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User experience key theme at 15th SU Library Symposium
Author: Corporate Communication/Korporatiewe Kommunikasie [Rozanne Engel]
Published: 21/11/2018

“The best interest of the user is the only interest. Libraries have been at the heart of the knowledge project from the start and, as the world keeps on changing, we too have to adapt or be left behind – the same goes for libraries."

These were the opening remarks from Prof Wim de Villiers, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of Stellenbosch University (SU), at the 15th Stellenbosch University Library Symposium. The symposium welcomed more than 160 delegates at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study, where the symposium was held over a day and a half, from 15 to 16 November 2018.

The symposium was a gathering not to be missed by those wanting to keep up with the latest cutting edge trends in library and information science. This year's theme was entitled “Smarter libraries: User experience (UX) in action".

According to Ellen Tise, Senior Director of the Library and Information Service, Stellenbosch University, it was a natural progression to focus on this theme at the symposium. “Over time, technology has changed not only people, but libraries too. This year we focus on user experience – UX – design, which is based on the idea that products and services should be designed with the user in mind. The user has always been central to what we do at libraries, but now we have to do more research to make sure we keep up with trends and our users."

Many libraries have undertaken research that would fall under the umbrella of UX. Ethnographic research is a popular method in UX research, which includes the study of user behaviour related to information searching, how people use library websites and how people use and interact with library spaces.

Three sessions at the symposium focused on the following themes, all related to UX:

  • Smarter libraries through technology
  • Smart library design: Spaces and facilities
  • Using UX research for smarter services and resources

Among the 15 speakers during these sessions were Ned Potter, an academic liaison librarian at the University of York, Alex Ball, a research data librarian at the University of Bath, and Abeer Al Kuwari, Director of Research and Learning Services at the newly established Qatar National Library.

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According to Prof De Villiers, it is important that the libraries of the future not only think about connecting people to the great cloud of information and development in the digital age, but also about connecting people to each other.

“This gathering comes at a very special moment in Stellenbosch University's history. We are marking the centenary of Stellenbosch University and it is fair to say that Stellenbosch University has become a leading research-intensive higher education institution, not only on the African continent, but also worldwide. Throughout the years, the Library and Information Service has made a very crucial contribution to the University," said Prof De Villiers.

Click here to find out more about the Stellenbosch University Library Symposium.

In the photo above: (left to right): Ms Ellen Tise (Senior Director: Library and Information Service, Stellenbosch University), Prof Wim de Villiers (Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Stellenbosch University) and Mr Lars Binau (from Technical University of Denmark and a speaker in Session 1 of the symposium).

Photos by Anton Jordaan.