Being you, being proud

When I was ten I was a quiet little lad. Never the one to lead, always standing back to let the others do that. I didn’t put my hand up, I didn’t go on the foreign exchange, that wasn’t for me, I didn’t take part in the high school play, even though I liked the idea of it. I liked some things others didn’t and what if I looked stupid or people laughed at me. No, I wasn’t that confident, I was always worried about what others would think. I wanted to fit in, to be like everyone else. I wanted to be part of the crowd, and I very much succeeded, I took the back seat, I was just there, invisible to most, under the radar,  just a face in the crowd. Never being laughed at, not being bullied, and never making a fool of myself. Always just there, there but invisible, never proud of who I was, never comfortable with me. Me, quiet, shy, but with an internal voice wanting to cry out.

That changed, it changed in a single moment, a spark of an opportunity, a moment of bravery. I was waiting in the foyer of the IT training centre I was about to start at. I sat with sweaty hands and the cold/warm tingle of nervousness. “Hi, I’m Carl, are you on the same training course of me?” I did it! I made the first move, I wasn’t the quiet one, I didn’t just sit back….and I like it. I only spent six weeks at that training centre before I got a work placement. I was the first to get one. But from that first moment, I was the loud one, the leader, the one who stood up in fount of everyone and talked, the one who everyone looked towards. The confident one, the one everyone wanted to be with, never afraid make a fool out myself and the leader of the crowd. I’d changed, I’d become who I wanted to be, that quite, shy little boy was gone and he was gone for good, left in the past with the other nobodies, the other invisibles, the ones who didn’t succeed.

This only continued, I became part of a huge friendship group, I was part of the in-crowd, I was never without someone, something to do, or some place to go. I met friends around the country, had crazy times. I had everything, I couldn’t be happier, couldn’t be more confident.

It wasn’t for a good few years after progressing at work, getting married and having children that I started to reflect. Something started to feel strange. That presentation at work needed preparation, being cool and just winging it didn’t work. On my own at that big conference with new people made me feel nervous, but that wasn’t me. I was an extravert, confident, part of the in-crowd, the leader. Why were these feelings coming back?

I looked towards my son, now ten. Today he graduated from primary school and I couldn’t be more proud. He is everything I was at that age, but at the same time everything I wanted to be, all at once. He likes some things others don’t, he’s a little quirky, he isn’t loud, he isn’t really part of the in-crowd, but he’s proud of it, so very proud, so very proud to be him. He exudes confidence, a confidence that I never had, he was a lead in the school play, he stood on a stage and read a poem he’d written, he plays his clarinet in a band, he’s a great swimmer, he speaks up and asked questions at school, he is on the radar. But on the radar for being him, not for being the norm. Most importantly he is comfortable and happy with himself. He doesn’t need to pretend, he doesn’t need to fit in, and he doesn’t want to. But because of that,  he does.

I’m almost 40 now, and sure that loudness is still there sometimes, that’s become part of me, I’m comfortable with that, it gets me through the nervousness, it helps me lead, its gets me up in front of people. But I’ve come to understand that there’s room for that little boy, he’s who I am too. You don’t need to be loud to be confident and I take energy from the nervousness, it makes me feel alive. There are times when I’m quite, times when I let others take the lead, times when going under the radar feels right. But now I’m comfortable with that, almost comfortable with who I am, almost comfortable with the silence. Almost comfortable being me.

Don’t forget who you were, be happy with who you are, and take inspiration from those you aspire to be.

Good luck in high school Ethan!


Library Staff Development – Why UX?

I delivered a short UX session to all library staff as part of our staff development fortnight,  here is what I said.  Thanks to Lisa Bolt, Customer Services Team Leader for guiding everyone through their cognitive map.

Thanks to Donna Lanclos (@DonnaLanclos) and Matthew Reidsma (@mreidsma) from who I took inspiration. 

