SPEC Kit 322: Library User Experience  · 11
Executive Summary
What is UX?
The term “User Experience” (UX) originally emerged
from the web usability and application interface de-
sign community. Over the past few years, other ser-
vice-oriented industries, such as the marketing and
retail services community, have adopted the term as
a holistic approach to describe designing the ideal
customer experience. More recently, innovators have
applied the design of such experiences to libraries.
As Aaron Schmidt points out in his Library Journal
column about the user experience, a goal for UX de-
sign is to minimize “pain” points throughout library
processes, whether they are physical (library facilities,
for example) or digital experiences (Schmidt, 2010).
Furthermore, user experience as applied to the re-
search library includes both the traditional customer
service approach of reacting to user concerns, as well
as proactively including users in the library design
and strategic planning process by employing a vari-
ety of means, including focus groups and advisory
A review of the literature suggests that there is a
lack of controlled vocabulary when defining user ex-
perience within the library context. This is a relatively
new field with little standardization, especially in aca-
demic or library environments. As a result, and as the
data from this survey demonstrates, user experience
is interpreted to include a wide range of activities in
library organizations, including but not limited to as-
sessment, user engagement, library design, outreach,
and marketing. As Knemeyer writes in “Defining
Experience,” everything a company produces should
be viewed through the lens of the user’s experience
(2008). Therefore, every part of the organization has a
stake in improving that experience. Research libraries
are beginning to adopt this integrative design ap-
proach and develop unique organizational structures
to manage the user experience.
The Survey
The purpose of this survey was to explore recent and
planned user experience activities at ARL member
libraries and the impact these efforts have on helping
the libraries transform to meet evolving user needs.
The survey elicited examples of successful user expe-
rience activities to serve as benchmarks for libraries
looking to create or expand efforts in this area. It also
explored whether libraries have created positions or
entire departments focused on user engagement and
the user experience. The survey was conducted be-
tween February 7 and March 4, 2011. Seventy-one of
the 126 ARL member libraries completed the survey
for a response rate of 56%.
User Experience Projects/Feedback Opportunities
All but one of the survey respondents indicated that
they engaged in at least one user experience project or
activity over the past three years. Most of these past ac-
tivities were both project-based and on-going. Almost
all of the respondents report they plan to engage in
at least one user experience activity in the coming
year. As with the past UX activities, a large majority
indicated that future activities would also be both on-
going and project-based. Below are some examples of
future activities:
Our metadata and collections units are de-
veloping a User Experience Team to develop
usability assessment and evaluation tools
as well as run focus groups with various
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