Posted on November 1, 2011.
For this article, we interviewed Joyce Wong of Langara College Library. In our interviews with librarians with non-traditional positions, we decided to ask a few questions which showcases new areas of developments in libraries. This is the first in a number of series of interviews we are planning on rolling out in the upcoming issues of Wired West.
Q: What is the title of your position? What are some duties of your job?
A: My title is Coordinator of User Experience. It’s a relatively new coordinatorship and my areas of responsibilities include emerging technologies and the development of partnerships with other learning services on campus. The focus is to create an engaging user experience, especially for students in the Library. In practical terms, it means that I coordinate the Library Website and am working with our Director to develop a Learning Commons in the Library, amongst other initiatives.
Q: What’s a typical day like for you?
A: In addition to administrative work associated with being the Coordinator of User Experience, I also provide reference, serve as a subject specialist and teach library instruction. It is quite common for College librarians to wear multiple hats. So a typical day might include:
a. a reference shift (in-person, online chat or SMS)
b. teaching a library workshop for my subject areas
c. an administrative and/or planning meeting
d. communicating with faculty in my areas on collections and instruction.
Q: Why did you become a librarian, how did you land your current job?
A: I worked as a student assistant at University and really enjoyed it. Also, my undergraduate degree is in Fine Arts, for which you have to creative about gainful employment. Prior to Langara, I developed “on the job” Web authoring skills at Burnaby Public Library while working as a public services librarian. Langara was looking for a candidate with strong skills in both areas and my skill set happened to match that need.
Q: How much does “user experience” play in your role as librarian?
A: User experience is about both the physical and virtual experience of users. It’s more than just whether users can find the articles they need on our Web site or a comfortable spot to study in. For example, in an academic setting, students may use the Library Website for research while collaborating with others on the same project in the physical library. My role as a librarian is to look at this as a continuum that better enables students to achieve academic success.
Q: What does “user experience” mean in terms of the work that you do? How does it differ from your previous role in a more “traditional” role as a librarian?
A: User experience has a more user-centric goal of providing “excellent experiences” (for our users) and not just “excellent services” (from us). It means finding opportunities for collaboration not just within the Library but also with other partners on campus. It is also a conscious mind frame to think about in-person and virtual services as a continuum. For example, as part of our Learning Commons proposal, we are talking with Academic Help Centres to see how they can be involved and connected with Library services such as reference to support learning outside the classroom. We are also looking at lending iPads to students and choosing the appropriate pre-loaded apps involves consulting with our Education Technology advisors.
“Traditional” librarian roles may be more segmented; for example, when I coordinated the Library Website prior to this coordinatorship, the physical space was not part of the thinking. Increasingly, the virtual and physical are linked. A simple example would be a tool on a virtual learning commons that helps students form study groups while also connecting them to spaces in the Library that can be used as a meeting place.
Joyce Wong is Coordinator of User Experience at Langara College Library.