One fun panel presentation ("If Fish Markets Can Do It So Can We") involved the first competitive fish toss in ACRL history. Unlike the huge salmon and halibut that the fishmongers at Seattle's Pike Place Fish Market throw around at each other (and sometimes at unsuspecting customers), these were plush fish toys that four hardy volunteers agreed to pitch dramatically into a receptacle. A Russian librarian (left, named Ekaterina, I think) won the competition. The whole point, as Temple Associate University Librarian Steven Bell explained, was to show that libraries need to fashion a memorable user experience (UX) in addition to providing essential information. According to Rutgers Associate University Librarian Valeda Dent Goodman, the UX involves psychological, interactive, and value-based components. "Starbucks sells coffee, but their success is based on something else" — customers value the experience because they remember the friendly or innovative interaction with the store's baristas. As the poster child for a successful user experience, Starbucks is in the same category as Google, Apple, and the BlackBerry in developing simple, trustworthy, and innovative products that focus on people's participation.
Brian Mathews, user experience librarian at Georgia Tech, mentioned some of the ways his library did usability testing on library spaces as they prepared for a recent renovation: "We tried storyboarding, psychodemographics, mapping, and decision trees to find out why the user experience works for some people and not others." When users complain, you have to listen, Bell emphasized, but you have to go beyond their recommendations. Henry Ford said that if he had asked people how they wanted to improve their transportation, they would have said "faster horses," not an affordable new car like the Model T.