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Matthew Reidsma

I am the Web Services Librarian at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan. My research interests are user experience, usability, online privacy and security, and design ethics. Library Journal named me a “Mover and Shaker” in 2013, which led to many unfortunate dance-related jokes in the Reidsma household.


I write about design, user experience, and design ethics in libraries. I publish here on this site as well as with open access publications. Here are some popular articles:

  • Algorithmic Bias in Library Discovery Systems

    More and more academic libraries have invested in discovery layers, the centralized “Google-like” search tool that returns results from different services and providers by searching a centralized index. The move to discovery has been driven by the ascendence of Google as well as libraries’ increasing focus on user experience. But underneath these discovery layers lie black box algorithms that may reflect uncomfortable biases.

  • Holistic UX: Harnessing Your Library's Data Fetish to Solve the Right Problems

    Libraries have jumped on the User Experience bandwagon of late, rethinking our tools and services with a new focus on patron needs. But we still see things differently than our patrons. Where we see discrete services supporting our larger mission, patrons only see a confusing website. Without a holistic view, we spend our time solving the wrong problems.

  • How We Do Usability Testing

    Although I’ve worked in academic libraries for the past 8 years, my web development experience is from running my own shop, outside of the University world1. This is a land where results matter more than statistics and reports, and everything you do has a price tag attached to it. As such, usability testing is frequently done on the cheap without a committee to write questions and do recruiting. I’ve kept it that way here at GVSU.

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I speak about design, user experience, and design ethics at library conferences around the world. Here are some memorable talks I've given in the past.

  • Auditing Algorithms

    Code4Lib, Washington, D.C., February 2018

    Slide that says inputs and outputs

    Library search tools are littered with algorithms that determine what what items are "relevant" to each search. Evaluating these algorithms is hard, because their workings are unknown. But knowing how the algorithms that shape our users' experience of our libraries is essential if we are to make informed, ethical decisions about our collections and services.

  • Ethical UX

    UX Libs III, Glasgow, Scotland, June 2017.

    Slide that says What are our values?

    The social critic Paul Goodman once wrote that "technology is a branch of moral philosophy, not of science." His point was that decisions on how to shape the world through technology were inherently moral choices, concerned with how we ought to live. Our library UX work is no different. We've been so focused on solving problems of efficiency and aesthetics that we've lost sight of our moral obligations as designers and content creators.

  • More than Usable: Library Services for Humans

    UX Libs, Cambridge, England, March 2015.

    Slide that says A Myriad of Stars

    As Experience designers, we're interested in more than just products, services, and websites. But our toolkit looks remarkably like the toolkit product designers use: design for tasks, hope emotions will follow. But experience is big, and emotions aren't just the outputs from using something. We're going to need more than science to explain experience—we'll need philosophy, literature, poetry, and more.

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Upcoming Talks

  • More than usable: Library services for humans at MD Tech Connect, December 6, 2018

I have a Github repository with my professional bio and headshots for speaking engagements and publications that need them.

When possible, I record video and audio of my talks. You can find recordings and slides and more below, or linked from the trancripts on this site.