UXLibsV in 50 photos

What?! UXLibsV happened already? Such is the enormity of the lead up to our conference each year that I can barely believe it when it suddenly ends up in the past tense again. If it wasn’t for the detritus in our dining room – an explosion of sharpies, sticky notes, lanyards and boxes – I might believe it was simply a particularly vivid and fiendishly complicated dream I had.

User Experience (UX) in Libraries is a conference all about uncovering the real needs and behaviours of library users and delivering improved more user-centric services as a result. For this reason it is open to anyone working in libraries. Every year we have a wonderful range of attendees from those versed in techniques and the process to those coming to it completely fresh. This year we were based at the stunning Royal Holloway University near London.

Undoubtedly the most wonderful thing about ‘UXLibs’ (the short name for the conference and its twitter hashtag) is the fact that we are a truly international event. This year we had 180 delegates from as many as 18 different countries worldwide. Alongside the typically high number of UK, Swedish and US delegates, this year we had very strong Danish, Finnish and French contingents. It was great too to have South Africa represented for the first time and as many as 3 Australians. We need to see more of you Germans, Belgians, Norwegians, and Canadians though. And where are the Spanish and the Italians?!

From an organisational point of view things went very smoothly. We could probably not have been better prepared for those things under our control, which is only as it should be for a UX conference. I felt the theme worked very well this year too as delegates were  tasked with reflecting on how to translate user experience research into newly designed services in the form of prototypes and pilots to test with users.

Our speakers were simply phenomenal this year. Which isn’t to say they haven’t been in other years, but this time around there was a coherence and a confidence that made me feel that we had definitely chosen all the right ingredients. Judging by delegate feedback our attendees wholeheartedly agreed. I should add too that like everyone else I was also absolutely blown away by the quality of the gala dinner entertainment (and I’m the one who booked it!)

Usually I’m totally exhausted after the conference, but this year I had no time for that as I had to move straight on to a training and consultancy gig in Germany, before hot-footing it back to the UK to lead a half-day workshop on failure. Only now, 3 weeks later, am I properly catching my breath and reflecting on how it went this year. I usually do this by sharing 50 photos from the conference and this year is no different…


ONE: A shot taken a few days before the conference to illustrate my likening of UXLibs to having to plan the most complicated wedding ever, on an annual basis.

TWO: I loved the lanyards this year, especially the funky camo, leopard, flowers and bubbles ones which divided delegates up into teams. We haven’t done this since out first year and I was reminded of the value of this approach.

THREE: This year Marisa took on bag packing duties single-handed (Matt having left UXLibs behind to train as a teacher – he’s now passed too, congrats Matt!). I didn’t sit idly by mind you, I was working away like a demon in the other room creating fake user data for the pre-conference workshop and creating plenary slideshows. Oh, and John (below) ‘helped’ a bit. What he lacked in the help department he certainly made up for with his typical enthusiasm and joie de vivre.

FOUR: So, Marisa and I arrive at Royal Holloway the night before, got shat on by a pigeon (well it shat on Marisa, but it’s ‘load’ was so big  it deflected on to me!), discovered the bar didn’t have nearly enough tables for the quiz, and general pretended to ourselves that UXLibs wasn’t really about to start all over again.

FIVE: The following morning, after unloading the car (amazing that it all fitted!) I bid goodbye to Marisa after we successfully bag more tables for that evening’s quiz. We’re a great team before the conference, but would probably kill each other during it. For her, as its chief administrator, leaving at this point is I guess a bit like jumping off a diving board but never hitting the water.

SIX: And we’re off and running into the pre-conference workshop, where I’m joined by our newest committee member, the wonderful Helen Murphy who has always impressed me with her ability to cut through the crap, stand up to me, and to do the right thing at all times. Glorious person. My other trusty committee member Bryony Ramsden, foolishly agreeing to help organise her second conference, had also arrived by now. More about her later.

SEVEN: Delegates sorted user data in two large teams. We would have loved to have taken more people for the workshop but we were packed to the rafters as it was.

EIGHT: One team instituted an impressive vocal relay system when re-sorting the data by theme. Here’s Katherine Marshall and Nathalie Clot calling out categories.

