Working with Donna

photo by Cindy Jennings

What’s it like to work with me?  The people below have brought me in to work with them on developing processes, people, and systems.   They have also been kind enough to put into words what working with me is like.

Kim Tairi, Kaitoha Puka/University Librarian, Auckland University of Technology/Te Wangana Aronui o Tāmaki Makaurau

Donna Lanclos came to Auckland University of Technology in Aotearoa, New Zealand in her capacity and an anthropologist and ethnographer. I was interested in working with Donna because of her experience and knowledge of higher education sector in particular her work with academic libraries.

She designed a program for AUT that was innovative, interactive and engaging. Her facilitation skills are wonderful. The group were mostly librarians with a passion for user experience research including ethnographic methodologies.

After giving us an understanding of her work, Donna was able to provide us with the scaffolding and confidence we needed during the morning to undertake some observation work within the University, during the afternoon.

It was practical and fun workshop for all those involved. Her expertise, warmth, knowledge and dynamic presence guarantees a great workshop.

Donna Lanclos is smart, sassy and terrific facilitator. “

Maura Smale, Professor, Chief Librarian and Department Chair, Ursula C. Schwerin Library, New York City College of Technology, CUNY

I have been learning from and collaborating with Donna for nearly a decade, and so appreciate the opportunities to work with a colleague who is so clearly dedicated to the mission and success of libraries and higher education. Donna’s background in anthropology and ethnographic research enables her to deftly combine scholarship with research-informed practice in libraries, colleges, and universities. Her research in the US and the UK has revealed crucial insights into student and faculty lived experiences that inform improvements in and beyond the institutions where she’s worked.

With my research partner and CUNY colleague Mariana Regalado, we have been fortunate to present with Donna at the American Anthropological Association meetings, the ACRL national conference, and the Library Assessment Conference, among others. Donna’s standout contribution to “Academic Libraries for Commuter Students: Research-based Strategies” (ALA, 2018), the volume Mariana and I edited, illuminated the ways that student-parents use and can benefit from specific library services, a sure strategy for supporting these students during their time in college. Donna is a smart, enthusiastic, and considerate collaborator, and I’m always eager for the chance to work with her!”

Andrew Preater – Director of Library Services, University of West London.

I have been learning from and collaborating with Donna in technical and management and leadership roles in higher education since 2014. Since then I have been privileged to have my thinking and practice about usability and user experience (UX) of library digital and physical spaces shaped by Donna’s research and scholarly practice, and after seeing the way Donna inspires audiences as a speaker I have sought opportunities to bring her insights to colleagues in my workplaces.

In my previous workplace, Imperial College London, I invited Donna to run a day of training for Library Services staff to provide professional development in research methods and ethnographic observation techniques. This included a workshop in a classroom setting, and a practical exercise for Library Services staff at one of our sites – both of these were tailored to our needs, sensitive to newly-developed strategic priorities for UX work, and informed by Donna’s knowledge and experience of UK higher education. Our staff found Donna to be responsive, challenging, observant, and helpful in reframing our preconceptions and developing our understanding of what has proved to be an immensely useful set of methods and analytical lenses.

I have found Donna to be a generous, thoughtful, and insightful colleague. She understands how to develop rapport with teams of staff across different levels of both seniority and experience, and her inclusive approach combined with her critically-reflective insight into practice has had a lasting positive impact on teams I have worked with.

Peter Bryant, Associate Dean (Education), Associate Professor, University of Sydney Business school

Donna brings informed criticality to her work as a facilitator, change agent and speaker.  Working with an engaged understanding of the issues and practices within the sector, she applies the tools of critical thinking, reflection and rigorous methodological insight to unpack and interrogate the wicked and thorny problems of our sector.”

Selena Killick, Senior Library Manager (Engagement & Insight), Open University

“I arranged for Donna to deliver a workshop with our Library team and others in the University as we sought to increase our UX research and capabilities within the team. Donna was able to provide a workshop that met our needs perfectly, tailoring the content for our circumstances and audience alike. Within the session she quickly established rapport with a team of colleagues at varying levels of experience who had limited experience of working together. The skills that she imparted have been adopted and deployed by the team, allowing them to go onto deliver insight gathering activities in new and creative ways. The findings of this work has helped our library strategy to develop and grow. Overall she is a joy to work with and excellent at delivering training in an engaging manager.”

