What is a UX Librarian?

Kelly Dagan
Oct 19, 2018 · 8 min read
Photo by Kaleidico on Unsplash

what does “UX Librarian” mean to you?

KD: I remember the first time I introduced myself as a “UX librarian” to a group of people outside libraries.

what kinds of things do you do?

KD: I work on understanding how people engage with scholarly communication, or write research papers, or prepare presentations, or build portfolios, etc., in order to help our services become more visible, accessible, usable, and valuable to them.

  • Mapping user flows through tasks and platforms
  • Reviewing analytics for traffic patterns, bounces, paths
  • Designing exploratory research to uncover user mental models
  • Facilitating contextual interviews with users
  • Analyzing research results for insights and requirements
  • Iterating design solutions and developing prototypes
  • identify areas in which we needed input from end-users and data about their behaviors and preferences, and then work with my team to design ways we could learn what we needed to know (for examples, see Kelly’s answer to the previous question);
  • collaborate with software developers to translate ideas into ‘requirements’ and then check and re-check as those requirements were transformed into features;
  • provide project management support to colleagues, to help them move through that same process of moving from idea to feature;
  • and work directly with our students, faculty and staff at the reference desk and in other venues.

what’s the best part of your job?

KD: I got into librarianship because of the service orientation, so helping people achieve at all levels (from “get the thing” to “complete the thesis”) is really important to me. Along with that, I get a lot of personal enjoyment out of discovering the myriad ways that people frame things and work through them — most of the time, these are ways I’ve never even considered. Talking through and watching someone’s process allows me to totally geek out about the nature of human cognition and creativity, while also giving me a strong shot of empathy and humility. As system experts, we learn to be at ease with a certain type of complexity, and it’s helpful to get continual reminders from other perspectives as we strive to be more accessible and inclusive.

what’s the worst part of your job?

KD : As Courtney points out, there is so much work that could get done at any given time that it can seem like an ocean of endless troubles (I love her strategies for staying sane!). It’s really tough when you come up against a problem where, due to system ownership, staffing, or other factors, there just isn’t the capacity to make a change. So much of this work relies on partnerships and trust, and part of that means negotiating different priority structures…which gets even more complicated when you start talking about external vendors (who have a large customer base and may not share your UX values).

what’s one myth or misconception about your job that you’d like to bust?

KD: That it’s just about “caring about the patron” — most people I’ve met in librarianship care, and care deeply, about their patrons. Library UX involves a set of practices and processes that help to generate evidence for impactful change, and as Courtney mentioned earlier, it also includes methods for actually implementing that change (design thinking and UX are very happy bedfellows).


Talking about how to operationalise research

Kelly Dagan

Written by

User Experience Librarian, passionate about information systems, UX, and design. Find me at www.kellydagan.com, @K4Dag


Talking about how to operationalise research