Because I am involved in mankind

Because I am involved in mankind
(Donne, 1624)

My favorite parts of the class were all the observing assignments where we went to real locations (library or otherwise). I really loved reading everyone else’s service safaris in particular, and seeing the range of services we investigated. It was interesting to see what small steps you could take to shift your thinking and allow you to see things with fresh eyes.

Because I have a background in technical writing and editing, the website and writing topics felt more familiar, although I did plenty of new stuff in those areas as well. The real life assignments were the ones that got me out of my comfort zone, however.

I was especially glad to read the Nondesigner’s Design Book and learn about the visual aspects of design. I always thought of myself as very verbal and assumed visual design was not one of my skills. That book made basic visual competency look accessible. I may not set the design world on fire but now I feel like I can critique design and improve it.

One of the things that surprised me about the class was how often the issues of the broader culture and inequities came up, and how integral that is to user experience. I started the class thinking in terms of websites, library policies, etc. But once you start emphasizing the human aspect and empathy for library members, the whole world gets invited in to the library–which means that the whole world of issues come into the library.

This came up in the assignments, for example when we watched the video about the Alley Health Fair from the Vancouver Public Library (BCLibraries, 2012).  It came up when I observed at the Hayward Public Library, noticing how the surrounding economic realities affected the library was inescapable as part of the observation, as well as seeing how libraries try to balance the needs of different groups in a compassionate way. We can’t sit tight in our little safe libraries, do what we’ve always done, and ignore the needs around us. As Rodger wrote, libraries are a part of greater host systems, systems that we need to give back to (Rodger, 2007). As the world around the library changes, so must we, because our surroundings are changing.

Every man is a piece of the continent
A part of the main.
(Donne, 1624)

Of course it’s common for librarians to say that we are part of our communities, we value them, we love them, and so on. One of the great things about this class was being given specific, measurable things to help reach the goal of improved user experience and greater user engagement. Specific tools of design and web writing principles, and simple exercises like service safaris and contextual inquiry provide the entry for empathy to occur, opening up the library experience and allowing us the space to invite our communities in.

The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide
(Millay, 1956)

I thank everyone for a wonderful semester!


BCLibraries (December 17, 2012). Beth Davies – Library innovation and the community [YouTube video]. Retrieved from

Donne, J. (1624). No man is an island. Retrieved from

Millay, E.S. (1956). Renascence. Retrieved from

Rodger, E.J. (2007). What’s a library worth? American Libraries: September 2007, 59-60.


About mollificence

library student, writer, mom, Kindle addict View all posts by mollificence

5 responses to “Because I am involved in mankind

  • alaskanmomma143

    The human aspect and empathy is so important! With everything going digital, and with all our uber librarian skills : ) we sometimes lose sight of just how important these things are.

  • Sarah Liberman

    Molly, I also feel more of nitpicker (textual, verbal), rather than a creator (visual, tactile, or auditory)! (The joys of software QA to break things, wheee.) But I also see that modification and adjustment also require some amount of creativity — even audits don’t have to be dry during evaluation. 🙂

    Speaking of design books, Ellen Lupton wrote a great book on typography that you might like: Thinking with Type: A critical guide for designers, writers, editors, and students (2nd ed., 2010). Clear and chock full of examples.

    • mollificence

      Thanks for the book rec! 🙂

      I feel reasonably creative with writing–just not visually creative (which is funny since I run an art program at a school–the classic “well, there was no one else to do it” job qualification). I agree there are lots of ways to be creative. 🙂

      Thanks for your insights!

  • rachel

    Great post, Molly! I agree that the assignments of sending us out to see how these concepts actually work (or often times didn’t) in the real world made a bigger impact on me in learning about the ideas. Yes, I could try to remember when X thing happened to me, but going out and seeing what happens after reading about it was completely different. I went out looking for something rather than looking back without specific details.

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