And suddenly, time has flown!

As a huge Dr. Who fan, I can’t help but think I could really use the Tardis today! I would fly back to last summer, and quickly write consistently about all the work that the UX Office at Fondren Library has done this past year! Alas, not gonna happen!

But, we have been busy! The biggest projects were testing on our study room reservation system, focus groups to inform furniture and artwork for the same study rooms, a website redesign project, and testing on a migration for our Institutional Repository software, DSpace. Lots of smaller projects along the way as well, especially a great projects with AMS (Robert Harington), and Ebsco (Kate Lawrence).

Study Room Reservation System (Spring 2014) Kolah, Debra, and Mitchell Massey. “Get a Room: The Birth of a New Room Reservation System at Fondren.” News From Fondren. Fondren Library. Vol. 24, No. 1, Fall 2014.  

Study Room Renovations (Summer 2014) Kolah, Debra.  “New Wave of Study Room Renovations.” News from Fondren. Fondren Library. 

A couple of the more interesting projects over last year, included completing a small scale ethnographic study of microfiche users in the Kelley Center area to inform service and design decisions in those areas. I still am fascinated at the use of microfiche readers these days, and how some students view them.

Additionally, I had learned of a study that had used GIS to understand space utilization in a library at a CLIR workshop, so our Fondren Library GIS department undertook a similar study that helped inform furniture renovation decisions for a remodel that we are doing Summer of 2015, and also, for how we reconfigure space during our Finals periods.

It continues to be a wonderful time for UX in Libraries! If you haven’t noticed yet, we even got a peer-reviewed journal last year! Weave!

Summer will be busy, and I hope to write more. Upcoming projects: finish the Fondren Library website redesign and collaborate with our ERM person to do usability testing on SFX. And, sadly, I bid farewell to the terrific Mitchell Massey, (Portfolio) who is graduating in May–he was a fabulous student assistant in the UX office!

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SLA Vancouver, Reflections after the Conference

The 2014 SLA Vancouver Conference Report!

Favorite Panels: Session: Engaging Users with Technology (Presented by Engineering Division; User Experience Caucus) engagetech







Gaming at the UF Libraries: Great names for games: Cheats and Geeks, Murky Misconduct!


Session: Speed Geek! (Presented by SLA IT Division; User Experience Caucus) speedgeek         I ran my own session here, but was excited to join tables with Joyce Wong, Coordinator of User Experience at Langara College towards the end of the time.





Session: UX Caucus Business Meeting









Nora Ohnishi, the Texas Chapter Student Stipend winner, and Chris Coughlan, Rocky Mountain Chapter President, came! So happy we had a great talk about UX! Putting together some good plans for Boston SLA 2015 programming!


Also, enjoyed 60 Sites in  60 Minutes. The slides are now available from @ibraryguy QUICK TAKE – Altmetrics – The Basics ( – “Come hear why people are talking about Altmetrics as a new way of measuring scholarship; these metrics are based on the Social Web and can be used for analyzing and informing scholarship.” PAM Mathematics Roundtable ( – “Small group discussion of current topics and concerns related to mathematics information, literature, publishing, and libraries. Anticipated topics range from altmetrics and e-books in mathematics to new acquisition models and faculty outreach.”

Favorite Speakers: At the Closing General Session, Sarah Glassmeyer was “crazy!”

Main Topics: The quantified self, the selling of the SLA Headquarters building was a hot topic, also, altmetrics, and lots of Twitter folks this year! My favorite Twitter folks: @leslieR (Leslie Reynolds), @SLA_Eng, and of course,  .

Vendors:  For some reason, I had a lot of free time this year on Sunday afternoon. The exhibit hall was pretty quiet, so I just ended up spending three hours talking to my vendors! It was really relaxing, and informative! I don’t remember in all my SLA years ever being able to do that! I did a brief training session with Thomson ISI;  I had not looked at the citation analysis tools in Web of Science for years, so I was really happy with how far they have come along. I also had a great session at the Elsevier booth, and got to meet with the fabulous Michael Habib. I am working on a project to do something a little complicated with RSS feeds, and he was just a fabulous trainer and got the fact that I really want to build something local, rather than look for a paid solution right off the bat. Kudos!! Also, he is really a great speaker on Altmetrics, and gave a presentation at the PAM Vendor Update Session on the last day of the conference.

I also had a great time visiting with Maura Tobin at the bcc Research booth!

Additionally, I was impressed with the participatory design work going on at Thomson ISI. Every year they give away a tile, and this year they were asking participants to help design next year’s tile, and had a big wall to hang your mock-up tile!

Favorite Give Away: At the ACS (American Chemical Society) luncheon, they gave away a large cork that had three test tubes in it, with paper clips, thumbtacks, and binder clips. Super cute!   Final Conference Stuff! There was a #SLAtalk Roundup yesterday–the notes are at: And, apparently, I missed the statue of the giant blue rain drop, so I must go back to Vancouver soon!

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UX Superpowers

So, I called my student worker my secret weapon, but the more I think about that the more I realize it doesn’t convey the meaning that I intended. So, really, I think what I meant to say,  is that he is a not so secret superpower!

I love UX Superpowers: Design, Listening, Communication, Understanding.  I could go on.

UXer’s walk into a space, and not only do we see the obvious, but we see all the nuances that guide us to helping make things better. We notice and think about interactions in the physical world and the digital world. We think about what can be done to make things more seamless, more elegant, more beautiful, more efficient.

