Friday, February 12, 2010

User Experience

In the January 2010 Library Journal, Aaron Schmidt writes about the user experience. "Any time you choose how people will interact with your library, you're making a design decision." Take his example -- and how many of the rest of us have done something similar -- of the stapler in the drawer at his reference desk. They let patrons use it, and every time someone asks for it, a librarian opens the drawer and takes it out. Good design or bad? He started keeping it on the desk and improved the user experience. Naturally, someone who thinks like this must invoke Ranganathan: save the time of the user. He uses Ranganathan to remind us of our professional values and show how they apply to so much more than the collection.

"We need to consider [patrons'] lives and what they're trying to accomplish." This kind of thinking draws our attention to the many unnecessary barriers libraries build. We can control and make positive the user experience by considering how we plan -- or design -- our spaces and interactions. Of course, Schmidt won me over with an opening quote from Ray and Charles Eames: "The role of the designer is that of a good host anticipating the needs of their guest." This is exactly how I have perceived my roles when opening a weekend camping event, a summer camp, and this library each morning: "Is this space ready and welcoming? Is everything we need at hand?"

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Still Reflecting on Moving, Because it is Taking so Long to Get a Move Date Set and so it Seems Both Prolonged and Surreal

A grad school classmate often posts random mobile shots from her day. She lives in D.C. and seems to visit other cities often. Something about one I glanced at toady helped me identify part of what makes me feel sad about moving. She took a picture from, perhaps, a bus window of a street of smallish row houses, some with their front porches closed in with vinyl siding. There are wires and signs -- it's a cluttered shot. And the shoveled sidewalk -- widely cleared here, a narrow path at that point -- draws my eye all the way in. It feels urban, and familiar, yet not familiar in the "what street in Richmond must that be" way because it seems more D.C. or Philly or Balto. somehow. It does makes me think, Yeah, that's we city folk know. And then I remember that she's n times hipper than me, maybe grew up in a city not a suburb, and that D.C. is a major league city (if unusual in so many ways). I remember that I'm headed for a house with a plot of grass and a neighborhood with only about 4 restaurants in walking distance (and those are longish walks!).

Many people I know left the Fan area years ago, when they started families and need space and better schools. Living here still made me feel younger. Not having kids, helps, too. Moving "to the suburbs" (it is in the city, really) makes me feel like I am finally having to say goodbye to young adulthood. Next time she posts a cool city scene, I might have to think "yeah, I remember what it was like to live in town."