I was recently fortunate enough to attend the UX Libs II Conference in sunny Manchester (well, it was sunny one of the days!). For anyone not aware, the UX Libs events are for people interested in user experience (UX) research. The first UX Libs Conference was held in Cambridge last year, which sadly I wasn’t able to attend but I followed the tweets from afar.

The first conference focused predominantly on sharing different methods you can use to support UX research and was very practical in focus (attendees were assigned teams to work on a research project in one of Cambridge’s libraries). The second conference focused more on sharing what had happened since the first conference (a lot!) as well as a group challenge on advocacy to help us think about ways to engage others in the approach.

It was a packed schedule (I’m really not a fan of 9am starts!), and we were kept very busy; the variety of different types of activities was good. We had keynote presentations, practical presentations, group work, and workshops. I really enjoyed both workshops I attended and wish I could have attended all four!

There’s a lot I want to digest from the conference, but my initial points to share are listed below:

Thinking about our own user experiences can help us reflect on what library users may be experiencing
I do this a lot when I’m away – I had a fantastic experience at Hershey a few weeks ago for example and it caused me to think more about the type of experience I can offer, as well as the experience libraries can offer – in a similar way that my trip to Disney and Universal did (I previously blogged about this). I was really impressed with the way the attendee badges were personalised (thank you Matt!) and it was nice to see the organising committee thinking about how to enhance our experience (the badges wished speakers good luck for their session for example, a very nice touch).

Training and encouragement is crucial to the success of a UX project (and I would imagine any research)
This was a particularly key point in one of my favourite sessions from the conference, Helen Murphy and Rachel Claire Walker’s session on what they learnt from their UX research across a number of libraries at University of Cambridge. Their main lesson was the fact that staff in the libraries they were working with would have appreciated more training and encouragement, and this finding was echoed in many of the other practical workshops. Even if we’re familiar with a research method (but especially if we’re not!) the importance of support and encouragement can’t be underestimated in my opinion.

Different types of research outputs are to be encouraged
Something that was mentioned in quite a few of the keynotes and workshops was the fact that the best form of research output isn’t always a huge written report (thank goodness, most of us sigh in relief!). There are some people who love writing long reports, and some who love reading them, but for the most part it’s far more likely that people will want the highlights from the research in summary form, with additional data should they want to delve deeper. Research findings may be shared using presentation (by that I’m including slides but also just verbal presentations), an executive summary document, a blog post, an infographic, or simply by sharing recommendations. The main point here was to consider the needs of those who will be using the research outputs as well as the time taken to produce the research output (to ensure the findings are still relevant).

Failure should be embraced and shared more openly
This is something I was so pleased to see encouraged at the conference. I’ve been saying for a while now that I’d love to organise an event where people shared the things that haven’t quite gone as planned, a Library Fail Conference if you will. Somehow I think selling this to some people could be tricky! UX Libs took an interesting approach to this though, with the workshops falling into either ‘Nailed’ (things that have gone well), ‘Failed’ (things that haven’t gone so well), and ‘Derailed’ (things that have adapted or been delayed). Excellent rhyming there too; I approve. It’s so useful to share these things though, to take time to reflect on why and learn from this ourselves, and also to share with others to help them as well as get insight from them if they have experienced similar. Most session proposals were for ‘Nailed’ sessions, but I think (and hope!) we might see that changing over time at future conferences (not just UX Libs Conferences) as we become more comfortable with sharing the things that haven’t gone so well.

We are all leaders
We were asked by Donna Lanclos at the opening keynote of the conference to raise our hands if we are leaders. About half the room raised their hands, when in fact she argued everyone should have. I support the notion that we are all leaders in some way – whether that be leading a team, leading a service, leading a project, leading change… (I actually asked the same question at my SLA workshop and also argued that everyone should have raised their hand!). Over the conference there was quite a lot of discussion about leadership and change management and we were encouraged to consider how to do this in our own roles and in our own organisations. It’s not easy by any means, but it’s crucial to develop our services and keep current.

