Conference Program Planning Committee

Three dynamic speakers, babies, kittens, lots of laughs, just over ninety tweets and one very small (and very full!) room came together for a fun and informative program in this year’s MARS Chair’s program, “It’s All About Them: Developing Information Services with User Experience Design.” All told, 164 people attended, filling the aisles and open spaces, and more than 100 were turned away because of the size of the room.

The program began with the awarding of this year’s My Favorite Martian Award to Linda S. Keiter, Online Services Librarian at the University of Utah. Keiter has been an active member of MARS for many years, serving on numerous MARS committees including Continuing Education, Hot Topics in Electronic Reference Discussion Group, and the Future of MARS Task Force. Linda has also served as a representative for MARS on RUSA committees. Her colleagues in MARS note, “Linda has been a role model for dynamic leadership in MARS.”

Panelists John Blyberg (Darien Public Library, CT), Cody Hansen (University of Minnesota Libraries), and Jenny Benevento (Sears Holding Corporation) began the panel with a general discussion defining user experience (UX) design. Each then followed up with a short presentation highlighting UX from his or her unique perspective: Blyberg talked about the process of creating the UX department at his library, and the importance of creating a culture that places value on the user experience; Hansen thoughtfully outlined his experiences conducting user testing which have led him to conclude that we can add value for users and provide them with the best experience by carefully curating resources; and Benevento provided a strong finish to the panel discussing taxonomies and ROI—her humor and pull-no-punches style made for as provocative and lively a discussion on those topics as I’ve ever seen.

Participants were encouraged to tweet their questions and comments during the program (using the hashtag #marsUX), resulting in an active conversation. (One great comment by Richard Kong [@kongtemplation]: “@jennybento [Jenny Benevento] just gave one of the best presentations I’ve been to at any conference.”) Of those who responded to the program evaluation (n=45), 56% were from academic libraries, with nearly a quarter from public, and the other categories (special, vendor, other) making up the sum. All respondents agreed that it was a relevant program (84% strongly, 16% just agree). Everyone that completed the question agreed (and overwhelmingly, strongly) that the speakers were knowledgeable. All but eight respondents reacted negatively to the space.

The evaluations included some great comments as well. My personal favorites:

  • Delightful and intellectually stimulating program delivered w/a sense of humor
  • Humor was an excellent conveyance mechanism.
  • I was happy to finally see something *so* absolutely relevant.
  • Great balance of presenters and conversation.
  • GREAT panel! Best I’ve attended at ALA ’11.

Access the presenters’ slides via ALAConnect.

Thanks to everyone who attended, to our fantastic panelists, and to the awesome, hard-working committee who put the event together: Anne Houston, Carolyn Larson, Rosemary Meszaros, Suchi Mohanty, and Beth Overhauser.

Courtney Greene, Chair