Reflections – UXLibs II (22)23-24 June 2016

After my experiences at the first UX conference, there was little doubt that I would be registering for the second. I registered early to ensure a place, and this time I was presenting!

UXLibs this year was to be a little different, a showcase of where we had come from last year with presentations split in three tracks, Nailed, Failed and Derailed. My presentation was in the derailed track, particularly focusing on overcoming a number of obstacles to take our UX work forward. The transcript can be found on my other blog post.

I travelled to Manchester on 22 June to be there for the pre-conference drinks on the evening. Meeting up with @Martinthephilip who I met at last year’s conference, we grabbed a bite to eat, had a pint and then headed to the Crane and Grain. My initial reaction was just how many people I knew, it felt like a community coming back together,  friends having a drink in preparation for what I now knew was going to be an experience to rival that of last year.

Day 1 – 23 June

It was a relatively early start on 23 June, with registration from 8:30. An opening address from @andytraining made great points around being made to feel welcome in unfamiliar surroundings based on his own experiences of Hong Kong and Melbourne. This resonated with me and particularly relates to the work we are doing @hullUni_Library on our induction activity.   @donnalanclos keynote advocating qualitative research made bold statements like qualitative only libraries! She makes great points around quantitative data feeling more credible to staff but being brave and trusting of other methods and other data which can ultimately provide a more valuable and deeper understanding of the student experience. Something I found challenging in the past year. She asked who in the room is on their library leadership team. Some hands went up. She asked who in the room is a leader. Again, some hands went up. Her response was that we are all leaders!

I was speaking in the first round of the track sessions, which I figured was good, people were awake, enthusiastic and ready to listen. That didn’t change regardless of the time of day so it didn’t really matter anyway.  I enjoyed presenting and felt like it went well, I received some positive feedback and people said they could connect with what I was saying, and that’s what I wanted.

I won’t go on to write about all the track presentations I saw, other than to say that they were all inspiring and the fact that people were willing to openly share their successes and failures in the presentations made for a valuable learning experience. For me, that’s what UXLibs was really about this year, people coming back together, a community catching up, supporting each other through failure and celebrating successes together. The fact that people felt able to share and learn from their failures ultimately led to a positive experience in a very supportive environment.

The Team Challenge

As with last year we were assigned to a team, this year there were no quirky names. We were all just a letter and a number, M1 in my case. We were given one a three advocacy challenges to present on:

  • Marketing Upwards (advocating to senior management)
  • Collaboration (advocating to colleagues in other areas)
  • Recruitment (advocating to student groups)

We were to present first in a heat, then the winners of the heats would go on to present to the whole conference. Our challenge was ‘Marketing Upwards’ sell UX work to a library senior management team in seven minutes. I have to admit I was kind of pleased with the challenge we were assigned and our team members were all great, (@LibraryEmma @shelley_gee @deirdre_lyon, Kat, Rod) by the end of the first day, I felt it came together well and we knew what we going to say. For me, yet again this wasn’t really about the challenge, it was about members of the team sharing their experiences over the past year, the successes and the failures and working collaboratively around those to share wider what had worked for us.

Day 2 – 24 June (EU Referendum results)

I woke up numerous time though the night and wanted to check the news but resisted as I knew if it wasn’t good, I wouldn’t sleep. I was woken up at 6:50 to the ting of a what’s app message from my wife to our family group, it simply read ‘The results are in and we’re screwed’. As I know many did that morning, I walked to the conference a little dazed, very disappointed and somewhat embarrassed. I actually got lost on the way there (thank goodness for smartphones and @polarprincess). It was soon evident, that I wasn’t alone in my shock and disbelieve, there was certainly a dark cloud hanging over the conference at the beginning of day two. @andytraining took to the podium to open the conference, he said what needed to be said, he made eyes well with tears. It was brave and poignant. I don’t know for sure that everyone in that room from the UK voted to remain, but I suspect that was the case.   You can read Andy’s post about the experience at .

On refection, I think the result benefited the conference, I think everyone wanted to work together and share experiences more than ever.

@Lawrie took to the podium, talking about leadership. He spoke about documenting our failures and learning from them, if we don’t document them we’ll only go onto repeat them. He also spoke about small incremental changes building up and being transformative, something that I picked up on in my talk the previous day. It was a very inspiring and thought provoking keynote which sent everyone off to prepare their team presentations feeling energised.

We prepped our team presentation, I hounded @Mike_Ewen for some real entry figures to help back up our argument. Mike, of course delivered, although not until we were already half way through our presentation. Thankfully I hadn’t started talking yet!   We thought our presentation went well, but so did everyone else’s. They were informative and interesting.

We assembled in the main conference room for the winners to be announced. First the marketing up challenge, goes to team M1! We won! Although this did mean we had to do it again in front of everyone at the conference. When the time came we took to the stage, (Oh yes, for the second time. The first was interrupted by a fire alarm). I think we all enjoyed it, I know I did.

I attended two really useful workshops during the afternoon, the first by @andytraining looking at cultural probes. I shall certainly be looking at these going into the start of the next academic year. The second was by @aasher looking at process interviews and understanding user behaviour holistically, something I really wanted to gain more knowledge of. It was insightful and useful and will certainly help in the coming year.

Then the Question Time panel and conference review and then that was it, UXLibs was done. @andytraining closed the conference with the words “I am a European”, to which there was much applause.


@mike_ewen is a good friend and a colleague, who I have the pleasure of line managing. Mike asked what I brought back from the conference. What have you learnt and how will our team use that learning in the coming year? I said that I learnt many things, I said that we certainly would be doing cultural probes though the induction period and that our yet to be formed UX task force would be taking that forward. I said that I thought we were on the right path and that people seemed interested in what I had to say at the conference. I said that we had a long and interesting road ahead and that our library staff were instrumental in taking some important work forward. I also said that the key to success was collaboration, how I didn’t want to do this in isolation, how I wanted to work with other institutions wherever and whenever I could. I said that this didn’t just apply to UX work, but everything we do, from library systems and AIPs to websites, social media and media and marketing. To take the theme from day two, were are stronger together.

Other personal takeaways that I also shared were that I like being involved, I like presenting, I like telling stories and I like helping others tell their stories. I also very much like listening to stories.   I like working with people from other cultures and other countries, I like feeling part of something bigger.   These things give me energy.   I wonder if these opportunities arise regularly enough, I wonder if I can do more than I do now. The answer to that question in my mind is yes, I could do more. What I need to learn is how.


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