Effervescent Librarian's Blog

Thinking about the user experience

SLA Vancouver, Reflections after the Conference

Posted by effervescentlibrarian on June 25, 2014

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: http://cms.uflib.ufl.edu/games/gap/gameoverview 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 www.slideshare.net/iBraryGuy/2014-sla-60-sites-in-60-minutes-slides QUICK TAKE – Altmetrics – The Basics (http://sched.co/19pHarP) – “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 (http://sched.co/18Os5Sq) – “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: http://www.sla.org/slatalk-roundup-post-conference-chat/ 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

Posted by effervescentlibrarian on May 8, 2014

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

Posted by effervescentlibrarian on May 5, 2014

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!

Posted by effervescentlibrarian on July 26, 2013

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

Posted by effervescentlibrarian on April 4, 2013

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

Posted by effervescentlibrarian on April 3, 2013

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: http://www.idemployee.id.tue.nl/g.w.m.rauterberg/lecturenotes/common-industry-format.pdf 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: http://zing.ncsl.nist.gov/iusr/documents/diarymate_v32.htm  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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Where did the time go? A short post about Rapid Ethnography

Posted by effervescentlibrarian on March 26, 2013

Well, it happened. I let over six months go by with nary a blog post! Ack! And the thing is, I have been so busy, with lots of exciting UX stuff going on. So, I should have been writing about it all along. So, if you are still out there, and occasionally read my blog, thanks for that! I am going to write more. I took a great class last Fall-Methods in Human Computer Interaction. It was pretty intensive-I helped design a parking lot system-which is totally outside of my experience. That was incredibly useful. I think it helps to sometimes look at complex problems outside of your normal focus.

The class, because it focused on methods, introduced new methods each week. Some of them are so closely related, it makes one confused. But, my old favorites were there, although sometimes renamed. Bootstrap UX–who knew, a lot of folks call that Rapid Ethnography. There are some great articles out there: “Rapid Ethnography: Time Deepening Strategies for HCI Field Research,” includes a nice case study that illustrates the main components of the method. I like this article because it confirms the importance of ethnographic research in the design process. The case study mentioned did replace open-ended interviews with a “condensed ethnographic interview,” which specifically covered specific project bottlenecks and benefits. The acceleration of this method gets at the heart of how I have stream-lined my approach. It states, “Time spent looking at the broad landscape is time that is not focused in the area of critical importance to a product design team,” and “While there may be nuggets of gold in the data, they are just too hard to mine.”  I love the concept of applying an ethnographic approach to usability problems.

I have to go mine some usability screen casts done last week now, but I’ll be back tomorrow!

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Updates from SLA Presentations

Posted by effervescentlibrarian on July 25, 2012

The Web Scale Discovery presentation is up on Slideshare at http://www.slideshare.net/rkaspro/webscale-discovery-services-sla-2012-13745957

Also, Gretchen McNeely posted up thoughts around her talk that she gave at the UX Caucus meeting, discussing the challenges of reporting UX findings to stakeholders. is.gd/KSNHmk Her writing is especially clear, thoughtful, and humorous–can someone please get her a book deal?
I especially appreciate this, as I think that is still one of the hardest parts of the process for me. The best bit of advice I got from her session at SLA was the concept of a mid-project report out–I am definitely incorporating this in all of my projects going forward.

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Web Scale Discovery

Posted by effervescentlibrarian on July 23, 2012

I am fresh back from SLA 2012, Chicago, and while I have a lot of UX stuff to talk about, I am going to start with what I did first. On Monday, I was a part of a panel, Web-scale Discovery Implementation with the End User in Mind, with Rafal Kasprowski, Rice University; Debra Kolah, Rice University; Harry Kaplanian, EBSCO Publishing.

Harry provided an introductory historic overview of discovery, from the on-the-fly federated searching and accompanying catalog layers to the single index web-scale discovery, including some humor about the evolution of the card catalog. I talked about the method of choosing a tool, including a comparison grid, a ethnography study and the talented Rafal spoke about OpenURL vs proprietary linking, data and holdings migrations from ILS and resolver knowledge base, and product settings.

We had a lot of questions after the session–there is still great interest out in libraryland about discovery layers, and about half in the room of approximately 60 were actively thinking about purchasing a discovery layer in the near future.

The ethnography study I did for our discovery layer decision is unpublished, but I had read some of the following about some of the informants. (Note: the OneSearch referred to here is our previous discovery layer, Aquabrowser.)

Our informants fell into five major categories:

1)Three informants said they had never heard of OneSearch.

2)Five informants don’t use OneSearch, and do not understand what it searches. One informant stated, “I really don’t know what it covers, presumably it’s one place where you can search for everything, but if I’m looking for articles I go elsewhere, but if I’m looking for general information or books I would use OneSearch.”

3)Three informants have tried OneSearch but either want more control over the search, did not like something about the interface, or experienced failed searches when looking for known items. One informant simply stated, “It doesn’t seem to give me the answers that I want…I feel like I can’t control it to get the things I want.” Another informant stated, “I have used it only a couple of times, both of the times it was pretty useful…but it would be nice to pick which databases I would like to search.”

