UX – Moving (or not) into the prototype stage

I’ve written about my journey into UX and I’ve spoken about it at a number of conferences. I am a huge advocate of UX research and its application in academic libraries. In my opinion it is not a choice, it’s a necessity. It shouldn’t be a ‘nice to have, if we have the resource’ but a ‘must have and prioritise the resource’.   It’s clear that the #UXLibs community have undertaken a cross section of UX research activities and we have gained and shared some useful insights into how our library users behave.  At the Brynmor Jones Library, we have certainly made a number of very positive service improvements based on the insights we have gained.

However, I’m probably not alone in feeling a little disappointed with the imbedding of UX in the library at which I work. Why is this and why isn’t it fully embedded in everything we do?   Maybe it’s because communication around UX and the reasons for the changes we have made haven’t been transparent or good enough.  Maybe staff haven’t seen the direct value of the research we’ve undertaken or made the connection between service improvements and our research.  Maybe some people find it difficult to work with fuzzy data, in the grey and are unnerved by it.  Maybe some still think it’s a fad.

While there is probably a multitude of reasons, I wonder if one of the main issues is that we often find it difficult to move into the prototype stage of the design process. Many of the improvements we have made at the BJL have bypassed this stage. I wonder if because of this,  library staff don’t see enough happening as a result of UX research on a day to day or week to week basis, so they disengage with the process. In their perception, it’s initially a lot of work, with little visible outcome.

Collecting and analysing the data is the easy part, even reporting on insights and making recommendations for change is easy. But when it comes to actually making those changes happen, we often hit a wall.  For us at the BJL, this seems even more apparent with experimental prototype changes, the sort of changes that people can see and provide feedback on, the sort of changes that can go wrong or fail.  Do we not feel empowered to prototype?  Do we not feel we would be supported through failure? Are we just scared to fail or scared of what our colleagues will say when we do?

Perhaps then, this is a cultural issue. If so, how do we address that? How do we change the perceptions and attitudes of library staff and help them to embrace change, provide support through failure and celebrate the successes when they happen.  Maybe this culture needs to be in place to allow us to move into the prototype stage.

Once we feel supported by our colleagues, empowered to prototype, and brave enough to fail, we’ll make that leap. Perhaps this isn’t about senior managers providing that support, it’s about everyone.  Maybe when this happens, UX will truly be embedded in our libraries.

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