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I finally finished reading Useful, Usable, Desirable: Applying User Experience Design to Your Library, written by Aaron Schmidt and Amanda Etches. This is a killer manual for any library staff member to have at your desk, no matter what your job is. Disclaimer: I do know both Aaron and Amanda personally, but a disclaimer to that disclaimer…this book is fucking awesome regardless of who wrote it.

With a background in web design and a dabbling in user experience, I often take for granted the importance of thinking consciously about your user’s perspective, about the ease of use of every aspect of your services, and about re-evaluating user experiences on a regular basis. But I seem to be less talented at trying to explain these concepts to the staff who work for our library.

And that’s where this book will come in handy. I recently had staff do a Signage Secret Shopper exercise eat the end of our staff meeting. They would pick a common task our users need to complete when they come to the library, enter from both of our separate entrances, and note any wayfinding problems or distractions on either path. Sadly (but not surprisingly) staff found A LOT of problems. But…now what to do? Reading through this book’s section on signage and wayfinding, I now have key principles to hand to our soon-to-be-created signage taskforce. Better yet, these are principles that experts in user experience came up with, not me. Because we all know a message means more when it comes from someone outside your own workplace.

The book will continue to be useful to me as it offers a veritable checklist to follow as you inventory your own library’s wins and losses in the user experience arena. They even provide an actual scorecard to score your library overall. I’m tempted to have staff score us, and then take a field trip to score a nearby library who I know does better.

This book covers the gamut of library user experiences: your physical space, service points, policies and customer services, signage and wayfinding, online presence, and using the library. I could probably work for the next year on bringing our library into alignment with the principles outlined in this book, and I can honestly say it would be a year well-spent.

For some achievable ideas for how to make your community’s experience in your library better, try this book out. An investment that will keep paying you back every time you make an improvement.

“Review of Useful, Usable, Desirable”

  1. Ann Says:

    Thanks for pointing out this book. I just ordered a copy. It looks like just what we need to jumpstart our January assessment activities.

  2. Useful, Usable, Desirable: Applying User Experience Design to Your Library | Jenny Arch Says:

    […] to Your Library by Aaron Schmidt and Amanda Etches came to my attention at the end of last year, in a blog post by Sarah Houghton (a.k.a. the Librarian in Black). I’ve been interested in usability and UX for years, and […]

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