Meet the Librarians: Hollie Gardner

What do the graduate student lounge, the chairs, and the Fondren library website all have in common? The User Experience (UX) Librarian and Marketing Team Lead Hollie Gardner.

Gardner started her journey as a librarian as the morning and, later, the night supervisor in the music library at the University of North Texas where she got her bachelor’s degree in music. “I ended up making the UNT music library my home throughout my undergraduate career,” she said. “Even though I was shifting around in my majors and trying to figure out the rest of my life, that was the one consistent thing [in my life]. It was always my happy place.”

 

As an UX librarian at Southern Methodist University, Gardner spends most of her time revamping the website.

“Whenever I think of user experience in the library, I think of all the different touchpoints,” she said. “You’ve got the obvious one like the website, which is the thing that first comes to mind. You’ve also got the facilities [such as] the chairs. I’ve had multiple samples of chairs [come into my office], and people sit in the different chairs to test them out. Then we have them vote for which ones are the best for the work that you’re going to do.”

Her hard work pays off when she hears stories about those who spend their whole day at Fondren Library, seeking out different spaces to study and work. “We have different spaces that meet different need states,” she said. “But that’s exactly what we wanted, making the most of the space in the ways they need to.”

 

Outside of curating spaces, Gardner spends her time working with the Director of the Master’s in Design and Innovation Programs (MADI) Jessica Burnham.

“I’ve been working with [Burnham] to design assignments, figure out the best places to go for research, not only inside the library but outside the library. That’s kind of one of my big things is whenever students graduate they won’t have access to the same types of resources, so I want to make sure they are able to find relevant work to support their work in the not university world and that they know the resources they still have access to as alumni here at SMU.”

 

Ultimately, Garden’s job can be summed up with the quote on the whiteboard in her office: “If you want people to do something, make it easy.”

For Gardner, that means simplifying things as to make them more accessible. “If you want people to use good information, then make it easier for them to get good information,” she said. “If you want them to cite things correctly, then make it easier for them to cite things correctly.”

 

Interview conducted by Author Wren Lee, SMU ’22 Creative Computation and Film and Media Arts Pre-Major and Fondren Library Marketing Department Student Assistant

Meet the Librarians: Jonathan McMichael

 User Experience Librarian

Originally a teacher, User Experience (UX) Librarian Jonathan McMichael found his interest in librarianship while getting his Master’s in Education. “In my first year of real teaching after student teaching, we had to take classes to get a Master’s degree, and they were night classes,” McMichael said. “In between teaching and [my classes], I fell asleep in the library, woke up, and heard somebody asking about UN documents. I heard the librarian ask a bunch of questions. As a teacher, I know asking a bunch of questions is an effective strategy for getting people to think. [The librarian was] asking these questions in very specific ways that made me realize that they were helping this person realize what they actually needed and figuring what their information need was. And I thought, ‘This is really fascinating’.”

McMichael’s background in education has strongly impacted his time here at Southern Methodist University. His desire to be a librarian stems from a similar love for teaching. “I teach because I want to work with people who are genuinely curious about finding and using information,” he said.

Teaching has even bled into the UX work McMichael does. “Teaching is so much about empathy,” he said. “Everybody makes sense of the world in a different way. When you can start to realize that and see the nuances of how people work it out in their mind and appreciate it, your prior knowledge changes the way you would make sense of it. It means that if you’re going to have a UX design, it’s not going to be one size fits all because people bring so many different things to the table. But you can notice patterns, and you can notice trends on how people are making sense of things.”

For McMichael, UX design is strongly tied to designing curriculum and working with the professors to help guide their students through research. Not only does he work as an UX librarian, but he also works as the DISC librarian, helping the first-year students.

“I love the fact that there’s an interesting thing that is happening in colleges within first year,” he said. “People are making choices about who they’re going to be for the next decade or so in life. I think that’s a really influential time, so you get these seminal moments in someone’s life. Secondarily, it’s also where I see a lot of need. Adapting to a university environment is challenging for a lot of students, almost every student, because it’s brand new. It just so happens that the newest people to the group are the ones that don’t get it the best. If they don’t get it the best, they sometimes can become marginalized or frustrated, so there’s also probably a little bit of that.”

His love of learning has led McMichael to working at SMU. “In general, just working at universities is really fascinating,” he said. “I love the fact that there is an institution that is oriented to the generation of knowledge. I still think about it, having worked in it for 10 years now. It’s amazing that it exists. And it’s so well-funded and has such a prominent place in society, which I think is awesome. It’s just incredible [being] where learning is happening. I love being around learning. I’m addicted to the sense of people becoming the thing they’re going to be and figuring things out. It’s happening around me all the time.”

 

Interview conducted by Author Wren Lee, SMU ’22 Creative Computation and Film and Media Arts Pre-Major and Fondren Library Marketing Department Student Assistant