Future of library user experience webinar by Urban Libraries Council

I became aware of this webinar that was done about 2 months ago which does a good job of outlining some of the issues surrounding assessment and improvement of the library user experience on websites. The keynote is by Nate Bolt of Bolt|Peters and is followed by a panel reacting to his comments. It is geared toward a public library audience, but the principles discussed are appropriate to all libraries.

A key take-away is that a user experience should be assessed by watching at least 3 people access your site from start to finish, without interruption or discussion, and to NOT ask them what they think of the site. Actions show reality much better than people’s perceptions of what they are doing or just did. I have found this to be true in interface assessments I have done in various venues.

Near the end is a question and brief discussion about what to call a person who interacts with library services:

  • patron (traditional nomenclature used by librarians, particularly in public and academic settings)
  • customer (often associated with commercial interactions/sales and disdained by many librarians, though that may be changing),
  • client (typically used by consultants and in corporate information services settings)
  • user (adopted from the computer community)

This is a long webinar, about 1 1/2 hours, but moves along well. One word of caution is that about half way through the audio continues in describing particular websites of 4 libraries and comments about them, but one slide stays on the screen for a long time and then the rest of the slides are in sequence but completely out of sync with the audio. Still, it is an interesting and useful webinar.

An interesting side thing to me is that a science fiction author in Seattle is quoted recently as saying people think SF authors predict the future, but they don’t. That same statement was made to me and others attending the SLA Information Futurists group meeting in Seattle June 9, 1997 [thus more than 10 years ago] by Greg Bear, award winning SF author, who coincidentally also resides in Seattle. There are many SF authors in Seattle and a wonderment, don’t you think? Anyway, SF authors may not predict the future, but they sure give the general public a view of how the future might happen — sometimes coming very close to reality as it happens. Just look at Greg’s earlier writings that have library-like aspects in them (Blood Music is a good one), or that of Neal Stephenson (I recommend Snow Crash) or David Brin (Earth has a very interesting perspective on a Web-like environment and on wearable computers).

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