Librarians are great
As with many of the lessons I learned, this wasn’t anything new, but a very pertinent reminder. The result of the EU Referendum was the final day of the conference and it certainly had an impact on the mindset of many of us that day. I found it very odd to wake up in a hotel on my own to the news that the UK had voted to leave the EU. I was disappointed (I’d voted to remain), and felt very out of sorts about why my vote was in a minority, and what implications the result of the vote might have. When I got to the conference I felt instantly comforted by the supportive environment of others there, who were going through similar thoughts but were there to offer hugs and reassurance that whatever happens to the future of the country, as librarians we will continue to share and help each other, within the UK and further afield. Hooray for librarians! 🙂

My conference experience

I started the conference with this tweet:

You can probably guess what’s coming:

So I may have gone against my goal of not presenting by volunteering to present for my team, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the UX Libs II conference. I particularly enjoyed the workshops in the second afternoon, which enabled me to do some (terrible) drawing, and some highly important foam crimping. Aside from the silliness, I learnt a lot in both these workshops.

Process interview with picture. My drawing is terrible but useful process! #uxlibs

A photo posted by Jo Alcock (@joeyanne) on


Doing some crimping in Andy’s cultural probes workshop (photo from Andy’s blog)

What next?

I haven’t yet had the opportunity to put many of the ethnographic research methods into practice in my work yet, but would love to do so in future. I do a lot of interviews in my current role, but they’re mostly over the phone (and usually with librarians). I’d love to do more in person interviews with users and use additional prompts (whether it be observations or things like cognitive maps).

I’m also still fascinated about whether libraries can learn from the retail world and would love to do some experimental research into this. For example, does changing the layout of part of the library change how people use the space? Do changes in layout/book storage/availability of bags affect borrowing? Has anyone done any research into this sort of thing in your library, or would you like to? Let me know if so!

Thanks to all involved in making UX Libs a thoroughly enjoyable conference 🙂

…here a MOOC, there a MOOC, everywhere a MOOC MOOC! That’s what it seems like at the moment anyway – everyone seems to be talking about MOOCs at the moment.

I was invited to give a presentation about MOOCs at Internet Librarian International 2013 Conference earlier this month. Since it might not be a familiar term to everyone, let’s backtrack a bit and cover some of the basics.

What on earth is a MOOC?

A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course. The name is fairly explanatory but it’s useful to break that down a bit. In order to be classed as a MOOC, a course needs to be:

  • Online
  • Open to anyone to join
  • Able to handle a large number of participants

Most MOOCs are free for participants, though I’m hesitant to say they have to be free to be classed as a MOOC as there are likely to be some exceptions (though is it still open to all if there is a cost involved in addition to the cost of online access?).

Could you give me some examples of MOOCs?

Many MOOCs use a platform to deliver their material and this also helps participants to find them. Probably the most well known platform for MOOCs is Coursera, which has a number of universities signed up to provide courses. There’s also EdX (supported by Google), iversity, OpenupEd, and recently launched FutureLearn which is UK based (though also has international partners). Some providers opt to use their own system, or their own installation of another platform such as Blackboard CourseSites.

Who participates in MOOCs?

Well, they’re open to anyone, though in my experience it tends to be those looking for extra CPD opportunities and generally those who already have an educational background (i.e. have studied for a degree). Of course the nature of MOOCs means that they could be taken by those who may be interested in a subject but for whatever reason don’t want to (or can’t) study a traditional course in the subject, hence widening participation to education.

I’ve participated in a 23 Things course, is that a MOOC?

It could be, yes. In the case of 23 Things for Professional Development (CPD23) it was massive (though not as massive as some courses – I recently took one that had over 200,000 participants enrolled!), open, and online, and people completed the course at the same time (as cohorts) so I would class it as a MOOC.