Lisa and I represent Customer Services at this event and I’m here to talk about data this afternoon. Yes data, hands up who had a little part of then die inside when I said that. How many people have asked, why are we collecting this? What are we going to do with it? That’s fine, I’m with you there…kind of. We have a lot of data in the library, we know have between thirty five and thirty six thousand people come through our turnstiles each month during semester. We know how many books are taken out every week, month and year. We know how many people use our study rooms, we know how much money we take in fines and we know how many people visit our website. We have a lot of data! We like that sort of quantitative data, if feels comfortable, it feels credible, it’s tangible our line managers like numbers.

So what does all that data tell us? For me, not that that much, other than we are very busy. We have a lot of people coming through the library and using our services. Great! The trouble is we don’t have a clue what they do when they get in here. We certainly don’t have a clue how the library fits into their larger learning landscape. The library is a small (hopefully significant though) part of what is happening with one of our users/customers. (I really don’t mind which terminology is used) If we can understand how we impact on their lives and how their lives impact on our services it can only help to improve things, not just for the customer, but also for us.

So how do we do that? What about surveys? (Who here likes surveys?) I don’t! In fact I’ve started to loath them. I was recently on the train where the conductor was asking who would like to fill in a survey. This thing must have been 5 pages long. I was tired, hot, I’d had a very busy day, the train was crowed, I didn’t like the bad language from the guy on his phone opposite me and my bag was annoying me because there wasn’t any storage. I didn’t take survey, but I doubt my experience would have been expressed through a number of tick boxes. If we survey students they I could tell you what the results will be before the survey happens. Students will tell us that they want more computers, more library books, more silent study space and they want to be able to eat and drink throughout the building. We wouldn’t even find out why they want these things.

So how do we get the data we want? How do we get valuable qualitative data? We need to take a big step back and reframe things a little. We need to think about what our library really is. Donna Lanclos (@DonnaLanclos), Associate Professor for Anthropological Research at the J. Murrey Atkins Library at UNC Charlotte, suggests some of the things our library could be. Our library is an artefact, it’s built by humans, it is of historical and cultural significance, we could say it is an artefact. It’s a culture, there are behaviour and expectations, we have rules and structures. Yes, we can say that it’s a culture. We could also say that it is a place, both physically and digitally. I speak about these spaces merging relatively often, something that you can read about in my other blog post. So yes, it’s a place. Just as importantly though, our library is people.

peopleblogThinking back to something that Matthew Reidsma said, Matthew is the Web Services Librarian at Grand Valley State University, Michigan. People built our library, all those books, people put them there. All the information in those books, written by people. Our website, built by people, much by me and Mike Ewen (@mike_even), all those links that you can never navigate around, yes, people.

Matthew suggests that we often forget about the people, he’s right. We often think only in tasks when developing our services. The issues is that people who use our library don’t live in task based silos, they come from places with emotion and culture, they have a life. We then wonder why they fail to accomplish the tasks we set. We wonder why they get angry. We forgot about the people.

All that said, we shouldn’t forget about the tasks. We need to understand the tasks, we need to understand the process behind our services. We also like tasks, they are easily understood, they are quantifiable, feel credible and we can put numbers alongside them. That’s one kind of story, but the experience of fulfilling those task is another kind of story. It’s a valuable story and it’s a way of us understanding the bigger picture.

So task based thinking is still important, we need tasks. But if we can move between task-based thinking and experience-based thinking and develop our services based on the way people experience and behave in our library, we can really transform the user experience.

One way we’ve been doing this in Customer Services is by using maps. Here is a map, it’s a satellite view of the campus. It starts to tell a story, it shows us what the campus looks like, it shows us that it’s pretty green, there is grass and trees and it shows is how the library is central on the campus. Here is another map, this time from our friends at Google. It shows the roads running around campus and they are all labelled. It shows us where the campus sits in the local community. Then the University provides us with a map of the campus, this time in 3D with all the building names, catering outlets and carparks included. This starts to help us understand what is available on campus.

map2What if we had maps that looked like this, or this. These are both cognitive maps which were drawn by our students last year. We asked them to draw a map showing their experience of the library. Everyone in the room today is going to draw one of these maps. I would like you to draw a map of your experience of working in the library. Lisa will take you through the process.

You have 6 minutes to draw a map of your experience of working at the library. Every two minutes you will be asked to change the colour of your pen in the following order. Blue, Red, Black. After the six minutes is complete you will have time to label your map. Try to be as complete as possible and don’t worry about the quality of the drawing!