4) Only one informant uses OneSearch regularly and finds it to be useful. She uses it only with students, not for personal research, especially to search for items that she knows are not covered by the databases with which she is familiar. Emphasizing the wide net that discovery casts is useful to the undergraduate program.

5) One informant does not use OneSearch, but has created his own discovery-like tool using a Mac-based bibliographic program called Papers. The interface has allowed him, with assistance from Rafal and Debra , to identify frequently used Fondren resources, including Scopus, acquire special “keys’ for access, and then search these directly from this third-party interface, where is is identified as a Rice researcher. This user workaround will be interesting to monitor in the coming year, as some of the bibliographic tools, such as Papers and Mendeley, increase their ability for searching within the tool.

Our slideshow will be available soon on SlideShare. Additionally, here is the bibliography that informed my part of the talk:

Fagan, Jody Condit and Meris A. Mandernach, Carl S. Nelson, Jonathan R. Paulo, Grover Saunders. Usability Test Results for a Discovery Tool in an Academic Library. Information Technology and Libraries. March 2012.

Khoo, Michael, and Lily Rozaklis, Catherine Hall. A survey of the use of ethnographic methods in the study of libraries and library users. Library & Information Science Research. Volume 34, Issue 2. April 2012, pp. 82-91.

Promise Fulfilled? An EBSCO Discovery Service Usability Study (Aug 2011) – Illinois State University – Interesting comparisons with federated search usability studies and use of pre/post limiters and refinements. Journal of Web Librarianship,Vol. 5, No. 3. (July 2011), pp. 179-198.

Web Scale Discovery Services (2011) This work by Jason Vaughan is probably the first comprehensive work on Discovery systems so far available. There are chapters on WorldCat Local, Summon, Ebsco Discovery Service and Primo Central.

Wiki “Articles on Discovery” by Aaron Tay. https://sites.google.com/site/urd2comparison/articles-on-discovery

Ethnography Resources

Asher, Andrew and Susan Miller. So You Want to Do Anthropology in Your Library? or A Practical Guide to Ethnographic Research in Academic
Libraries. The ERIAL PROJECT. Accessed April 2, 2012 at http://erialproject.org/

Foster, Nancy and Susan Gibbons, eds. 2007. Studying Students: The Undergraduate Research Project at the University of Rochester. Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries. http:docushare.lib.rochester.edu/docushare/dsweb/View/Collection-4436. Accessed July 7, 2012.

Small, Mario. 2009 “How many cases do I need?” On science and logic of case selection in field-based research.” Ethnography 10(1):5-38.

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Usability Tools 101

Posted by effervescentlibrarian on June 22, 2012

I had a great visit this week with a professor here at Rice, Phil Kortum. He was an industry Human Factors guy for a long time before becoming a professor, and is just a kind, amazing, and smart guy. I hung out for a bit in his Human Factors lab, and learned that usability doesn’t have to be as rigid as I sometimes think!

For instance, many times I feel that I need two people to administer the testing. This was before I started using screen capture software (more on that in a minute) so maybe I did! But, with screen capturing software you really only need one person, and to hear Professor Kortum, maybe you don’t even need that one person most of the time! He says that usually he starts his subject on task, and has the phone there if they need to call him on something. He is in the next room, and pops over if needed. Or maybe he stays in the room, but he busies himself with some task himself, and I am sure the subjects forget about him, or don’t want to “interrupt” him. He really relies on the technology to capture what he needs to know about what his subjects are doing, and really depends on watching them do what they do, rather than listening to anything that they may TELL him about what they do. This is really going to impact how I do usability going forward. I’m taking his class in the Fall, too, so can’t wait for that!

We talked about usability software, and I thought for sure that he was going to say Morae was the top of the line–I fantasize about being able to afford it for my library testing–but it wasn’t at the top of his list. His top is Noldus, which is unbelievably expensive I am sure! Morae was his second, but he knows about and seems to approve of lesser free tools, like BB Flashback. I was relieved by this, as I will be using BB Flashback  for my next study. It is free, easy to download, and works on a PC. We didn’t talk about the other tool that I have been looking at Silverback, which is currently priced at around $70.00 and works on a Mac. You can download a free 30 day trial.

Silverback allows you to watch sessions, with a little box of the user present, and to set tasks and mark noteworthy moments within a session. This is useful for sharing out in stakeholder meetings. Their selling blurb is “Silverback makes it easy, quick and cheap for everyone to perform guerrilla usability tests with no setup and no expense, using hardware already in your Mac.

BB FlashBack Express Free Edition bills itself as  an easy-to-use free screen recorder that creates compact, high quality movies for tutorials, demos and presentations. This is perfect for usability too! It records the screen, sound and web-cam activity.  You save the movies as AVI or Flash. You get a perfect capture of your Windows desktop with minimal impact on PC performance, even on low powered PCs.

I am really grateful to have experts like Dr. Kortum around, and I am super-grateful to have cheap or free usability tools around now too!

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