It is nice to see a growing appreciation for UX in our domain.  Michael, 
librarians ARE users, but I understand what you're saying in that 
they've had too much influence, and have unfortunately brought bias to 
the design process that has created obstacles for other users.

Andrew, your original post focused on a Usability person.  The way I see 
it, Usability skills are a subset of User Experience.  If you can hire 
two people, awesome.  If I had to choose one, I would go for a User 
Experience person. It is at least one full-time job, ideally of higher 
rank due to its "big picture" nature.  I like the idea of a usability 
committee or working group, with the UX expert as a chair.

Below are a few skills/abilities of my ideal User Experience Designer. 
It's unlikely you will get them all in one candidate, but it may give 
you an idea of which niches you need to fill, given your current team:

* Creativity and Audacity *
Design is inherently mixed with organization and culture, and in order 
to solve design problems they have to be willing to rethink and change 
long-standing traditions and culture.  This person can question 
EVERYTHING without being abrasive.

* Diplomacy and Influence *
You can't do the above without being good at building relationships, 
forming consensus, negotiating, etc.  Ideally the position would have 
enough power in the org to be at the table for major decisions, but then 
again, influence does not always come from hierarchical rank.

* Usability Interviewing, Testing, and Analytics *
Understanding, empathizing with, and advocating for ALL the users of 
your systems is critical, and collecting data to form and back up your 
arguments is a prerequisite. UX people have to talk to users about their 
goals, test ideas with prototypes, and collect and interpret 
stats/analytics. Testing is not only about whether a feature could be 
improved, but whether it should be there at all.  This person can 
identify and prioritize the right problems to solve.

* Visual Thinking/Literacy *
The person should have a good design sense, and be able to put the 
elements and principles of design to work in the idea pitch, information 
architecture, and design process.

* Content Strategy *
What is the overall vision of the org and how is that message delivered? 
  What message is currently being delivered via neglect of an overall 
strategy?  The lack of a content strategy is one reason why so many 
library websites are filled with pages that are piles of links.

* Interaction Design *
In libraries, where budgets can be an issue, this person should be able 
to put together wireframes, prototypes, and final HTML/CSS/JS designs. 
As Tom mentioned, this could be an entirely different, more technical 
position, but it's a great asset if you can find it.

P.S. - Don't feel tied into current position titles. Google has an "Über 
Tech Lead for Search Quality and User Happiness"!

On 10/30/13 12:33 PM, Michael Schofield wrote:
> I think, where budgets allow, this is an increasingly common function / position. I am a Front End Librarian and I oversee development, user experience, and content strategy. I am part of systems but I liaise most often with our Marketing Department [because we have one ... ]. My friend Amanda is literally the User Experience Librarian at the Darien Library, so this is a thing with precedent.
> I agree with one of the other commenters that a dedicated UX person makes a world of difference - and, honestly, it's probably better if that person is less librarian than not. The big hurdle we've had to jump across was coming to grips that our librarians aren't users, so their weigh-in on content and services is skewed toward the jargon-y, mega-search-fields, we're-not-google-and-we-are-proud opinion.
> Staying on top of usability, accessibility, content strategy, dev, and performance [because a fast website is integral to a good user experience] is a full-time job. It's the kind of job you do outside of the 40-hour week. If you can get away with it, don't bundle this stuff in with other major roles.
> Organizationally, this person or team should be afforded a little bit of autonomy from the other departments. Design committees--especially in higher-ed--are power struggles, and it benefits no one when the user-experience people/person can be pressured into bad design decisions.
> Oh, and pay them well :) :) :).
> // Michael!
> I write about the web and front-end librarianship at
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Code for Libraries [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Ken Varnum
> Sent: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 12:00 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: [CODE4LIB] Usability Person?
> We are exceptionally fortunate to have a 3-person User Experience department to support the developers who work on the website, the catalog, the digital library, and the repository.
> --
> Ken Varnum | Web Systems Manager | MLibrary - University of Michigan - Ann Arbor [log in to unmask] | @varnum | |
> 734-615-3287
> On Wed, Oct 30, 2013 at 11:51 AM, Tom Cramer <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> We have been lucky to have a full time interaction designer within our
>> library IT group for about 6 years. It makes a world of difference in
>> the quality of our products; it also helps with letting the engineers
>> focus on engineering, and the librarians focus on being librarians
>> (rather than trying to design for patrons).
>> - Tom
>> On Oct 30, 2013, at 8:24 AM, Andrew Darby wrote:
>>> Hello, all.  This is perhaps a bit off-topic, but I was wondering
>>> how
>> many
>>> of you have a dedicated usability person as part of your development
>> team.
>>> Right now, we have a sort of ad hoc Usability Team, and I'd like to
>>> make
>> a
>>> pitch for hiring someone who will have the time and inclination to
>>> manage this effort more effectively.
>>> Anything you'd care to share (on-list or off-) would be welcome.
>>> I'm especially curious about whether or not this is a full-time
>> responsibility
>>> for someone in your organization or if it's shared with another job
>>> function; if you find this position is working out well or you wish
>>> you'd spent the money on more robots instead; where this person
>>> resides in your org chart; what sort of qualifications you looked for when hiring; etc.
>>> Thanks,
>>> Andrew
>>> --
>>> Andrew Darby
>>> Head, Web & Emerging Technologies
>>> University of Miami Libraries

Shaun Ellis
User Interface Developer, Digital Initiatives
Princeton University Library