This morning I gave the keynote talk at the Michigan Library Association’s Applied Technology & Trends Workshop. The talk was in many ways an answer to a question posed by William Keillor of Bethel University after my talk, Websites are for People, in St. Paul in March. Most of my talks are about how to fix bad user interfaces now, using highly technical skills to circumvent bad design decisions by vendors and others. William asked what to do if those skills were not available at a library, a problem that is probably all too familiar to many of us. So rather than focus on the short-term fixes we can put in place to help users now, this talk is more about how to embed care for users into the policies and technology adoption decisions that drive our library programs forward.
Needless to say, this won’t be a quick fix. But this is one way forward, where in the future I hope I don’t have an audience for quick and dirty hacks to make a product you paid $10,000 for usable. I hope we’ll take this user-centered focus and embed it into the very way we think about our jobs in a fundamental way. This is about truly understanding what our role and mission is, and taking to heart our service responsibilities. By thinking this way and making our decisions accordingly, we can and must affect a change in the current library technology marketplace.
Thanks again to a great audience at the conference, and for Emily Hayes and the rest of the conference committee for putting together a great program. In the first breakout session, I stumbled into the best presentation on librarianship I’ve ever seen, given by a high-school physics teacher and high-school librarian. The lessons I took away from that session already have me excited, and I’m going to be thinking about them a lot over these next few days and weeks. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about that as I process their insights.