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December 2012

2012 IST Fall Conference: Digital Literacy, Maker Spaces and Libraries Today

December 21, 2012 | Diana | Comments (0)

Matt02 The 2012 Information Services Team Fall Conference held on November 27th explored the evolving role of reference services including the role of maker spaces and its connection to our strategic plan initiative of supporting a city of innovators.

 One of the keynote speakers was Matt Ratto, an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto and Director of the Semaphore research cluster on Inclusive Design, Mobile and Pervasive Computing. He also leads ThingTank Lab, a non-profit lab space and research project examining and designing the Internet of Things.

 His presentation focused on new digital technologies and the critical literacy skills needed to successfully navigate the mass media and technology of today.  Matt spoke about the 'maker movement' – and the ways in which this movement and the tools, technologies, and community spaces engendered by it work to provide support for new types of educational opportunities.

His view is that there is a connection between digital literacy and a sustainable democracy and that we need to be able to “make and produce”, not just consume the mass media and the new technologies that we all constantly access. There is a role for the library in this, libraries have a long tradition of helping to create and sustain literate populations.  A next step, is to help our customers take control of technology by providing more technical training and promoting critical literacy skills- and there are a number of public and academic libraries currently working to include maker spaces as part of their offerings.  Check out the links above and learn more about these concepts and maker spaces.










2012 IST Fall Conference: UX and You

December 3, 2012 | Diana S. | Comments (1)

The 2012 Information Services Team Fall Conference theme is all about evolving reference services, highlighting the strategic plan initiative of supporting a city of innovators.

One of the keynote speakers was Amanda Etches, Head of Discovery & Access at the University of Guelph Library, where she spends her time guiding teams and projects that are all about making the overall library experience better for users, both in-person and online. The user comes first and understanding user behaviour and using that understanding to guide the way services, spaces, systems, and interfaces are designed go a long way in providing good customer service. Her presentation was a conceptual introduction to the principles of user experience (UX) design as well as some ideas into ways library staff can incorporate them in their provision of (reference) services.

Amanda Etches

Design is everywhere in the library (furniture, signage, service desks, etc.) and design decisions should be made with the user in mind, giving what the user wants and not what you want. Userability is a quality attribute, designing and building things that work the way our users work as opposed to expecting users to adapt to them. Amanda Etches outlines 10 specific principles to user experience design decisions.  

You are not your user/know thy user
For the most part, design decisions made are convenient for us, representing insider opinions rather than users’.  We should give people what they want, not what you want.

User is not broken
How something is consciously designed affects how another experiences it. Any issues can be fixed by modifying the design, not the user.

Empathy required 
Stepping in a user’s shoes is a good way to find out what a user needs.

Can’t build great experiences without research   
Researching is required to get to the heart of user’s opinions and what they are thinking or what they want to accomplish. There are two types of research: attitudinal, the user’s views that are obtained through surveys, focus groups, and interviews; and behavioural, the user’s behaviours observed through usability testing.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs, a useful paradigm for design specifics
In order for a design to be successful, it must meet the basic 'hierarchy of needs' before it can move ahead to satisfy the higher-level needs. The design must work as it is intended.


Good/best user experience (UX) design is to have as little design as possible
People need functionality and less design that gets in the way.

Good design is universal 
Using universal design techniques (i.e. equitable, flexible, simple & intuitive, perceptible, tolerant of error, low physical effort, etc.) to guide design decisions will result in a successful design project that will serve users with a variety of learning styles, abilities, experiences, and cultural backgrounds.

Balance user needs with library needs
User needs and library needs are illustrated as a triangle joined by the context. Depending on what is being designed, they can be a shifting and balancing between the three components.

TriangleNeeds01     TriangleNeeds02


Good user experience is more than good customer service
People will barely take note of the time, effort and hard work it takes to make their user experience a great one. This is as it should be. It's a measure of the success of UX professionals when the focus is on user's satisfaction.

Good user experience is holistic 
Every element of a design has to work – what the building looks like, the smell, furniture, lightning, customer service, website, programs & services, policies (how user friendly), staffing and how empowered they are, rules, hours of service, signage at all the appropriate places, website, social media presence, etc.


User experience is basically all about the people. It’s all about the users and what they really want and need to accomplish and how we can enable that. Every decision you make affects how people experience the library.

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