NINE: After the pre-conference workshop it was time for us to staff the registration desk, for which the ever-helpful Lindsay Roberts and Carl Barrow joined us. It always great to catch up with returning faces and greet new ones. We were pleased we had registration the night before this year so it was less frazzled than if we’d had it the following morning as usual.

TEN: A problem looms – our keynote, Anneli, has arrived from Sweden, but her luggage has not. Thanks to Carl on ‘phone to KLM lost baggage’ duties, and Helen for a quick drive with Anneli to Heathrow, disaster was averted. Without Helen at our side for the quiz, Bryony and I carried on regardless, challenged equally by sound equipment that should have been positioned halfway down the bar and very loud librarians! It turned out that Bryony was far better at quietening the crowd than me and I felt completely indebted to her as she took on the lion’s share of the question asking. I didn’t want to lose my voice before I’d even given my opening address!

ELEVEN: The winning quiz team helped not inconsiderably by Ange’s incredible flag knowledge. I mean Burundi?! Really?

TWELVE: The obligatory shoe tweet with Ange, Carl and Helen.

THIRTEEN: Morning of Day 1. My opening address goes well I think. I’d completed the content weeks in advance due to other work pressures, so I confess to being a little unfamiliar with my slides although the material was second nature. I think it landed OK, although I did feel a bit passionately telly-offy in places. I can’t help it. I care about how librarians do UX research and design! Particularly the fact that they often get stuck just doing research and not getting to the design. And I stand totally by what I said about UX not being about consulting staff. UX is about what the users think and do. Staff are part of the process yes, but they should not need to be consulted while you’re only piloting prototypes. Library staff need to get over themselves basically. (Photo: Penny Andrews)

FOURTEEN: Anneli Friberg nails her keynote. Sensitive, confident, important. It was as accomplished as I knew it would be. Anneli is a very special human being and I think that was totally evident to everyone present. Her presentation was a real highlight for me.

FIFTEEN: Penny Andrews was up next, totally fulfilling their brief to challenge the audience by getting everyone to think about the experience of neurodiverse library users. There were a few Ed Balls gifs too. One or two. Go Penny!

SIXTEEN: And on to the delegate presentations. I was determined to see Kitte Dahren present having been deeply impressed by her on our first meeting in Uppsala. Mark my words, she is someone to watch. Plus she’s a folky like me, what’s not to like? Her presentation was about a metaphorical UX button at SLU in Sweden and was as interesting and punchy as I’d expected.

SEVENTEEN: Nathalie Clot wowed us all with a highly practical  and funny presentation on toilet management in libraries. When doing UX we have to get the basics right first: a definite sub theme of this year’s conference. In this photo everyone is providing data via coloured cards on toilet provision in their own libraries. Despite her fears about language barriers, Nathalie didn’t surprise me at all when she ended up winning the best paper prize for this thoroughly engaging presentation.

EIGHTEEN: I love the UXLibs workshops. We had 6 this year. An impossible choice for many when you can only attend 2. I’d love to work out a way to have delegates attend more and for longer but it’s impossible because, as it is, we have workshop leaders presenting twice over a 2-hour period and if you could only attend one for 2 hours then you’d be missing out on 5 others rather than 4. This photo is of cards from the Dixit game which were used as an ice-breaker by Maud and Magalie for their awesome sketchnoting workshop.

NINETEEN: Here’s my storyboard from the same workshop of my UXLibsV experience by that point: arriving at Royal Holloway; unloading the car with Marisa; saying goodbye to her; leading the pre-conference workshop; staffing registration; and presenting the quiz with Bryony. Uncanny likenesses in that last frame I’m sure you’ll agree.

TWENTY: Austin from Proquest (we treat our sponsors as fellow delegates: do it people!) was sat next to me. Here’s his storyboard which captures evidence of the friendly cat that regularly made appearances in the conference building. Austin wanted to pet the cat but is allergic to them. I love how he captured the drama of this encounter.

TWENTY-ONE: The effervescent Maud and Magalie who totally bossed their workshop. It was fantastic. I’m sure many of us left it determined to sketch more as part of our UX work.

