Public Services 2.0: The Future of UX in Libraries An Interview with Nadaleen Tempelman-Kluit.


Nadaleen Tempelman-Kluit is currently the Head of the User Experience Department at NYU’s Bobst Library. I was particularly interested in interviewing Nadaleen, as she entered the UX field when it was just getting started. She also frequently helps Pratt students break into this field with internship opportunities. Because of this, I knew she would be a great resource to get an idea of how to not only break into this field, but also excel. I also wanted to know what she would have done differently if she could go back, day to day life in UX, and what growth can be expected in this field.

What is your educational background?

Library Degree from University of Western Ontario, and a second Masters in educational communication and technology while working at NYU.

What does a day in the life of your job look like?

We’ve become very project based, which I like. It means that you can complete things. I’m the project lead on the website and the two members of the department are on the project team that is actually building the site. We use pivotal tracker, I’m writing user stories, I’m writing chores, I’m setting priorities thinking about what we need to have as basics for our first roll out. We also do user experience tests for other people. Recently we did finding aides Heuristic Evaluation for the finding aides’ portal. We also got a grant to create a usability lab so we’re outfitting that.

Where do you see UX going in the future? Is it a growing field?

The best model is where it is integrated with development, that it is just part of the natural flow of any project or software tool that you’re working on. I don’t think people really understand that there is a holistic nature to user experience. For example the head of the Circulation, Reserves, and Access Services Department and I worked on a study room application. That means upon the virtual updates to the study room app you want to then mirror it physically and make sure that the language on the study rooms is consistent with the language on the website and that the experience of users flows from physical to virtual. So I guess thinking about the whole user flow and I would like to see it more integrated into public services at large beyond virtual experiences. There are all of these relationships that we’re not really capitalizing. Because I don’t think there is a deep understanding of the benefits of user experience across these things and also these are small departments so there is only so much you can do. I see it permeating across all of those arenas in an ideal world. And the term might change, but basically it’s public services 2.0.

What advice do you have for new librarians looking to break into the world of UX?

If you’re a new person looking to get into it, one of the greatest ways you can is approaching people in that department and expressing interest and sitting in. I have a student now who has a Masters in applied psychology and she just e-mailed me last semester and said she was interested in User Experience and if and was there any work. I said not paid work, but maybe down the road and she asked to come and see what we were doing for free and she did, and now I’ve hired her for 20 hours a weeks. There is more opportunity than an instructional librarian where everyone wants to do it. So it’s all just about networking and showing an interest and making yourself invaluable. And also having skill sets that might complement the group. In this field you have to be a generalist but also having an area of strength within that generalization is important. Also, reading books about user experience, and publishing articles that are more about learning theories and design instruction and that lead to making relationships with people that are also moving into this area, so almost like having a peer group.

If you could go back to library school right now, what would you do differently and is there a secondary degree you think would be useful?

Being able to take UX specialty is so cool and I would totally do that. I also think taking more Statistics and assessment classes would be helpful. In terms of supplementary degrees a Statistics degree, or combined with a degree like mine in educational technologies and learning theory degree and also depending on the area of specialty you want. If you plan to go into interaction design then probably a programming degree would be good. If you’re interested more in design, then an art degree would be good.

Do you see a difference in this profession in library vs other professional fields? Is there a reason you decided to focus on user experience in libraries?

That’s a really good question. From everything that I read, the thing that everyone seems to be grappling with is how to integrate yourself into the organization and prove your worth and value. Academic libraries tend to be more hierarchical so there might be more issues there. For example I report to the head of public services and the web development team reports to the head of library ITS. In an ideal world we would work together. I think corporations are more nimble, but I think as far as the actual work I think you’re facing the same hurdles

Final thoughts: I think it’s a cool field because it’s creative in a non-creative area, and if you’re a non-type A librarian which there are very few of it’s a great avenue to get into. I feel so lucky because I don’t think I would do well in the traditional librarianship role. I think of it as sort of putting puzzle pieces together. My goal is to create a completed puzzle. Whereas I think largely in the role of librarian you’re not really necessarily completing anything and kind of just working toward certain aspects and I think for me it makes me feel so much better about my role and goals if I can get stuff done. Knowing heuristic evaluation and then applying a heuristic evaluation in a library is night and day. I think it is really the tip of the iceberg to be learning the methods and techniques and it’s the application that is everything. My feeling is I would pick someone who is savvy organizationally and who has good project management skills and was able to operate in meetings effectively and was smart and interested in users but couldn’t do any of the evaluation methods over someone who could write a usability test or do wireframes, but wasn’t politically savvy. I don’t want that to be depressing it’s just that the reality is that you can learn this on the job but you can’t learn the sort of soft skills that are really required for this kind of area.