Student Snippets A Window Into The Daily Life & Thoughts of SLIS Students

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Graham Herrli

Maggie Davidov

Graham_Herrli.jpgI have fallen into the habit of falling in love with fellow classmates in my past few semesters at GSLIS. I share my crushes through this blog to you, the GSLIS community. I first met my friend Graham in LIS 408, User Instruction. While there were many talented people in the class with lots to contribute, Graham always intrigued me because of his usability perspective on library science issues. Graham is one of those students that blows you away with his passion and genuine interest with the way patrons interact with information. I want more Grahams in my next class, though I suspect he may not be taking storytelling in the fall. Regardless, I am thrilled to present Graham Herrli.

1) What made you choose the GSLIS program and what is your focus while here at Simmons?

I came to GSLIS initially because I was interested in how people interact with information and I thought I might want to become a librarian.  Since arriving, I’ve found that librarianship isn’t for me, but I’m still intrigued by how people interact with information. I spend a lot of my free time reading and reviewing user experience (UX) books and articles. Recently, I’ve begun a great job as an interaction designer and shifted my focus at Simmons to courses that will support me in this role.  I look forward to taking Visual Communication this fall.

2) What is the greatest technological advantage GSLIS students can have when they graduate?

That depends on what the students intend to do.  For librarians, having the ability to explain technological systems to their patrons could be highly useful.  For archivists, a thorough understanding of XML and XSLT could help them to modernize their finding aids.  For students interested in other branches of information science, sundry other bits of technological knowledge could be most useful to them.  For example, students interested in a career in knowledge management or in content strategy would benefit from a firm understanding of the capabilities and limitations of content management systems, especially the budding idea of “adaptive content”: content stored wholly independent of format so that your computer, phone, music player, or…I dunno, fridge?? can pull the content that best fits its particular form, factor and context.

3) Tell us about [email protected] and the role you play there. Why is usability and the user experience so important for GSLIS students to be aware of?

I’m one of the two new co-chairs of [email protected] (the Simmons branch of the User Experience Professional Association).  We’re still in the process of planning programming for this upcoming year, and I encourage students to contact me with suggestions.  I hope that the club can serve three purposes:

  • to inform students who aren’t familiar with UX what the field is all about.  The hyper-abbreviated version is that UX is about making things behave the way people expect them to behave. Notable subfields of UX are:
    • user research–gathering feedback on how people interact with things (i.e. holding a focus group to determine why people might want to buy shoes online)
    • information architecture–making sure that people can find information where they expect to find it (i.e. labeling the shoes section of a website in a way that people looking to buy shoes can find what they’re looking for)
    • interaction design–making things behave the way people expect them to (i.e. giving an online shoe shopper clear feedback when he/she clicks on a button that the shoes have been added to a virtual shopping cart)
  • to enable students who are interested in pursuing user experience professionally to gain a sense of current hot topics in the field.  Personally, I’m interested in such topics as:
    • emotional design–making interfaces more than just usable…making them fun and memorable and meaningful.
    • adaptive design–creating designs that work on a variety of devices in a variety of contexts.
    • gamification–finding the game inherent in everything and using this knowledge to make interfaces more enjoyable to use
  • to evangelize for the importance of considering the user in all professions.  Prospective librarians, archivists, and others who don’t intend to pursue UX professionally will still benefit from joining [email protected] because they still work with users and thus still need to find ways to best identify and serve their users (aka “patrons”) needs.

4) What’s the best class you’ve taken at Simmons so far?

I most enjoyed (and learned most from) an independent study of mobile usability testing with Professor Rong Tang.  Rong is an expert in the field of usability, and with her, I was able to explore the various ways in which the mobile context differs from the traditional desktop context and to look at how usability testing might be changed to fit this new context. Fun fact: a Pew internet survey from April 2012 found that 42% of Americans age 18-29 use a phone as their primary method of accessing the internet. That means if you don’t account for mobile usage, you’re alienating a large portion of your potential audience.

5) If you had a super power what would it be? Would you use that power for good or evil?

I would have advanced telekinesis (which is probably cheating).  This telekinesis would allow me to manipulate matter finely on a small scale so that I could regenerate my cells making myself immortal, access the internet through direct mental contact, fly, read minds, freeze time, and all of the other things your run-of-the mill superheroes can do.  As long as I get to write my own story, no need to write in the limitations that make for interesting character development in popular works of sci-fi/fantasy, right? And of course, yes, I would use the power for “good,” but everyone assumes they’re acting for “good” so that doesn’t really say anything. I suppose the good I would do would be to avoid imposing my conception of what is “good” on other people.