Cindy Jennings, Director of Learning Technologies, University of South Carolina, Upstate

I have had the good fortune to be able to bring Donna Lanclos to our institution twice. For the first visit, she facilitated a day-long workshop with a small group on my campus who were working on a digital literacy building project. Donna is one of those especially gifted persons who can translate her deep expertise as a scholar and researcher into something immediately practical for workshop participants. Most impressive is her ability to help participants reflect upon their own practice and gain new insights as she guides them through a well-crafted series of provocations. Participants in that day reflected long after about the new ideas and ways of thinking they left with – and how much just plain fun they had just spending time with Donna.

Donna came to our campus again very recently to help us think about active learning and student engagement. Again, she crafted an experience for us that helped us clarify our own understandings of the work we are doing. It was especially meaningful to me as organizer of both of her visits how careful Donna was to reach out before hand and understand our goals and intentions for the workshops. She used our prior conversations and brainstorms to customize the actual work to make it fit our organizational context.”

Kerry Pinny, Senior Learning Technologist, University of Warwick

“Donna’s work has, and continues to have, an influence on my professional practice. Her work on digital identity, practice, spaces and leadership has been incredibly formative for me. Her ‘people first’ approach has always been something I admire. It is the combination of Donna’s critical and reflective approach, rigorous research and sound insight that has established her reputation as someone with valuable insights to share with the sector.

Having been an audience member, on several occasions, I have found Donna to be an entertaining, captivating and thought provoking speaker. Based on the strength of my experiences, I have invited Donna to speak at events and conferences I have organised. As a facilitator on the Jisc Digital Leaders programme, I found Donna able to achieve the tricky balance between supporting and encouraging participants and challenging their assumptions, ideas and practices. Donna works hard to ensure all participants feel able to contribute and ask questions. Donna is not afraid to be questioned or challenged by participants in fact, it’s actively encouraged. Donna’s speaking and facilitation is reflective, thoughtful and most importantly, practical. I have always finished a Donna session with something to work on and more to think about.”

Deirdre Costello, MLIS, Senior UX researcher, Toast. Inc.

“I first met Donna when she gave an engaging and inspiring keynote about the value of qualitative research, and how powerful it can be to hear the people you serve tell their own stories. This talk heavily influenced my practice as a UX Researcher and gave me much-needed tools to advocate for qualitative methods with quantitative-minded stakeholders. After this experience, the Research team brought Donna to EBSCO to talk about this topic and we began to see a genuine difference in stakeholders’ approach to centering users in discussions about product.

After seeing Donna inspire many more audiences, I brought her on to the Research team at EBSCO as a consultant for a Contextual Inquiry with faculty members. Donna onboarded seamlessly onto the team, and was able to educate team members and stakeholders on both the process and the value of the process simultaneously. Donna conducted sessions both with the team and independently, and came back to EBSCO to help us synthesize the findings through Affinity Diagramming workshops with stakeholders. I really saw Donna shine in these moments as I watched her passion for the narratives coming out of the data spark passion in those around her.

In short, Donna is an excellent researcher and an inspiring speaker. She can help you go beyond just doing the research to changing the way an organization thinks about their users in a way that can have real and lasting impact.”

Matt Finch, consultant

“Donna Lanclos is a passionate, principled thinker whose research and practice helps institutions to understand and transform their relationship with the community they serve. Working with Donna helps you to reflect and act on the fields of information management, physical and digital institutional space, teaching and learning.

 Donna is a highly engaging speaker whose presentations make compelling, energising contributions to our professional discourse, grounded in ethnographic methods and data. I regularly use Donna’s research in my workshops. She brings a useful anthropological perspective which arms people with tools for analysis and informed decision-making. I share Donna’s work with clients to help them think in ethnographic terms about how they engage with their users.”

