These are my personal (perhaps too personal!) reflections about UXLibs IV and where I found inspiration this year. You may just want my Conference Notes.
This was my fourth time at UXLibs. I was actually thinking of giving it a miss this year. I was having a crap year and was feeling uninspired, hopeless, useless. Why would I want to go to a conference and be surrounded by people who were doing interesting things? Wouldn’t it just make me feel worse? Turns out, no. Quite the opposite.
But back to that feeling of being uninspired, hopeless, useless. Since last summer, I hadn’t been working on any projects at all, nor did I feel much interest in starting any. I had hit the gaping maw of a professional low and couldn’t get myself out. I looked into not just leaving my job, but leaving libraries period.
I noticed a couple of things, compared to times when I felt more engaged:
- I hadn’t done a scary thing in a while
- First off, I’d rather stick pins in my eyes than reference those stupid Lululemon bags with sayings like “Do something scary every day” on them. But. Many of the things that I have loved doing started with me cringing while I hit “Send” or “Submit.” Pitching to WeaveUX? Cringe and submit. Sending a very rough first draft to Kristin Meyer? Cringe and send. Pretty much any conference proposal? Cringe and off it goes. I hold the fear and lack of confidence at bay for the second it takes to do a thing I can’t undo. I hadn’t done that in months.
- I stopped tweeting
- Partly, I didn’t feel like I had anything useful or interesting to say. Partly, I was disengaging from most contact with people. But I did miss it. Look, I know that the little dopamine lift I get with a like is programmed to keep me addicted to the app and we should all put down our phones and blah blah blah. But I’m not a social media star; my follower and following lists are small and I have met and like most of the people on them. So getting a like is getting a little smile from them, or a touch on the arm: “I know you and I see you.” It makes me think of them, and reminds me that I’m glad to know them. How can this be a bad thing?
So that was where I was when I decided I would come to UXLibs again this year. And then, three weeks before the conference, I got a new boss who managed to restore some of my hope. I no longer felt useless. All that was left was to get inspired.
Some inspiration I found, in no particular order:
- I am inspired to heed Sara Lerén’s call to do user research and testing with users on the extremes: “minds of all kinds,” people with low literacy, perhaps students struggling with English as their second (or third or fourth) language, students with disabilities. I have happened upon users in these groups during user testing, but now I will seek them out.
- I am inspired to heed Kit Heyam’s call to make our library as inclusive and welcoming to trans and non-binary students as possible (within my power). I’ve started looking at our website for gender-neutral language. But that’s just a first step and I hope I can spiral upward from there. Perhaps try to do something to minimize the “staff lottery” for our users.
- I’m inspired to heed Janine Bradbury’s call to decolonise the library (again, within my power), perhaps with the model of Harinder and Adam’s work on Black History at the University of Leicester.
- I’m inspired to heed Andy Priestner’s call to think bigger about UX in my library. In many ways, I feel like I’m stuck at first steps and want to start to get to embedding and influencing.
- I’m inspired by Chad Haefele to keep thinking of new ways to make the library website better, and by Nicola Walton to keep finding new ways to test it. I’ve been letting our site stagnate a bit.
- I’m inspired by Jon Earley to write better documentation! To streamline spaghetti systems, to improve performance, and to always trust the words of our users.
- I’m inspired by Danielle Cooper to learn more about indigenous research and look at better supporting indigenous students in my library.
- And I’m inspired by the people I met and the conversations I had at the conference to keep doing the work, to stay in libraries, to do scary things, to stay connected.
SuHui Ho’s idea that we “act within our power” to improve inclusion turned out to be really inspiring to me. On first blush, it seems a suffocatingly small idea if you feel like you have very little power. However, when I thought about it more I realized that by acting, I can expand my power, which then gives me more scope to act, and it can turn into a wonderful upward spiral. I think it can also be inspiring for those times I’m feeling daunted and overwhelmed, for when I’m uninspired, hopeless, useless. I don’t have to fix everything, I don’t have to do everything, I just have to act within my power.
So, in the spirit of acting within my power, I’d like to invite you to collaborate with me on UX work. Or perhaps invite you to invite me to collaborate with you. I have a sabbatical coming up in July 2019 and I know I’m not suited to spending an entire year working on a project all by myself. So I’m seeking collaborators, co-conspirators for projects large or small. I’ll be staying in Ottawa, so the collaboration would likely be at a distance but I’m definitely open to some travel. I’ve been very vaguely thinking about looking at student help-seeking, or whether we can improve the UX of being a library worker. But I’m completely open to other ideas. It’s still a year out, so there’s lots of time to think and plan.
It feels slightly ridiculous and not a little scary to do this. But dammit, I’m going to cringe and hit “Publish” anyway. Please do do do get in touch.