it as well. And it didn’t take long for another well-known blogger, Michael Stephens, to spread the word about Aaron’s new LJ column on UX via his widely read Tame the Web blog.
When you add up these recent events I think it points to a growing awareness and acceptance of the importance of user experience in creating better libraries. What I am not hearing in these conversations is a parallel recognition of design thinking, and how it is important in helping to design staged user experiences. As in so many other things, a great user experience is the outcome of a thoughtful design process that incorporates, among other things, totality, meaning and relationships. I hope that other librarians will be inspired by this growing cadre of library colleagues spreading the word about user experience – and that they will make Designing Better Libraries a part of their personal learning experience.