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Librarianship in User Experience Design
I am officially six months and twice removed from libraryland and find that I've been thinking more about librarianship more than ever. I don't mean the position of user experience librarian as a specialization of librarian in libraries, or the role that user experience design plays in libraries. Rather, I'm beginning to identify the role of librarianship in user experience design work across the board.
For six months I have been nurturing a nascent catalog of user research, whether that's actively performed interviewing folks or it's feedback trickling in through NPS scores. Each "sample" -- an artifact of research: an email, a survey response, an interview transcript ... -- is cataloged with an assortment of metadata, like time and place the interview was conducted, or the specific services the feedback is in response to, as well as given a record locator (you know, a link to google drive somewhere) where the artifact has been filed away.
Performing and cataloging that user research is a separate thing altogether from its analysis, its "sensemaking," and at some later time the idea is that folks on the team will circle back around search the catalog for qualitative data that can help inform a decision.
To a UX wonk this all looks pretty damn sexy, but if one of our goals is to establish feedback loops throughout an organization, and -- let's say -- we do it really well, then the amount of qualitative data that's available scales as the number of users grow. The problem then for the user experience team [of one] is that it becomes really tricky to stay on top of that cataloging process.
If a sample isn't properly cataloged then it's frankly not properly searchable, then it's subsequent value to the organization is limited.
I have had to delegate this "cataloging" process across the developer team, but this has inspired my tangential mind to daydream a little.
If I could, I think I might create a User Experience Librarian position responsible for the maintaining and making usable the increasing catalog of qualitative and quantitative user research data, establishing standards about how to catalog that data and help folks in the organization -- leadership teams, designers, marketers, and the like -- find and make sense of that data. The success metric for this position is to reduce friction between decisions and the user experience, which will ultimately help the organization become more user-centric and thus more capable of creating profitable services.
What's more, I would give this librarian a prominent role in the co-creation of the larger design system, as the design system itself is in part a user interface catalog and thus similarly benefits from any improvements to the usability and efficacy of that design system.
The User Experience Librarian I imagine is a specialization that should be distinct from other or job titles like User Experience Researcher or User Experience Developer, and plays such a core, crucial, and specific role to a mature user experience design process that their paycheck deserves to reflect that role.