Preparing for @UXLibs

Last week I was preparing my keynote for the second UXLibs conference in Manchester, in June. The UXLibs approach is to use ethnographic, usability and human-centred design research approaches to gather invaluable behavioural and attitudinal user information, to inform the work of libraries and beyond.

It’s a privilege to be invited to speak to this event, not least because I do not currently work in the library sector.  Also I am really excited because the focus of the conference is on change and on the practical, talking not only about things that have worked (described as being nailed by the conference) but also the things that failed, or got derailed.

As part of my “homework” I went back and read through the post UXLibs keynotes that were blogged by Ned Potter. Apart from being terrifyingly good (both the posts and the keynotes), the one thing that stood out was the sense that as a result of UXLibs, the participants were in the frame of mind to do something. My keynote for UXLibs II is on Day 2 – no pressure, then.

The other thing that stood out to me was the importance of stories, both of users and as vehicles for getting your points across. I am not a natural storyteller, I have background in science, I am a naturalist, I like the facts. But I have had some good pointers from my Colleague Chris Thomson, who runs excellent Storytelling workshops, so in a departure from my usual comfort zone, I will be basing my keynote around a couple of stories. Be gentle with me, especially given the “other” keynote is #ThatWoman!

#SternFace battles #ThatWoman

The final thing I started thinking about is a new piece of work I’m pushing forward with later in the year at Jisc, with the working title of “Next Generation Learning Environments”. The question was posed to me:   “If we were building a (digital) learning environment now, given what we have, such as analytics, the cloud, social media etc; what would it look like?” The emphasis was on the analytics and the technology, and rightly so, as that is what we (as an organization) need to focus on. But when I started reading the previous UXLibs blog posts it reminded me that in all of this work the user is the key ingredient; what will the experience will be like for both the students and the academics?

We are still at the pre discovery phase for this work, but my first thoughts are about UXLibs, not just about what I am going to say in the keynote, but about what I am going to learn by listening to the lessons that the participants are bringing back to the conference from doing UX in their institutions. Can we integrate both an analytics and and ethnographic approach – how would it work?

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