UX (& PDX) for the People - #acrl2015

I’m still unpacking from ACRL 2015, both literally – oh my laundry! – and metaphorically.

ACRL National Conference is always an especially anticipated event for me: what’s not to love about an amazing collision of content and community, generally in a great manageably-sized city? In recent years, it seems my network of colleagues & dear friends grows ever more far flung … a familiar feeling for many of us, I’m sure. What joy for the gang to get together every couple of years to eat, drink, talk, panel, poster and paper it up, generally with a side of karaoke. (You know who you are, karaoke people.)


Portland was a delight, and not only for the mild temperatures coming on the heels of a trying winter. Doughnuts! Craft beer! Coffee! Food trucks! Mt Hood! Everything blooming! And so friendly, too. So as not to lose them in the shuffle, an incomplete list of some of the great places we found time to try & hope to enjoy again: Blue Star Donuts; Voicebox PDX; Public Domain Coffee; Stumptown Coffee; Powell’s Books; Red Star Tavern; Swine; Cascade Brewing Company; the Imperial; Bar Avignon. Honorable mention to Clyde Common, highly recommended by dear friend and discerning foodie Peter. On a personal note, my grandparents met in Portland in the ’40s – by way of dancing, naturally – so it was extra interesting to experience the city with that in mind, and wonder what had, or hadn’t, changed since then.

Conference Love

As for the conference, I very much enjoyed the keynotes, plus a few personal highlights from the sessions included:

There were a lot of sessions I hated to miss & for which I will definitely be reviewing materials/recordings, including but not limited to:

Even better, the conference proceedings are already up and freely available – read away! You can gorge yourself on the 800+ page full version (pdf) or pick and choose from the titles listing (pdf).

I’ll admit I carried some apprehension with me as I arrived, as the program seemed filled to the brim with sessions on information literacy and a few other topics that have limited direct intersection with my daily practice nowadays … would I find a comparable amount of immediately applicable inspirations to bring home this year as I have in the past, I wondered? (I did.) And, on that topic: bravo to the highly motivated librarians presenting on IL! I encourage others of us, who perhaps don’t see ourselves or our areas of focus as well-represented in the program, to submit, submit, submit.

One thought that reiterated itself to me, and which I heard from other folks, was to wonder whether it may be time to consider tracks – or any threaded clustering, however informal – so that content from less-covered subjects doesn’t pile up in a just a few time slots, competing with each other. Saturday morning, for example, was a bit tough for me being that a number of discovery/UX oriented sessions were booked in the same time slot. Caveat: Scheduling is really tough, I realize! And I am glad to know that I have access to recordings for the next year as a registered attendee, so I can catch things I missed in person. Still, maybe future program committees can give this idea some thought.


Finally, after several rounds of unsuccessful bids to get a panel accepted at an ACRL conference in the past, this year brought success! Yay! Heidi Steiner Burkhardt & I presented together on “UX for the People: Empowering Patrons and Front-line Staff through a User-centered Culture.” We had a packed house, which was super exciting. It was great to see so many people interested in the topic.

Pulling together the materials, tweets, and slides for our talk seemed like a good opportunity to finally try out Storify – and now I’m wondering why I didn’t jump on the bandwagon before! What a great tool for pulling together many disparate pieces into a single narrative. Admittedly, the one below is a bit long, but I wanted to create a record of the livetweeting of the event AND take the opportunity to intersperse some sources, so bear with me. If you jump over to Storify itself by clicking on the title link, I think it’s a bit easier to scan.

Fellow attendees, I’d love to hear your favorite things about ACRL 2015 in the comments. As for me, since my experience on the 2013 Conference Innovation Committee was hands-down the most fun I’ve ever had that merited an entry on my CV, I’m planning to throw my hat into the ring again in hopes of being part of planning ACRL 2017, in Baltimore. See you there!

image: @xoxocg/instagram