Your 6 minutes start now…   Everyone enthusiastically draws….

You now all have a cognitive map in front of you, it’s personal to you and your experience. The reason we use three colours is to help illustrate and understand what is important to you, what are the things that are at the forefront of your mind or most important to you. What are the things that are there in the background and you don’t think about so much. When we did these maps with students we following them up with a short interview to help put some context around each one and we got a lot out of it. We then went on to code all the maps based on the method described by Andrew Asher

Does anyone want to stand up and share what they have drawn and why?

Three examples shared.

These maps are yours to take away today, you don’t need to hand them to me, we don’t want to analyse them. But perhaps they are something to go away and reflect on.

Over the coming year we will be undertaking more UX work, using this and other techniques to dig deeper into how people really use our library services. If you have any questions or are interested, please don’t hesitate to come and have a chat about it.

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.

UXLibs II – Getting back on the rails


Batman! If you could be any super hero, who would you be?  That’s where it all started for me. Batman and the first UXLibs conference.  That was the ice breaker question we were asked before we arrived last year. As it did for many others, some of you in this room today, UXLibs changed the way I think about service development and customer feedback. What I learnt sparked interest and enthusiasm in innovative UX research methods to provide insights which were routed in user behaviour and which would lead to service improvements and developments.

I went home from UxLibs full of enthusiasm (who else went home feeling like that?), I spoke constantly about how great the conference was, I wrote a blog post about it, in fact it was the first ever blog post I’d written. But more importantly I spoke about how it was essential that we started to think about, plan and undertake some of this UX work in Hull.  I spoke about how if we surveyed students, we knew exactly what they would say before we started and how we needed to unearth the things we didn’t know.

I knew I couldn’t just get on and do something, I needed to get buy-in from senior management, particularly from the director who I knew was a little sceptical about some of the work.  I wrote a paper which detailed what I wanted to try.  At this point, I sold it very much as a learning exercise more than anything, a chance to experiment on a small scale with some new techniques and to help me better articulate why these methods were important.

The director was relatively easy to get on board, in fact after a number of conversations he became very much an advocate of this work.  So I had the buy-in I needed,   I wrote the UX work into my student engagement plan for the coming year and that was it, ready to get going.

Or was I!? A few months past, and a few more, I’d done nothing but further reading, which was great in the fact that I was getting a more in-depth understanding of the work and how it would help us. I did have a very small team, it was just me and as I’m sure you are all aware, student engagement is a wide remit which anything could fall under. So I had plenty of other work and there just wasn’t time.  It also always seemed hard to get students involved, there were always barriers. Students want incentives, they have exams, it’s vacation time (who else has experienced those barriers?).  This stalling became an increasing issue as I needed to get on with the work.

In my mind, there were three main real issues:

  1. My commitment to the workFear
  2. Fear of failure
  3. Time

Then after a little more reflection I realised there were two:

  1. Fear of failure
  2. Time, there really wasn’t enough time

Firstly, I was kind of a victim of my own success. I’d sold this work so well that I’d put too much pressure on myself to succeed at it. Or at least that’s what it felt like.  What was I going to say to the director if it all failed? What would that do to my credibility?  Secondly, there really were time and resource issues.  I didn’t realise just how much effort you need to put in to do a good job and with just me, I was stretching myself too thin.
Then I was thrown a lifeline of sorts, or at least that’s how I saw it at the time.  A departmental restructure!  What better reason to put the brakes on and wait until there was more clarity about roles and responsibilities?  I was saved!

Actually what happened was that after my brilliant job of selling UX work, and brilliantly articulating its importance to the BJL, I was given a team!  An online coordinator  (@mike_ewen), and a digital technologies officer (@johnasteph12) to help take some of the pressure off and provide more focus on the student experience. This was great! Or was it, all it meant was that the time and resource barrier had been removed – I was now left with my own fear of failure, the only reason not to progress.

So how to progress?  Firstly I acknowledged to myself, that it was my fault we hadn’t, or at least partly as time and resource were also very real contributing factors.  I really reframed the whole situation, thought about who I wanted to involve in the work, why I wanted them to be involved and who I needed to get buy-in from again.  I already had buy-in from senior management and the director but that wasn’t working.   I think this was a very important turning point, this reframing and rethinking.

