International Symposium on User Experience at the University of Pretoria: A Resounding Success

Posted on November 27, 2023

The University of Pretoria's Department of Library Services hosted a successful second biennial International Symposium, this time with a dedicated focus on user experience. The International Symposium on User Experience took place at the University of Pretoria Groenkloof Campus in Pretoria from 19-21 September 2023.

The prestigious event was opened by UP's Vice Principal for Research, Innovation, and Postgraduate Education, Prof. Sunil Maharaj. The symposium aimed to provide a platform for learning, knowledge exchange, and interactive discussions about user experience in libraries. The symposium boasted a diverse program featuring keynote speakers, workshops, and a panel discussion, all centred on various facets of User Experience. While primarily targeting librarians, information professionals, researchers, and library students, the symposium also drew interest and participation from higher education professionals in student administrative roles, attracting local and international delegates and speakers from 15 national and international institutions.

The symposium kicked off with a pre-symposium workshop on 19 September, led by Andy Priestner, a distinguished figure in the field hailing from the UK. With an impressive track record and valuable insights, Mr. Priestner's workshop served as an excellent prelude to the enriching discussions that followed.

On September 20-21, four internationally recognised keynote speakers graced the event, sharing their profound insights and experiences in User Experience. Prof. Hanlie Smuts, Head of the Department of Informatics at UP, Andy Priestner, the seasoned UK-based UX research and design consultant and trainer, industry expert Reinier Rademan from Porcupine Union in Pretoria, and Dr Leo Appleton, a Master’s program leader at the University of Sheffield in the UK, captivated the audience with their expertise.

The keynote speakers impeccably aligned their discussions with the symposium's central theme of building human-centred libraries. They emphasised the significance of human experiences and the need to orient library services around people. Moreover, they clarified that UX isn't solely about fulfilling user requests, but rather about exploring deeper into their thoughts and feelings about our services and how they use them. The symposium's emphasis on human-centred libraries carried immense significance, recognising libraries not merely as knowledge repositories but as dynamic spaces continuously evolving to meet user needs and expectations.

Acknowledging the underrepresentation of African libraries in the realm of UX, the International Symposium on User Experience aimed to bridge this gap by fostering a platform for learning, knowledge exchange, and vibrant discussions. This symposium was indeed an enriching experience, offering ample networking opportunities and avenues for collaboration to foster knowledge exchange among delegates. It served as a platform for the Department of Library Services to showcase its dedication to innovation and user-centric approaches to library services.

Ten presenters shared valuable insights into their UX research projects across various institutions. This included among others: institutional repositories, training enhancements in library digital platforms, cross-generational studies, library spaces, and the establishment of UX teams. The symposium concluded with a panel discussion amplifying diverse perspectives and strategies for designing compelling library environments, as well as parallel workshops exploring storytelling through space and virtual user experience research strategies.

As the symposium drew to a close, the Department of Library Services marked the success of the event and its commitment to fostering user-centric libraries sets the stage for future innovations and collaborations in reshaping the library experience.

To see many exciting images of the International Symposium, please click here!

- Author Elmar Snyman and Kabelo Kgarosi

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