Association of Research Libraries
Research Library Issues 291 — 2017
Judith now devotes 25% of her time to ITS projects that touch on
the library’s core web services: the website, catalog, and article-
discovery tools. She still reports only to her home department’s
unit head. This arrangement will continue only as long as it
makes sense for all parties. We did not want to enshrine it in a job
profile for fear of betraying the placement’s flexible, lightweight,
and adaptable tenets. We also wanted to leave it open in case
another librarian wants the chance to participate in the future.
The collaboration changed our approach to our work. We have
come to see public service as an early warning indicator for UX
problems that need attention. Public services staff pass issues on to
the web team with concrete examples and test cases for both small
and large fixes without waiting for a standing committee meeting
or formal opportunity. Lisa has noticed that the web team is more
receptive to these suggestions than before the collaboration began.
They now see public services staff members as a key user group, and
make sure to test specifically with them when developing or refining
a web product. This benefits public services units as a good user
experience of library tools reduces the work a user needs to accomplish
a task, thereby eliminating unnecessary mediation from library staff.15
In addition, Judith’s home department now frequently uses UX
methodologies to approach designing their services and activities.
We increased interest in interdepartmental placements
and cross-functional teams. ITS had been using agile and
collaborative working styles before, but the placement allowed
them to spread that model outside the department. We showed
that a collaborative work arrangement could be fruitful for the
staff members involved, their home units, and the organization
as a whole. Library Administration circulated a set of guidelines
for proposing placements that largely drew on our experiences.
Cross-functional teams have become more and more important
to UTL, so much so that “collaboration and team orientation” is
now a category in our yearly professional assessment template.