This played on my mind for a while, and then driving to work, I had a lightbulb moment! If I wanted this work to be a success, I had to make it an everyday part what we do, it had to be embedded.  I had to involve the people who were doing the ‘what we do’ and UX work had to become part of our culture, not just something I did in isolation.  As a first step, I had to involve the frontline team in the work, in fact, what if they actually did some of it. If they were involved in research that was clearly relevant to their daily roles, if they were involved in developing our services based on the insights they discovered, it might actually work well at the BJL, it might ignite that enthusiasm and energy that I brought from UXLibs in others.  Also as a by-product, I would be developing staff and maybe working with students in new ways might change some perceptions and as a result enhance the student experience in the library building! – That was the utopian ideal anyway.

TrainingI started off by speaking to the head of customer services and our operations managers to form a group of around twenty people who would be interested in working with me.  I ran two workshops, at which I spoke about why we wanted to undertake UX work, much of these things I’d spoken about before.  I then got them all to do a cognitive map and then a love/break-up letter, two of the methods I was interested in trying out.   The response and interest was great, to be honest I wasn’t expecting it.  They were excited to get going with some students!  We are lucky enough to have 60 student volunteers at the BJL and I suggested that they used these students as a starting point and I would be around to support them when needed. Within 24 hours, I had cognitive maps, supporting notes, and love/break-up letters on my desk.  For the first time in around ten months this work was moving forward and we were getting some good real data too!   This enthusiasm continued and before I knew where I had twenty maps and love/break-up letters.  We also went out to our Academic Council meetings and gained another 40 love/break-up letters from there.

I coded the maps to understand how frequently each element is drawn, based on the method described by Andrew Asher .   I dropped all the letters into NVIVO and coded those.

InsightsWe were getting a lot of new insights, some big, some small, but all valuable.  Some of the insights we gained are listed below.

Our Reading Room is very popular but currently not suitable for silent study.  With a staffed desk, laptop loans, printers and our high demand collection, it is a high traffic area.  We are now looking at the services offered from this space to help facilitate silent study going into the next academic year.

Our directional signage is inadequate.  As a result we ordered temporary popup signs and have subsequently gone on to complete a signage review and have ordered additional permanent signs.

People really like the café on the ground floor and it is well used through the day and into the night. However, at key times people would rather go and get a drink from another place on campus and bring it back to the library, rather than wait in a long queue.  As a result we have been having conversations around providing a grab & go drinks cart on the ground floor to cater for some of the traffic.

Students want to eat and drink throughout our building, particularly on the 7th floor.  The reality is that we probably aren’t going to make huge changes to our food and drink policy.  As a result of our findings we have realised that students do spend long periods of time in our building, perhaps much longer that we originally thought. The requirement for food and drink when working for such long periods of time is a very obvious and valid.  This sparked conversations and has led us to think about how we cater for those students studying for very long periods and is something we will do more work in over the coming months.

Almost everyone uses the lifts in the building, they don’t use the stairs. It is probably a reflection of the building having seven floors. However, it is clear that the lifts don’t cope well with the demand at busy times of the day and we need to do something to help divert traffic. Whilst we can’t add more lifts or change them, we have started to think about how we could make more of a feature out of the stairs. Maybe running a get fit whilst you study campaign, including steps climbed and calories burnt printed on the walls. Perhaps we could include quotes and facts relating to the different subjects on the way up too.

People weren’t sure what our information points were there for.   This resulted in an attract screen being added highlighting what was available.  We have also added the information points into our induction package, both for new staff and students.

Two closing points from me:

Like Batman, you don’t need super powers to get great results.  You do need:

  • Commitment
  • Faith
  • Time and resource
  • A plan (including time and resource)

Like Lego, small bricks/insights/changes add up to big results and great experiences!



Insights, Ideas and Post-Its!

I wrote about our cognitive mapping, student interviews and the love/break-up letters in an earlier post. These exercises provided us with some very useful insights and a lot of data! I wanted to start thinking about how we transform that data and those insights into tangible idea for changes to both the library building and the services offered therein.

