Meet Laura Zeigen User Experience Librarian at OHSU

From time to time the OLA Library Assessment Round Table would like to introduce you to library assessment folks in Oregon. This way you can become familiar with what kinds of assessment expertise there is among our colleagues and OLA members, as well as be inspired by their assessment activities. With that in mind, let me introduce you to Laura Zeigen, User Experience Librarian at OHSU where she will suggest some user experience resources and touch on what libraries can learn from the French Revolution.

Please introduce yourself to the OLA Library Assessment Round Table blog readers. (Who are you?, What do you? Where do you work? How long have you lived in Oregon? Etc.)

My name is Laura Zeigen. I am the User Experience Librarian at Oregon Health & Science University. I primarily am a reference librarian, but I also work with my library colleagues to do user experience testing and other forms of assessment. It is important to keep our pulse on the vibe of our constituencies! I have lived in Oregon since grade school and feel a vested interest to the people of the state of Oregon to make sure we are adequately training our students in appropriate information searching, retrieval, evaluation and management. Part of communicating these pieces adequately involves understanding our users’ contexts so how we present these ideas makes the most sense to them.

What are some cool or favorite aspects of your job?

I know it probably sounds cliché to say this, but one of my favorite aspects of my job is the people, both the people with whom I work in the OHSU Library and the larger community of OHSU and Alliance libraries (and no, John Helmer did not prompt me to say that) and our patrons, particularly the students. Another one of my favorite aspects of my job is that I am constantly learning, whether about how to better conduct 1-1 interviews or a search strategy or about the changing structure of health care.

What library assessment or evaluation projects have you been involved with?

Although I was not directly involved with our LibQUAL+ survey in 2008, I used the results of this to triangulate against data we gathered from other online surveys and 1-1 interviews with a variety of users across campus. We used this information to help develop the charge of the OHSU Library User Experience Team and it has guided our efforts since then. Most recently we did some 1-1 testing on our interlibrary loan pages to assess the mental models of how our users were thinking this process should go versus what they were seeing on our pages. We are in the process of implementing changes based on what we found and will be putting up a page describing the study and findings soon.

What books, articles, or resources would you recommend reading about some aspect of library assessment that interests you? 

UXMag ( is a great source for information specific to user experience. Some of it is specific to assessment in an obvious way, but almost all of the information there helps support ideas around assessment. Likewise, any book by Rosenfeld Media is excellent, particularly “Mental Models” by Indy Young. How can you assess what you are doing if you are not able to get inside your users’ minds? Part of assessment is trying to figure out this gap between expectation and reality of the services we provide. My Rock Star Goddess of library assessment is Megan Oakleaf(, who is currently a professor in the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University. If you want to learn more about library assessment, start by reading through everything on her web site.

What lessons could libraries learn from the French Revolution?

The 18th century French monarchy did not do a very good job of staying in touch with their people. If they had had more awareness of the discontent amongst the nobles, merchant classes, and peasants, perhaps through doing an 18th century version of an environmental scan, and had they used their findings to respond to the needs expressed by the people, there probably wouldn’t have needed to be a French Revolution.  I am sure there are historians who would dispute that any such assessment would have been enough to make this much of a difference due to the other economic and social issues at the time, but I think it might have given the revolutionaries pause. Obviously the 18th century French monarchy would have none of this.

Take home message: if you don’t want your people to riot or storm the library, do assessment early and often and respond appropriately.

Many thanks to Rick Stoddart for letting me include this question in the interview!



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