UXLibs Skills & Tools

It’s often disappointing to attend an exciting or inspiring conference and then come back to the reality of the workplace. It can be hard to maintain the energy, especially when you return to a full plate of work that can slow down your progress or you run into impediments or barriers when trying to implement new projects or ideas. I’m still excited by the big ideas and skills from #uxlibs and my to-do list is long but it’s finally time to write a little bit about the workshops and hands-on activities.

I got to attend two workshops, though there were 2 other groups in simultaneous sessions. I have to say, that’s one of my few complaints about the conference. I heard a little about the workshops from my other team members (there were 3 or 4 members in each session, ensuring that the group as a whole had an awesome set of new skills) but unfortunately, there was little time to fully go over what each group has learned. What I did hear made me wish I could have attended all of the sessions.

My first session looked at mapping and interviewing with Andrew Asher. I was slightly surprised that I enjoyed the mapping portion as much as I did. We looked at spatial and directional mapping. We all drew maps of our own libraries and it was quite revealing about how we think of both our spaces and services. Often the first things we map our the most important or most used spaces/services. Mapping can also be applied to the research process and I’m quite interested in using it more to determine how our digital spaces are used (I think I saw on twitter that ACRL had some discussion on this in the cognitive mapping session (#cogmap, #acrl2015), I think by Donna Lanclos and Andrew Asher in fact). I can’t wait to try mapping with some of our students.

One of the great things about the conference is that once we learned some new skills and tools, we got a chance to try them out. Conference organizers had arranged visits at the libraries in the areas and lined up students for us to work with. This was a really important step as we got to cement the skills and ideas we had just learned and it gave us lots of data to work with later. Our group (go team Red Bulls!) used a variety of techniques that we had learned in our first workshops – we used observation techniques, touchstone tours, interviews and research mapping. We only had two hours, which flew by, and we left inspired, overwhelmed and a little uncertain of what we would do next.

Our second workshop concentrated on what to do with the data once we got it – how to identify problems or areas to pursue. I got to attend a great session with Matthew Reidsma and Matt Borg on affinity mapping and empathy mapping. This is where post-it notes are key. We used the conference hashtag as our data source and half of the group did each type of mapping. Affinity mapping is probably what most folks are familiar with – it basically groups likes things together in order to find major themes and then pulling our pain points from it. Empathy mapping was new to me and I’d like to try it out. There are four quadrants – think, say, feel, and do – and you put each data point in its quadrant and then pull out issues and pain points from there. I like that it’s looking at what’s driving the user rather than just what they did.

Following this workshop, we again got time to apply the new techniques. Our group wasn’t sure if we’d gotten enough data in only 2 hours, 3 students, and a few poor souls we bugged during our visit. Turns out that it was quite the opposite case. Applying the above techniques, we found we almost had too much data and lots of areas that we could see libraries could improve upon.

Our final activity was to find one area to improve upon, suggest a solution, and pitch the solution in 15 minutes. Phew. That was both fun, inspiring and a lot of work. It was difficult to figure out what to suggest in such a short time, let alone come up with a presentation to convince the judges it was a good idea. Despite the intensity of the situation, all of the groups came up with amazing ideas and pitched them well. I was surprised by how well we seemed to work as a group and I think that we got to connect via Basecamp prior to the conference may have helped us work better when we got to the nitty gritty portions of the work. The only issue with the pitch was that I didn’t get to see them all. Luckily, we may still get to hear more about the work of our colleagues.

All in all, the workshops were both fun and informative. The time to apply the new techniques allowed us to leave with actual practiced skills. Our team had a variety of skills that we either practiced or learned a little more about when we talked with our teammates, watched them practiced it or even examined our data. I left the conference with new skills and a list of techniques I need to go learn more about.

There have been lots of posts on the keynotes, including those by Shelly Gullikson and Ned Potter, and you can see Matthew Reidsma’s slides but if I find the time, I’ll try to jot down my thoughts on the keynotes. Update: Donna blogged about her keynote too.

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