TWENTY-TWO: Here’s Linda Thorn. If you don’t know Linda you are quite simply missing out. She hails from Uppsala, Sweden and is the envy of all of her friends, including me, just because she is such a brilliant human being. As an aside, Linda and I agree that clothes and shoes and lanyards should always match – why wouldn’t you do that? The eagle-eyed will notice that she has, like many other delegates, pimped her badge.

TWENTY-THREE: The ‘Pimp Your Badge’ table was a last-minute idea that proved incredibly popular and one we will definitely be repeating as a result. Every time I was in the foyer there were 3 or 4 people pimping. At the table you understand. Here are Natasha, Maria and Michelle after a visit to said table (Photo: Maria O’ Hara)

TWENTY-FOUR: Here is me all spruced up and snazzy for the gala dinner with the similarly snazzy Kabelo from South Africa. Kabelo is hilarious. If you ever get the chance to go to the pub with her, do it!

TWENTY-FIVE: OK so I couldn’t not get a selfie with our Gala Dinner star: the wondrous Grace Petrie. As down-to-earth as she is talented Grace is one of my favourite musicians. I couldn’t quite believe it was possible to just book her. My suspicion is that it would not be possible a year later given that her star is in the ascendant.

TWENTY-SIX: For this photo, Linda Thorn is joined by another Linda. Meet Linda Vidlund. Also Swedish, also heaps of fun. This really has been my ‘Year of Sweden’ work-wise and this is largely due to Linda V inviting me there for the very first time in January, it was from that trip that a lot of my other Swedish work has snowballed. Skol Linda!

TWENTY-SEVEN: Your committee at the gala dinner. Looking surprisingly youthful and fresh-faced all things considered!

TWENTY-EIGHT: The wonderful comedian Sarah Mann whose humour about identity landed brilliantly with the UXLibs crowd. Again I couldn’t really understand how I could just book Sarah cos she was off the telly!

TWENTY-NINE: Grace Petrie! The sudden hall-wide standing ovation at the end of her set was raucous and wonderful and perhaps my stand-out UXLibs moment. The secret stress story behind this evening was the fact that at the point at which Sarah started her set I had to quickly leave the hall to run with Grace to find the security staff because the doors had been locked between Grace and her guitar! I really had to put a bomb under them to get it sorted. I think Grace was quite surprised by my, er, forthrightness, but this was no time to accept petty and slow officialdom. Check out Grace’s wonderful song Black Tie on YouTube. The song includes the memorable line ‘And the images that fucked yer, are a patriarchal struc-cha!’ I’ll never forget the whole room joining in with those lyrics.

THIRTY: A queue forms to buy Grace’s CDs and to meet her. Victor promises to get her to Sweden. Grace is waiting Victor.

THIRTY-ONE: Perhaps my favourite photo of the entire conference. Three of my favourite people on this planet: Anneli, Victor and Ange, all cracking up about something on my bed.

THIRTY-TWO: Day 2 and the now tradiitonal ‘tired in a lift’ selfie with Bryony. Can two occurrences be counted as a tradition?

THIRTY-THREE: Our second keynote, Suzanne Chapman. One of my UX heroes. Suzanne was candid, effortlessly fascinating and informative. We all learned so much from her I’m sure. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people snapping slides with their phones!

THIRTY-FOUR: Victor Alfson blew me away the first time I met him in Stockholm. So much so that I ended up throwing the conference schedule into disarray just to ensure I could give him a plenary speaking opportunity. As I expected, he gave a thoroughly entertaining and direct explanation of how he’d used VR as a UX research tool in the public library in which he works.

THIRTY-FIVE: Carl Barrow gave a totally engaging presentation on the problem of libraries leaping from research to solutions thereby bypassing the all-important prototyping and testing stage. He called it ‘The Hull Leap’. I love the name but I’m not sure his employers will feel the same about this catching on. Awesome trainer game as well. As ever.

THIRTY-SIX: Here’s Shelley Gullikson. She’s awesome. That is all. Oh and help her with her love letters research during her sabbatical. All the deets are there.