Again, being consistent with my intentions to keep the frontline team involved in the work, I ran two ‘ideation’ workshops with the staff. This was as much of an experiment as anything before running similar workshops with students, but it did keep the front line staff involved, engaged and allowed them to see how the work they began last month forms the foundations of things to come.

Exercise 1

FirstSortI had a group of ten staff members and wanted to start by detailing as may of the insights as possible, some were written down, others were drawn and some were just in the heads of the staff who had been involved.   I started by asking them to spend ten minutes on their own without talking and write as many insights as they could onto post-its and put them onto the wall,  in any order. I was a little nervous about this part of the session because the success of the workshop relied on those insights getting up onto the wall, and there being plenty of them. This however, proved to be successful and I was pleasantly surprised by the both the amount and range of insights.

The next step was to arrange the post-its into themes, and if possible sub themes. The group worked well and produced a well-structured version of the data on the wall. It was interesting to see the type of themes that came out, some expected, others not so much. The themes are listed below:

Workshop 1

  • Resources
    • Electronic
    • Physical
  • Equipment
    • PCs/Laptops
    • Printers
  • Moving around
    • Lifts
    • Stairs
  • Library Space
    • Study areas
    • Ground floor
    • Group learning
    • Teaching rooms
  • Reading Room
    • Negative
    • Positive
  • Service
    • Staff
    • Food & Drink
    • Late night study
  • Café
    • Queues
    • Food options
    • Pro café

Workshop 2

  • Study Spaces
    • PG Lounge
    • Reading Room
    • Silent study
  • Moving around
    • Lifts
    • Signage
    • Turnstiles
  • Resources
    • Finding
    • Availability
  • Food & Drink
    • In the library
    • Café
  • Environment
    • Space
    • Other

Exercise 2

CatogoriesI spit the group into two and asked each to choose a theme, or subtheme with which to work. I then asked them to try and think at a higher level and identify what that theme was really about, what would dealing with issues in that theme fix? Getting the groups to do this was a challenge, particularly in one of the workshops, but we just about got there. I then asked the groups to come up with a ‘How might we?’ question relating to that higher level theme. Once example that came out of the first workshop was ‘How might we make it easier to study in the library for long periods of time?’I thought it was an interesting one to work.

Exercise 3

658The groups had five minutes to come up with six to eight ideas each (without talking) which would help to answer their ‘how might we?’ question. I explained that the ideas needed to be really crazy, really out there. At the end of the five minutes each member of the group explained a little about their ideas and stuck them onto the wall.   We then went through the process again, but team members had five minutes to write six to eight ideas that built on what was already on the wall, again explaining their ideas at the end of the five minutes. We went through this process twice more and at the end came out with a number of tangible ideas, some more large scale than others but all good ideas. I’ll write about these in a later post as things progress.

HowNowWhy2Exercise 4 (HOW? NOW! WOW!)

I asked each group to feedback their ideas and when doing so add post-its to a HOW? NOW! NOW! axis to help us get an idea of which ideas we should focus on. This was really just to demonstrate an example of how ideas might be prioritised.



I explained that we would work with the other themes over the coming weeks and asked if the group saw the benefit in working in this way as opposed to just having an unstructured brainstorming session, the response was a definite yes! Everyone enjoyed the sessions and felt that they got a lot out of them.

The next step will be to run the latter part of the sessions with more staff over the coming weeks, tackling the other themes. At the same time I will run the full sessions with a group of our student volunteers. I hope that the ideas we come out with can be prioritised and taken forward.

Views and opinions are my own – Or are they?

I’ve had this on my mind for a while now so thought I’d write something down. Maybe it’s a little controversial and I’m sure not everyone will agree.   I see all the time on the bottom of email or social media profiles

Views and opinions are my own and do not represent those of my institution

and I’m not sure I agree. Institutions are made up of people and cultures, each one of those people have opinions, views and values which contribute to that culture. They contribute to how we interact with those who engage with our  institutions.  By default then, don’t those opinions, views and values become those of the institution simple because of those people?