So, Leah Buley, then at Adaptive Path, did a post a few years ago called Design a Superhero. It is still a terrific way to get folks to think about what it takes to be successful in any particular endeavor, whether it be a new site, new service, new business, etc. Love it! Love Superpowers!

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My UX secret weapon

I am a User Experience Office of one. Projects can be challenging, and trying to spread the word on user experience and why it needs to be a part of most things that we do in libraries can get lonely. But, years ago, I decided that I would always have a student worker by my side. Someone that worked as a collaborative partner, and someone that would understand what user experience means to the world.

This past year I have been super lucky with my current UX Office Assistant, Mitchell Massey.  He is a junior Cognitive Sciences-Human Factors & Human-Computer Interaction major.

Mitchell has been an invaluable support to the UX efforts, and it is so powerful when you actually can collaborate with a student on efforts that are for students. So, meet my secret weapon–and, I strongly recommend, if you don’t have a student worker collaborating with you, work towards it!

I asked him the question, “What does UX at Fondren mean to you?” Here is his UX awesome answer:

As a student, I have always been in awe of Rice’s unique culture that inspires student initiatives in almost every possible instance: student government, the college system, judicial courts, new student orientation, academics, interdisciplinary research, study abroad, student-run businesses, entrepreneurship, athletics, Beer Bike, theatre, etc.. The list goes on and on, and I absolutely love it.

I am very happy to work for Fondren Library this last year. We are at the center of many student events, and we play many other important roles in the Houston community. This is a place where students make grades and discoveries that inspire their future careers. This is a place where literature, music, and art, policy, and science thrive together. This is the place where almost any information in the world can be found, and that’s really cool.

User Experience is a core foundation of this living creative intellect. When you prioritize students’ work habits, tech preferences, lifestyles, and interests into a data-driven design for operating an institution, you will consistently see more productive and creative work and more fulfilled students and staff. This is especially the case at Fondren. Information Technology is constantly changing, and it is our ability to adapt to the school’s needs that sets us apart at this awesomely quirky and high-performing university.

UX assistant at work

The UX office wishes Mitchell a great summer! He has a NSF-funded REU at Iowa State at their Virtual Reality Applications center. He will be doing programming, graphics, and usability testing relevant to virtual reality. Who knows what we will do next Fall when he gets back!

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TX Stem Librarians’ Conference!

I am in Austin tonight–looking at a great view of the Tower on the UT campus from my hotel room! Looking forward to hearing the large number of speakers giving 5 or 15 minute talks on projects ranging from outreach to IRB to my ethnography toolbox talk.

I am giving out a handout, but thought I would post it here too–it is a little repurposed from a talk that I gave on “Bootstrap UX” at TLA last year, but updated to be more science oriented. I am especially excited about a few items on the bibliography, namely the work practice article entitled, “Making Work Visible.” Work practice ethnography is especially useful to librarians, as it focuses on how people actually work, and not how they say they work, or how “we” think they should work. Also, love, love, the book Epistemic Cultures by Cetina and Beamtimes and Lifetimes by Traweek. Here is an interesting review of Beamtimes.

There are a couple of exciting video projects going on as well, especially from the MAA, and the Simons Foundation. It will live at the Briscoe Digital Collections site at UT; work starts in August.

Here is the handout for my talk–it is meant to be printed on 11 by 17 paper, double-sided. stemuxhandout

And a bonus-a photograph from the reading room of the UT Life Sciences library, the site of my first library job, and one of the prettiest libraries ever:

UT Life Science Library, Reading Room

UT Life Science Library, Reading Room

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As We May Evolve

It has been an interesting day. I got to listen to the  ARL Executive Director, Elliott Shore, talk this morning at a town hall meeting at my library. And, then I rushed off to hear the President of Rice University talk at his town meeting on campus. It was amazing–because they were talking about the same thing! Dr. Shore is very interested in getting input from member institutions about how to adapt, change, and thrive in this new world of higher education. He’s wondering if we should have a Librarian MOOC, and what training institutes ARL should offer to help librarians develop skills that are necessary.

President Leebron opened his talk by stating that he felt many of us were anxious about the changing world of higher education, but that he thought that anxiety was a good thing. I do too! I am a worrier from way back!

Dr. Shore implored our library staff to not be defensive about users not wanting to learn the way or the material that many of us want to teach. Great lesson! Instead, let’s partner with our users. Form teams.

When we are defensive, we shut down more than a few paths to communication. What if we overcome our defensiveness? What if we remained opened and focused on the real issues confronting us in librarianship? I think we are at a truly transformative place in librarianship, and if we can really partner with our users, and understand their needs through usability and ethnography, we will be in a wonderful place to succeed at a new librarianship level. And, yes, everyone is feeling anxious right now! I had written a blog post a couple of years ago over on the ACRL space; I remain grateful for those in other disciplines, specifically anthropology and the sciences, that put their brain and soul into helping find sustainable solutions to issues of usability, open access, data management, and the list goes on.

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CIF: Common Industry Format

I have been generating a lot of reports lately, and it is always an effort to put them in a format that will make the stakeholders want to read them! A new method that I am incorporating is the Common Industry Format: CIF.  Here’s an article about the full version: Since I always seem to be interested in streamlining things, I am thinking about what parts of these long format could I incorporate to bring consistency to my reports. And here is a nice example of a usability test that used the CIF:  I am going to spend some more time thinking about this, but I think the CIF has some nice features that are worth using each study. I also think making it into a online form, might streamline the report out phase of a study.

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