Course:LIBR559A/Schmidt, A., & Etches, A. (2012)

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Schmidt, A., & Etches, A. (2012). User experience (UX) design for libraries (Vol. 18). American Library Association.

Purpose of article

This book introduces how could a library design a user-friendly library website. Generally speaking, it can be used as a step-by-step guidance for librarians to re-design or develop their own information system.

Main Argument(s) and supporting evidence

In this book, the authors emphasized the importance of embedding libraries’ value and strategic plan into their library system design process. For example, while talking about designing personas for a website/information system, the authors pointed out the importance of taking all stakeholders into consideration: for a public library, it’s important to make sure that representative people from diverse communities have been included.

In addition, the authors emphasized that letting the real users get involved in the designing and iterative testing process was an effective method to develop a library website/information system, since they were the most important factor in determining the success of the whole project.


This book is based on the authors’ personal experience and several case studies of the successful library websites. They didn’t refer to much qualitative data to support their findings and opinions, however, their discussion was mostly based on their expertise as librarians who have been in charge of the library website development. In addition, analysis on other libraries’ website had been conducted to prove their point.


Generally speaking, the keywords of this book are information system design, usability, and user experience. According to the authors, it is key to create successful and comprehensive personas (which is defined as the detailed description of the representative user portrays, that can be used to guide the information system design process), and keep them in mind during the whole process. In addition, since user needs are the keys to success, it’s also essential to let users get involved all the time by inviting them for one-to-one interviews, focus groups, as well as let them do some quick surveys and testing on the prototypes/ inviting them to join card sorting activities, etc.

Theoretical frameworks

From my understanding, the authors were following the SCOT framework, since they put the social factors, especially the user needs, at the most important position. The authors come up with some quite novel ideas that have been ignored by some design guidance books : they found out that library system designers need to consider the requirements of all the stakeholders all the time, not only the patrons, but also the people who have the authority to determine the future direction of the whole library (library board committee members, etc.) and suggest that design should align with the library’s values and strategic plan.


However, this book also has some place for improvement: while talking about information system design, the authors ignored some equality issues such as how to ensure the accessibility, how to serve the illiterate groups, etc., while focusing on designing for the majority. In addition, the authors didn’t talk about the sustainability and maintenance of the system, which could be problematic in practice. Last but not least, the authors only talked about developing a website that worked best for a library in the western world. However, they didn't mention about how to issues as how to fill the gap of possible divide, how to design without enough equipment or manpower, etc.

Potential Contribution

In above, although still having some insufficiencies, this book can be used as a useful tool to guide the design /re-design of a library system. Following the principles offered by the experienced digital librarians would be a good start for developing a well-performed library website.

Page Author: Wendy Zhang