The Student UX Team: What’s in Store for 23/24

After reflecting on how the Student UX Team has evolved for the past two years, I decided to do both less and more this coming year:


There will be less administrative work. It comes at a cost of less flexibility for students, but I need this:

  • Rather than trying to accommodate all their schedules, I set a consistent time for a team meeting, with the understanding that I may be missing out on working with some excellent students who are not free to meet at the set time.
  • I capped the hours of independent work outside of the team meeting to two hours eliminating the need to follow up with students asking them to explain the hours they’ve submitted on timesheets and the worry that I’m not adequately tracking their work.


I’ve decided this is more than student employment. It is an Internship and expectations are higher:

  • Experiential learning + work experience + responsibility for an independent project = an Internship. My expectations for the students are higher and more specific.
  • They should expect more from me too. I’m far more organized this time around: I prioritized library projects and research needs and translated them into a syllabus that spans the academic year. It holds time for learning, training, practice, assessment, and reflection.
  • By the end, they will each have taken responsibility for planning and carrying out an independent user research project from soup to nuts, starting with articulating research questions, moving through identifying the best research method(s), carrying out research, analyzing results, and culminating in presenting their research to library leadership and other stakeholders.

What projects will we be working on?

  • Website Usability:
    • The Libraries’ Website, including the exploration of a possible new platform
    • Tripod enhancements and other discovery options
  • Qualitative research that contributes to the Libraries’ understanding of how Swarthmore students experience the libraries and in support of advocating for a major library renovation in the (near?) future:
    • A fun, photo journal study on most and least favorite study spaces on campus
    • Observational data on study space use
  • Quantitative research: Interns will contribute to crafting a student survey on the libraries to launch early in the spring semester.
  • Independent research projects: I’ve gathered a handful of departmental and college adjacent websites from which the Interns may choose as their independent research project.

I’m ready and eager to begin – let’s go!


The effects of the global pandemic have unfolded so differently from what we first thought when the College closed for an “extended spring break” last March.

I’ve just trashed a draft of a post I began back then and next updated in May without ever publishing it. Too many things changed too often to be able to capture how users were engaging with our services, much less learn how we might improve them.

Similar to many other colleges, Swarthmore students did not return to campus last spring and most have not returned this fall. Instead, a new, completely different semester has begun.

Library services have shifted fundamentally – at first to online only, next to a request system for “curbside” pick-up of print materials, and just as of this past Monday, to a hybrid world of both online and in-person use of our collections, services and spaces (while maintaining the materials pick-up option.)

While most of us worked from home, my colleagues in the Access + User Services Department, along with co-workers in Collection Management + Discovery have done heroic work to find and make available digitally accessible copies of required course materials so that students remaining off campus could continue to have access to class materials and do research. Research and Instruction Librarians have revamped their former in-person practices, transforming them to the virtual environment. Some of us have needed to return to the libraries to work regular hours, putting ourselves more at risk for catching the virus.

As these changes occurred, we hastily wrote “temporary” FAQ Documents for our community (which we continue to update regularly) instructing people how to access library materials, how they can reach us with questions, to let them know what they may borrow and what to expect when the libraries open.

As the next normal unfolds, we’d like to move content from these short-term documents to our website, which was revamped over the summer as planned – unrelated to what is happening in the world.

What have these events and changes meant for the library experiences of our users? How do we know? What might we learn? Have the changes to the website (informed by usability session last year) demonstrably improved things? And perhaps most challenging, what research methods could I use that do not tax our users with One. More. Thing?

I do not yet have answers, but as a start, I moved our beloved, analog Comment Book online. I’m also planning usability sessions for the website recorded via zoom, inviting participants to share their screen.

It doesn’t seem like much, but I remind myself that within the context of what is happening in the world and in the country, every step we can take to make things clear, understandable and easier has value.