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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

PLA 2016 Planning Tips for Readers' Advisors-- Think Outside the Box, Think UX [NOW WITH SLIDE ACCESS 4.11.16]

The Public Library Association 2016 conference is next week and many people are in the process of making their plans on which programs to attend.  While I am not going to PLA this year, I have been (and presented) before, so I know the joy and excitement of being at a Public Librarians Only conference. Everything is relevant to you. It is equal parts exhilarating and overwhelming.

One way to handle it is to use the "Tag" filter in the official list of programs to whittle it all down to just "Readers' Advisory." That alone gives you a full compliment of useful, engaging and varied programs.

However, I would like to argue for you to think a little outside the box this year. Use the tag-line for this year's conference as your inspiration:

I applaud this because I try to live this mantra every day. As I say in my talks, when I co-created the RA Department at the Berwyn Public Library in 2000 our goal from the start was to not only meet but EXCEED the needs and expectations of our community's leisure readers.  

Trying to "Be Extraordinary" is my personal motto which means that it also drives the content here on the blog.  As I have said before, I try to provide my readers with "next level" RA assistance.  Yes I write reviews and discuss the latest book news, but I am not [nor am I trying to be] the go-to place for those things.  Other people do that much better; Early Word for starters.

Here is an example. One of my current "next level" obsessions is taking a wider lens, outside the box look at RA. Yes I need to focus on helping specific readers, but overall RA is about patron engagement. This has led me to explore the world of User Experience or UX for short.

What is UX? Here is a link to a presentation entitled "Why UX in Libraries is a Thing Now." From that slide show:

I am not the only one who thinks that RA and UX are intimately intertwined. Take a look at this program from the PLA 2016 schedule: 
Steal This UX: Improving Your Collection With Content Strategy and User Testing
Saturday, April 9, 2016, 9:30 AM - 10:30 AM
Colorado Convention Center, Room 405-407 
Content strategy and user testing are buzzwords from the online realm, but these principles can be just as useful for practitioners of old-school collection development. Tear out some pages from the digital librarian’s playbook and learn how user interviews, evaluative research, A/B testing, and other fast, inexpensive UX techniques can revolutionize your approach to collection management. 
At the end of this session, participants will: 
1: Understand the basic principles of content strategy and user research.
2: Be able to identify myriad ways to put these methods into practice at your library.
3: Learn how to apply specific, scalable UX techniques to collection management. 
The session organizer(s) identified this session as appropriate for:Level 1: People with no previous knowledge of the topic. 
This session will have: Low interaction: single speaker/panel with Q&A at the end of the program 
Track: Invent
Tags: Collections/Tech Services, Collection Development, User Experience (UX)
Annabelle Mortensen, Collection Development Supervisor
Skokie Public Library, Skokie, IL
Stephanie Anderson, Head of Reader Services [Her title has changed to Assistant Director for Public Services]
Darien Library, Darien, CT 
Becky’s Note: Here is slide access added to this post on 4.11.16

But if you only use the "Readers' Advisory" tag to filter your PLA Programs, you would not know about this program. I asked Stephanie and Annabelle, who both have RA backgrounds, to explain why a library worker who focuses on serving leisure readers would benefit from this program. Here are their responses [edited by me with their permission]:
Annabelle: This program will help folks discover how UX concepts can help staff across the library, not just those who work with technology. Most of the rest of us are often left out of this training—we just don’t go to the meetings or programs where they’re discussed. (I’m just as guilty of this—in the past I’d only go to RA-track events and publisher book buzzes.) But when you look at RA and collection development through this lens, you begin seeing a number of possible applications to displays, booklists, advisory questionnaires, summer-reading planning, patron-driven acquisition, and more. It’s really about developing a user-centered mindset (which is what RA already is based on) and learning about tools that can help you even more with that process.
Stephanie: I think a lot of people working with collections and RA really want to try new things, but find themselves in a position or a department where they get some resistance to those new things. We are hoping our panel gives them the tools, the language, and the confidence to implement a lot of the cool new ideas they’re going to pick up at the conference.
Thanks guys. See, this is stuff you can use.

I am sure there are other programs that could and will be useful to the library worker who focuses on leisure readers. I am sure there are other tags or filtering methods you could use to identify these programs. I am highlighting this one specifically because I personally know these presenters and have worked with both of them in a professional capacity before, so I am confident in advocating for their program.

But I also want you to use this post as your own personal inspiration if you are attending PLA. Think outside the box and "Be Extraordinary" while you are in Denver. If it means going through the entire program guide to find that perfect program for you and your community's needs, then please, take the time. This is our conference. Public Libraries are the stars here. It maybe overwhelming but it is also a wonderful opportunity.

Also, if you learned something exciting at PLA that you want to share with my audience, don't forget that I am holding an open call for guest posts until 4/22.

1 comment:

Sonia Reppe said...

I hope Annabelle and Stephanie will present this program again in the area for Rails or ARRt, I would definitely be interested in going.