UXLibs V – 17, 18 & 19 June 2019 – Rising Five!


It was Saturday when I got that kind of Avengers assemble feeling. It came a little earlier this year. Maybe it was the excitement, the anticipation, maybe I just knew more people and saw more tweets. Never the less, it was Saturday whilst washing pots in the kitchen.  I’ve said before that UXLibs isn’t just a conference but a community coming together,  this year felt much like that again, but also something different and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why (I’m not sure I can, even now).  That excited me though, and that’s why I go to UXlibs.

It was of course the 5th UXLibs and I want to reference the first stanza of the poem ‘Rising five’ by Norman Nicholson which was printed in the front of the UXLibs brochure:

I’m rising five” he said
“Not four” and the little coils of hair
Un-clicked themselves upon his head.
His spectacles, brimful of eyes to stare
At me and the meadow, reflected cones of light
Above his toffee-buckled cheeks. He’d been alive
Fifty-six months or perhaps a week more;
                              Not four
But rising five. 

When I read it, I didn’t realise the significance to me, not until I read the remainder of the poem later on, but we’ll come to that in a while.

For the first time ever, I wasn’t attending UXLibs on my own. There were three of us from Hull and this was good because it allowed more people to get involved and provide an opportunity for them to meet people in similar roles at other institutions. At the same time, I felt like UX was my thing and I didn’t want to let go and share it with others.  I felt very protective over it.

The focus of the conference this year was ‘From Research to Design’: putting UX data into action in the form of prototypes and pilots for testing. This felt very relevant to me and the work we have done (or not done) in Hull. Prototyping has not been my strong point in the past and something that I spoke about in my presentation Culture eats the design process for breakfast.   A lot of my work has focused on the research aspect of the design process, and I have often just handed over recommendations for others to implement if they wanted to, providing little support or leadership proceeding that.  Perhaps that felt safe and comfortable, perhaps that was just the scope of my job.  I don’t think that really works though, you should be involved in all aspects of the design process and be able to provide support and leadership through it.

There are likely to be a lot of write ups that talk about the presentation and workshops that we attended. There were some really great ones, but this post isn’t about that, plus @Shelly_gee pretty much nails it with her post. I am grateful to everyone who spent time and effort putting talks and workshops together, I know how much time, effort and stress it takes.   Also a huge thanks to the committee  @andypriestner @librarygirlknit and @lemurph for organising such a great conference and for allowing me to become an extended member of the committee, it was great fun, even the photo shoot!

I always come away from UXLibs with something a little different than I expected. This year was no exception.  Practically, I came away with the realisation that we collect far too much data,  data that is replicated in multiple collection methods too. We don’t need to do that.  I also validated that we just need to do stuff, try stuff and not worry about it being imperfect or going wrong.  In fact, you often get more useful feedback from something that looks unfinished because people feel they are allowed to comment on it.

My other takeaway was about moving on, how my work on UX in Hull needs to change and how my focus needs to shift into two areas, certainly if we want to continue to embed it. I spoke about organisational culture and its impact on the design process in my presentation.  For me, culture was a key underlying theme that echoed through the whole conference.  It’s clear that there needs to be a shift in organisational culture if UX in any institution is going to be truly embedded.  I think this is a key focus of my UX role in Hull.  Being a good leader, empowering others to try new things and providing a safe space for them to do so, certainly in the context of our Customer Services Team.  Supporting them through failure and helping everyone learn from them.  Using the design process as a framework for everything we do, from how our teams work to how we develop our services and spaces. My thinking there is very much influenced by Keynote speaker @fribban who does some amazing work and I’ve got to know over the past few years.  On a more practical note,  we need to put a lot more effort into our online delivery of services and I find myself almost going full circle with perhaps a refocus on IT and the implementation of UX in the delivery of online services. My thinking in that area is certainly influenced by the work @vfowler does in Melbourne,  We’ll see how than pans out.

So back to the poem. ‘Rising Five’  highlights the opposite of why it resonated with me.  It tells us to pay more attention to today and not always focus on what is to come.  The trouble is, I have done too much of that, in a work context.  Concentrating on today is often comfortable and easy, I need to think about what the future holds, where the library is going and where I am going.  I need to understand how I want to get there.   I think perhaps it’s time to pass the UX baton, or at least share it.  It’s time for my baby to go to school and stop holding on too tight,  let other people start to shape and develop aspects of UX here in Hull. I need to foster a culture of inclusion rather than having UX in a silo.  We have some passionate people and they have a great opportunity in our developing institutional culture, which I need to support them through.

I would also really like to get out and work with other institutions more this year, more workshops and more conference presentations too, if people will have me.

It would be nice to put in a paper to UXlibs next year, talking about the personal challenges of passing the baton and fostering a culture that allows us all to move through the design process. I’ll see what happens and I’ll see where I am. It’s going to be a year of tremendous change, both for the library and probably my role within it.  I need to meet it head on and not be scared.

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