Expert Voices Interview: Iris Bierlein

I interviewed Iris Bierlein, a UX Specialist with the NYU Libraries UX department .We discussed her role as a UX researcher, and her interest in qualitative research in particular.

KD: To what degree does your role as a UX Specialist allow you to commit time to research?

IB: I’m the lead on the qualitative research, so thinking about and designing research is a significant portion of what I do. That being said, it’s key that I be able to support the work of my colleagues and engage in larger organizational collaborative projects/committees that might not be specifically research. It’s a balancing act, but one that makes the job interesting and makes me a better researcher not working in a silo.

KD: How do you see UX research falling into the organizational structure of a large library, specifically an academic one?

IB: Academic libraries, like any library, are service-oriented organizations. Understanding users is crucial to offering successful services that get at the heart of your user’s needs. By conducting UX research we’re able to better understand what users want, need, and how they interact with our services. This supports the organizational tenants as well as users, so it’s a great union.

KD: How, if at all, do you measure satisfaction and success among your users?

IB: Libraries can’t always utilize the same success metrics that, say an e-commerce, site might. We think a lot about what success means for a library website, and how we translate that into data that we can tack over time. For example, the amount of time a user spends engaged on the site may actually be an indicator that they are having trouble finding what they’re looking for. If a user can find the information or resources they need quickly and then leave, that’s actually a good thing. We also seek regular feedback from users, but also look to more passive feedback sources. Are there a lot of questions or complaints that are coming through via chat? That sort of thing.

KD: Can you describe a quantitative or qualitative data analysis project you’ve taken part in?

IB: Sure, I’ll expand on the chat that I mentioned in my last answer. The library offers a virtual chat service. Users ask a whole range of questions which makes it a fantastic source of qualitative data. Anyway, for this project we were interested in how users were interacting with our spaces, and what the major pain points were. Selecting chats that came in over the course of a specific time span (months) we coded for key terms related spaces. Anything unrelated we pulled out. That left us with a statistically viable number of chats that related to spaces. We then looked for patterns related to usage, issues, requests, etc. Taking that data we were able to identify the priorities across various user groups, and make recommendations regarding next steps.

KD: How did that project inform your work in the library? Did it have any influence on the department’s design process?

IB: The research helped to validate the need to rethink/redesign the ways we were approaching spaces, and shape the larger conversation around spaces and room booking across several departments, including ours. We have a current project focused on spaces and the analysis is certainly one of the pieces of supporting research.