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Discovery & User Experience

Deep Thoughts from DUX: A challenge to change

This week, I had the pleasure of listening to Mary Popp, our Research and Discovery Services Librarian in DUX, give a talk to my Organizational Informatics class.  Mary talked about a number of things, such convenience and information seeking behavior, discovery services, and faceted searching.  The almost three hour class period flew by and before I knew it, Mary was wrapping up her talk with some sage words of advice I believe bear repeating, thinking about, and talking about.

Mary challenged my class of upcoming information professionals to be change agents.  As she explained, waiting for change to come to you isn’t what will promote a shift in how we work with information in ever-changing environments.  We, the new generation of information professionals, must put time and effort into changing the thinking of our profession.

Mary presented three ways to incite change:


In terms of how we develop new tools and process that facility information seeking, Mary urged to us to consider separating functionality into independent, interchangeable modules.  This would mean that each part, or module, contains what’s necessary to execute one aspect of desired functionality; helping us move to a process where we can selectively implement existing and emerging technologies.

Focus on the customer

Too often we get caught thinking of what’s just ahead, rather than the real reason we embraced the information profession in the first place: the customer.  We can refer to them as the user or patron, but Mary suggested we subscribe to thinking of the customer as the recipient of information good, services and products or idea, which they obtain for a cost.  This cost could be a trade–off of time, resources, or money.  This prompts us to embrace a user-centered approach, where we not only identify user needs, but we anticipate them.

Reduce transaction cost

We must reduce the amount of resources we put into making information goods and services available to customers.  This is not to be understood as “cutting costs”, but rather analyzing, through a logical, layered methodology, and focusing on our customers using behavioral, descriptive, and proprietary user information.  This is the opportunity to flex our critical thinking skills and really hone in on what’s integral and what’s unessential.  It’s why we have to get that graduate degree, right?

The Takeaway

Look beyond the boxes, silos, and the processes.  Instead of focusing on thinking just outside the box, think about how you’re going to change the box.  Advances in technology continue to rock our information worlds.  This won’t stop.  How we access, share, use, discover, and explore our environments through information goes beyond our current definitions of information discovery, access and exploration.  It behooves us to investigate and develop modular, more agile ways of thinking and doing.

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