So MOOCs have been growing with more platforms being launched and more institutions signing up to deliver them. I’ve been interested in them for a little while, partly to support my development, and partly because I was curious as to how they would work and how librarians could support them. I signed up for Coursera and have now completed two courses with them. I was invited to share my experiences as a learner at the Internet Librarian International pre-conference workshop and found it really useful to evaluate my experiences and think about what I’ve learnt from them and how I could apply this. In a nutshell, though I successfully completed both my courses, I much preferred one of them. The main reasons for this were:

  • I found the topic fascinating
  • I was able to apply what I had learnt in practice in work and social situations
  • The reading materials were provided as part of the course, and easily accessible
  • The combination of lectures, readings, documentaries and assignments helped to cement my new knowledge

A copy of my slides is embedded below – the first few slides are about my background to provide the context for the learner’s perspective (and the cat slide is *totally* relevant as I talked about how naturally curious I am!):

The discussions we had during the workshop were really interesting – we considered how libraries (predominantly academic) could support MOOCs, particularly for those whose institutions had already signed up to provide MOOCs or were planning to. We heard from Gavin Beattie from King’s College London who launch their first course on FutureLearn in January, and the group included people from a number of different organisations who were planning to provide MOOCs in future. Many of the ideas from the discussions were similar to the ways we can support other activities such as information literacy and mobile technologies in libraries, with suggestions such as:

  • Providing information to academics so they are aware how the library can help them with their MOOC
  • Getting involved with MOOC discussions with colleagues across your institution
  • Discussing ideas with other librarians and share best practice across the sector

It seems the skills required for these activities are essential for today’s librarians. I’m sure we’ll be hearing about MOOCs and libraries in future events, it certainly seemed to be a hot topic at Internet Librarian International, both in the pre-conference workshop and at the main conference (if the tweets are anything to go by anyway!).

Is your library involved in supporting MOOCs? Is there anything else we should be doing to support our institutions as they provide MOOCs?

Our Enduring Values (image from Google Books)

The next Twitter chat for the Library Leadership Reading Group will be on 22nd January 2012 at 8pm (UK time). We’ll be discussing Our Enduring Values: Librarianship in the 21st Century by Michael Gorman.

If you’d like to join us, please do – just start tweeting using the #llrg hashtag. To follow the conversation you might want to set up a saved search and use your favourite Twitter client, or you can use a tool like Tweetchat.

If you’re wondering what the Library Leadership Reading Group is all about, please read my earlier blog post, and visit the Google Document which is used to list ideas for things to read (it’s editable so feel free to add yourself to the list of people interested, or add resources to the list).


OK, I’ve not actually become Scottish (though the name does have quite a nice ring to it!). In actual fact the capitalisation should really be MCLIP – I recently received confirmation that I have passed my CILIP Chartership. This now means I’m a bona fide chartered information professional and have therefore achieved the goal I set out to when I declared at my graduate trainee interview in August 2005 that I wanted to study for my MSc in Library and Information Studies and then go on to charter (hmm, maybe I do plan things after all!).

I posted earlier some initial reflections on the process, and still feel the same. I did find the process incredibly useful in terms of focusing my development. I’ve continued to update my PPDP, CV, and other information relating to professional development on a monthly basis, and I’m finding this really useful. I’ve made some decisions which will change my professional development activities going forward (more to come on this soon) and I think chartership has really helped in that respect as it’s encouraged me to be more reflective and to take action based on where I’m at and where I’d like to be in the future. I have no grand master plan, but I’m in a much better place now to know what I have already achieved and what I still hope to achieve, as well as understanding what I really enjoy doing.

I found it really useful to look over other peoples’ portfolios whilst I was working on mine, so I thought I would share mine for anyone who would like a look. I’d recommend taking a look at a variety of portfolios to get some ideas for structure and format, but essentially each one will be different and may well not work for your situation. That’s absolutely fine, just go with whatever you find works best for you. Anyway, here’s my final portfolio:

Jo Alcock - Chartership Portfolio

Jo Alcock – Chartership Portfolio

If you’re working on chartership and could do with some moral support or have questions to ask, remember to use the LIS-CILIP-REG mailing list, and if you’re a tweeter you can ask questions on there using the #chartership tag – a number of us are keeping an eye on the tweets to help people out. There’s also a #chartership chat organised for this week –  just set a saved search and start tweeting using the hashtag from 8pm on Thursday 25th October. Good luck!

Highlights from the first Library Leadership Reading Group discussion held on 31st August 2012.

Highlights from the first Library Leadership Reading Group discussion held on 31st August 2012.