Maybe this just highlights the importance of values base recruitment, if there is such a thing. Maybe it’s me thinking too much about something that doesn’t really matter. Or maybe institutions should start using the strap line

Views, opinions and values are those of all who work here

Cognitive Mapping and Love/Break-up letters at the BJL

As promised, an update on the UX work at the Brynmor Jones Library (@HullUni_Library).

As described in my earlier blog post, I wanted to get frontline team involved in our UX research and the first stage was to run a practical session with them. This focused on the following:

  • The library as a bigger picture
  • Tasks, cultures and emotions
  • Why we want to undertake UX research
  • Cognitive mapping
  • Love & Break-Up letters

The workshops were really well received and the staff involved really enjoying taking part and creating their own cognitive maps and letters. They not only found it interesting and fun but started to think about their working days and preconceptions alongside those of our library users, something I hadn’t anticipated as an outcome of the workshop.

Not done cognitive maps before–thanks @carlbarrow. Awareness of own preconceptions when developing library services


The next step was to do this with students. We have 70 student volunteers at the BJL and this seemed like a good place to start. Our newly trained frontline team have been working with them on an individual basis, asking them to draw cognitive maps of the library and following this up with short interviews. The interviews put the maps into context and helped to clarify what different areas on the maps represent. This has proved a crucial mechanism by which to gain further insights and clarity. Up to now we have completed fifteen cognitive maps, a selection of which are show below.

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Following the interviews, the students were asked to write a love or break-up letter to a service or space in the library. We found it useful to look at these alongside the maps that were drawn and they helped to validate the insights we were seeing from the maps.

A selection of the love and break-up letters we received.

Coding the maps

I have started to code the maps to understand how frequently each element is drawn, based on the method described by Andrew Asher . A section of the spreadsheet is show below. This is only the beginning and I will be doing further analysis of the maps, interviews and love/break-up letters over the coming weeks.

Map coding spreadsheet

Insights so far

There have been a number of themes and points raised by the exercise so far, but there are three key areas which have jumped out:

  1. ReadingRoomThe 1st floor Reading Room which contains our High Demand Collection (everything on reading lists) is a very high traffic area, evidenced by the number of times it has been drawn in cognitive maps. Students get books from there, maybe borrow a laptop and then move onto other areas of the library. There is some frustration that items aren’t shelved alongside other subject related material in the remainder of the building. This means traveling between your subject floor and the 1st floor to consult material. The Reading Room is also a silent study area but since the traffic is so high and there is a staff desk in there, it really doesn’t meet that brief. Although an excellent space for individual study it falls short of meeting the requirements of some students.

    If the HDC and staff desk were moved, the Reading Room area could be an effective silent study space and easier access to this collection could be provided for through traffic in another part of the building.

    Perhaps a less drastic measure might be to ensure that noise in the area is policed in an effective way and to ensure it is clear that the desk isn’t intended as an enquiry point.   Maybe relocation of the lap-top loan cabinet could be an option. 

  2. StairsAlmost everyone uses the lifts in the building, they don’t use the stairs. This has been evidenced on the cognitive maps. It is probably a reflection of the building having seven floors. However, it is clear from the interviews and break-up letters that the lifts don’t cope well with the demand  at busy times of the day and we need to do something to help divert traffic.Whilst we can’t add more lifts or change them, maybe we could make more of a feature out of the stairs. We could run a get fit whilst you study campaign, including steps climbed and calories burnt printed on the walls as you climb. Perhaps we could include quotes and facts relating to the different subjects on the way up too. 


  3. CafePeople really like the café on the ground floor and it is well used through the day and into the night, again evidenced through the cognitive maps. However, at key times people would rather go and get a drink from another place on campus and bring it back to the library, rather than wait in a long queue.Perhaps there is an opportunity to introduce a drinks cart elsewhere on the ground floor to cater for the grab and go market.

These are only very initial insights and quick thoughts on what we could do as a result. The exercise has certainly highlighted how valuable this kind of UX work is and we will certainly be continuing over the coming months.

All the staff involved in the process have thoroughly enjoyed it. They feel they have gained a lot from the experience so far, both from the insights they have gained and the opportunity to interact with students in a different way.