The term “user experience” has a number of definitions depending on who you ask. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has an extensive resource about the user experience. In the technology industry, the term often refers to human interaction with a website or a computer application. More and more university libraries are posting jobs with the title “User Experience Librarian.” Stacy Taylor, a UX librarian, explains in an online article that her work “Improved the user experience of the library website, third party online systems, and the physical library building.” Her post goes on to explain the many tasks that she performs in her role as UX librarian.
Seven recognized factors impact or influence the user experience. Though some of the factors seem similar, I hope to explain the nuanced differences. Since school librarians are the librarians who “do it all” in their libraries, they need to be concerned with the user experience.
The recognized factors of the user experience are:
When we think about the school library being useful, we want users to come to the library with a purpose. That purpose could be serious research, reading for personal growth, making, or just hanging out. As we prepare for a new school year, think about all the reasons students come to the library. We should provide a useful place for students and faculty members. Plan to establish areas throughout the library for all the different types of users and uses.
Beyond coming to the library with a purpose, patrons should be able to achieve their objectives when they visit. If a student is visiting to check out books, we should consider how usable our circulation processes are. How do students check out books in your library? Does the library employ a self-checkout system? Think about your makerspace, can students and teachers use the space with ease?
I often think about placing books and materials in the most convenient locations. I ask, “Can users find items without help?” When creating library signage, I not only stress the positive, I try to ensure directions and instructions are concise and clear.
Being credible seems like an unusual factor, but it is likely one of the most important. Think about downloading an app. The first thought we might ask is, “Do I want this app on my phone or tablet?” Additionally, how much of my privacy am I giving up to download the app. When students enter the library, they need to be able to trust us. They need the freedom to read and to know that the library does not censor. Users need to understand that the librarian will not let bias get in the way. They need to know that their school librarian reads.
Before I have an event in my library, I go outside and come in through the main entrance. I like to imagine that it is the first time I have ever seen the space. I look at the displays and bulletin board. Then I test the seating to see if this is a place students would want to be. Some questions I might ask are, “Does the library seem comfortable?” and “Is the environment clean and attractive?”
Flow is a big deal in the library. Think about how traffic flows in the library. Are there obstacles? Make sure everything is wheelchair accessible. Have clear paths for fire drills and other emergencies. Do not place books too high or too low for access.
Finally, we want to know that we are providing a service to our students, faculty, and parents that they value. It is an excellent exercise to define all the ways that the library adds value. Once you have the values defined, find ways to market the importance.
To read more about improving the user experience, check out these articles.
- The 7 Factors that Influence User Experience from the Interaction Design Foundation
- Continuously Improving the “User Experience” in a School Library by Kim Marshall, TIE columnist
- Practical User Experience Design for School Libraries by Suzanne Sannwald
Author: Hannah Byrd Little
Hello, I am the Library Director at The Webb School of Bell Buckle. I use my past experience in college and university libraries to help my current students in school libraries transition into college, career, and life. I am currently the lead Senior Class Adviser for the Capstone Project. I also served at the state level with the Tennessee Association of School Librarians executive board from 2009-2013 and was the TASL president in 2012. I am certified as a Library Information Specialist for PreK-12th grade, have a BS in Communications with a concentration in Advertising and Public Relations, a BS in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Education and Information Systems and a Masters in Library and Information Science.