If you’ve been following me on twitter, you’ll know that I can’t stop talking about my experience at the recent User Experience in Libraries conference workshop that was held in Cambridge, UK. There are multiple blog posts worth of content/ideas/reflections and I’m still synthesizing the whole conference but this will be my start.
While I’m still mulling all the things I’ve learned over, I thought I’d start with lists.
A few things I’ve learned from the conference:
1. Ethnography requires an open mind – observation comes first and questions come from the observations. This was a bit of a struggle for me, as most of my work has been around usability, which requires a question first, then the observations (and likely more questions).
2. Post-it notes are essential. They are my new best friend. Libraries should be stocks in post-it notes. There are so many ways to use them to help identify issues, ideas and more. I learned awesome new techniques and will be putting them to use in the near future. (More on this in another post on skills from the conference)
3. Mapping is awesome. I went to a workshop on mapping and now I can’t wait to apply the methods we learned. (More on this in another post on skills from the conference)
A short list of the awesome things from this conference:
1. A new community of library folk who are excited by UX and intend to go improve their libraries with the users’ needs in mind. This is really great to see. Before the conference, there were definitely library folk who were interested in UX and were doing awesome things but I think this has been the first time that we’ve had a focused community come together. I feel like this is a group that will continue working together, from the small groups we worked in, to partnering with others who attended the conference.
What surprised me was how diverse it the group was – both in location and in job description. I expected a lot of web and techy folk but there were so many public services people. It’s great to see UX being applied to the whole library. I’d love to see more senior administrators attend this type of conference, to help remove barriers when doing this type of work.
2. Location, location, location. I fell in love with Cambridge. Most of the spaces we dined and networked in were simply gorgeous.
Update: I forgot to add number 3, so here it is.
3. Keynotes are people too. It was great to see keynotes acting as mentors, workshop leaders and judges. They weren’t just a sage on the stage. We got time to work with and talk with them, which is an invaluable experience.
A short list of things for other conferences to consider:
1. Small can be awesome. The conference only had somewhere between 100 – 120 attendees. This meant that it was easy to meet lots of folks and have real conversations.
2. We’re not afraid to work. UXLibs was intense. I’ve never been so exhausted after a conference, nor worked so hard. I didn’t even get a chance to look at my work email (unheard of!). Yet, even with all the work, we were all invested, focused and excited.
3. A mix of keynote and practical is awesome. The keynotes were amazing at the conference. They didn’t just know what they were talking about but they did it and the presented it well. The workshops left me with skills I feel ready to apply in my library. I left with both big ideas and new skills.
4. Community is key. One of the great things about the conference was that all of the teams had a space in Basecamp to work and were encouraged to participate in this space before the conference started. This helped groups do the introductions and group building part before arriving at the conference. I felt like I knew folks before I got there and it made it easier to chat and get right to work.
More on the workshops will be coming soon, when I find the time to go back through all my notes.
The conference committee deserves huge props for putting on an innovative and practical conference. They all deserve rest, but I can’t wait for round 2 so I can build on these skills!