Last week, I switched into a new job here at the Kansas City Public Library – Digital User Specialist. As we expand our library services through new technological portals, it’s my responsibility to ensure that these new services and interfaces answer to the needs of our patrons, and that they’re actually usable. I’ll be doing usability testing, creating personas, collecting user feedback, lots of wire-framing. But mostly, I’ll be the one constantly asking the questions:
- “Does this actually work for our patrons?”
- “Will this allow us to provide more and better services?”
- “Is this something our patrons need?”
Moreover, I’ll be the one encouraging all my library co-workers to ask these questions, as well.
As I’ve argued previously – Interaction and user experience design are as important to libraries in the Digital Information Age as the card catalog was to previous generations. It’s how our patrons find what they need.
This is a refreshing change of pace for me. In all my previous jobs working with websites and online services, I had to work within the constraints of pre-existing systems or proprietary third-party systems that we couldn’t change to any great extent. There were pretty significant limits on what we could make these systems do.
Which meant I had to spend a lot of time saying “no” to people.
- “No, the system can’t handle that.”
- “No, that’s not a functionality we have.”
- “We can hack a work-around to approximate what you’re asking for but no, it won’t be quite what you want.”
I had to shoot down a lot of really good ideas because we just couldn’t do them. It bothered me every time but I had to answer to the limitations of the system.
So it’s incredibly empowering now to be able to say “yes”!
- Yes, that’s a great idea!
- Yes, we should add that functionality to the site!
- Yes, this new service is absolutely something we should provide to our patrons!
- Yes! Yes! Yes!
I get to look past our current system, past our current limitations and frustrations, and envision where we want to go, to brainstorm what should be.