THIRTY-SEVEN: Eva-Christina Edinger, a UXLibs regular who generously helped me out by agreeing to introduce several paper presenters, telling Kristin Meyer (another highly talented workshop leader) about her poster as part of ‘UXLabs’.

THIRTY-EIGHT: Some delegates just chilling in the beautiful grounds of Royal Holloway.

THIRTY-NINE: Our wonderful photographer, David Scott, took us on an impromptu photo shoot during Day 2. I love this shot of the conference team mainly because it makes us look like a band.

FORTY: During the team challenge, Ange and I really enjoyed roleplaying difficult senior managers as teams sought to prototype ideas for services in response to data. Here’s Team Cyan mid-prototyping.

FORTY-ONE: And here’s Team Red with Keren Stiles presenting.

FORTY-TWO: What was left of the Team Bubbles with their prizes: Vernon (workshop leader and my talented Aussie mate, who like Anneli also lost his suitcase), Larissa, Cilla (these Swedes are everywhere!) and Daniel who had expertly fronted his team’s pitch.

FORTY-THREE: A shot from one of the many Best Practice Forums. This was a new initiative intended to facilitate smaller group discussion and sharing about UX topics of interest. Many thanks to all those UX stars who agreed to front them.

FORTY-FOUR: Vernon finally united with his suitcase! Incidentally, and incredibly, Anneli’s case went missing again on her return to Sweden! (Photo: Vernon Fowler)

FORTY-FIVE: I present Nathalie Clot with the award for the best paper, as voted by delegates, and pronounce her Queen of Toilets. I think she liked the former but perhaps the latter less so? (Photo: Magalie Le Gall)

FORTY-SIX: And then we were done and the long goodbyes began. Here’s Anneli saying goodbye to new friends from France. (Photo: Anneli Friberg)

FORTY-SEVEN: But the evening was yet young. Remember how I said you should go to the pub with Kabelo? If you add Ivan from the Netherlands into the mix too, you really are on to a winner!

FORTY-EIGHT: Elsewhere I understand there was a splinter group of Danish librarians who attended UXLibs. Duxlibs? (Photo: Kirstin Remvig)

FORTY-NINE: The inauguration of a new game: Brexit Dart! Each of us throwing a single Union Jack design dart. Highest score wins. Here’s Daniel, Ivan, Shelley, Astrid and Marisa (happy to discover that the conference went well) keeping a safe distance as Kabelo prepares to throw the Brexit Dart.

FIFTY: Astrid winning Brexit Dart!

Thanks again to everyone who made UXLibsV possible.

  • UXLibs administrator extraordinaire: Marisa Priestner
  • my fellow committee members: Bryony Ramsden, Helen Murphy (and their partners: Dave Pattern and Nicky Adkins)
  • our keynotes: Anneli Friberg, Suzanne Chapman
  • our plenary speakers: Penny Andrews, Victor Alfson
  • our housekeeper: Ange Fitzpatrick
  • our sponsors: EBSCO, ProQuest, IS Oxford, OpenAthens
  • our workshop leaders: Ingela Wahlgren, Vernon Fowler, Danielle Cooper, Kristin Meyer, Helen Murphy, Maud Puaud, Magalie Le Gall
  • our conference helpers: Carl Barrow, Lindsay Roberts
  • our photographer: David Scott
  • our delegate paper presenters: Maria O’Hara, Keren Stiles, Nathalie Clot, Kitte Dahren, Hannah Fogg, Lorraine Noel, Tim Graves, Ella Abel, Daniel Pshock, Claire Chickly, Pauline Moirez, Claire Browne, Debbie Phillips, Carl Barrow, Riitta Peltonen, Kiti Vilkki-Eriksson, Kineret Ben-Knaan, Andrew Darby, Nadia Marks, Stefan Fleig
  • our good practice forum facilitators: Linda Thorn, Shelley Gullikson, Nia Ellis, Martin Philip, Ivan Tzvetkov
  • our amazing Gala Dinner performers: Sarah Mann, Grace Petrie
  • the Royal Holloway conference team
  • all our wonderful delegates – you were amazing
  • and anyone else I’ve forgotten

Like James Bond, UXLibs will return…

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