Simon Collins. Information Specialist. Library and Learning Services  Kingston University (CPD25 task group 3 member)

We were privileged to have Donna address our cpd25 User Experience – Understanding the notion of the user and applying UX techniques event in London in April 2018, whilst Donna was resident in the UK. She was an excellent speaker and workshop host. The event was open to Academic Librarians across London (UK) and the South East of England. Donna’s presentation was on Deconstructing the notion of “user”, followed by a hands-on activity on cognitive mapping.  Donna’s enthusiasm, expertise and passion for her subject is infectious. The event was fun and creative but also extremely useful to all participants. We got some great feedback:

 ‘Donna’s talk was very engaging and enjoyable – felt very inspired’

‘I thought Donna’s talk was extremely inspiring and made me take a long look at why we might do UX and what good it can accomplish.’

‘Particularly enjoyed session by Donna Lanclos’

‘Fascinating to hear Donna’ “

Chris Thomson, Team Leader, Digital Practice, Jisc

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Donna for a number of years now, mostly around the topics of digital practice, leadership and use of narrative in education.

Donna has brought a fresh, challenging perspective to this work that has been instrumental in developing Jisc’s approach as well as my own ethos and direction. Her work around the behaviours and relationships associated with the use of technology for learning and communication has been an underpinning aspect of Jisc’s Digital Leaders Programme and as such is helping to shape the practice and mind set of current and future generations of leaders in higher and further education in this country.

Donna’s work is rooted in a solid, scholarly approach to understanding behaviours and communities as well as challenging underlying, pervasive assumptions about digital technologies, relationships and society. The work I observed her undertaking on behalf of Jisc to understand the nature of teaching practice was an exemplar in academic rigour and sheer hard work.

As a speaker and facilitator she successfully blends the role of friend and helper with agent provocateur and her style is naturally engaging and motivational. I’ve noticed how Donna builds effective relationships with people on the sessions she facilities and how she maintains these well after the event becoming a key figure in a large number of people’s personal development networks including mine.”

Ian Clark, University of East London

“We were very fortunate to have Donna come to the University of East London and deliver a workshop on user experience in academic libraries. Donna’s style was very much collaborative, engaging and flexible, taking into account the varying needs and experiences of everyone within the group. She engaged with staff at all levels and ensured everyone’s voice could be heard, imbuing in everyone a passion for exploring our service more deeply and examine how we can improve and enhance it for our students.”

Bryony Ramsden, Subject Librarian with User Experience responsibility, at the University of Huddersfield

Donna is an entertaining and engaging speaker. Her talk at the University of Huddersfield on using ethnographic methods to collect data was thought provoking, innovative, and prompted many staff from various departments across campus to investigate how they could take her ideas and suggestions forward.”

Margy MacMillan, Senior Researcher, Project Information Literacy; Professor Emeritus, Mt. Royal University Library

[excerpts from the letter written post-workshop]

“Thank you for an incredibly useful professional development session…Coming at a time of great change for the Mount Royal Library and other departments as we move into a new building and look for ways to work together, the workshop provided a much-needed space to step back, ponder, and build understanding among the people who will be sharing a space, and we hope much more. The high level of engagement throughout the day, the depth of the conversations and the outcomes of the exercises all bode well for the future.

…Our advance discussions demonstrated your focus on people, rather than technology, and your emphasis on the human element was a refreshing change from other sessions that tend to be driven by the latest computer-based, all-purpose, miracle cures. Many participants noted that the workshop exemplified active learning, with an emphasis on working with the tools and content you provided.

Participants came away feeling valued, and with a greater agency in working with the changes in their environment to accomplish their goals, where before some had said it was a struggle to see themselves in the new building or find their role in a time where everything seemed to be changing. This was, truly, what I hoped would happen, particularly for members of the library staff. The activities you set up first encouraged a depth of reflection they often don’t have time for in their front-line work, and then expanded that to collaborative discussions where their experiences and ideas mattered. Bringing members of different units together for these discussions opened perceptions about each other’s work and will, I hope, lead to joint initiatives as we inhabit the new space together.

For all who attended, from Student Learning Services, the Academic Development Centre, and the Library, there were the added benefits of seeing a master teacher in action. As one participant said, your energy was inspiring! A number commented on how effectively you led efficient group work from setup to reporting, and a few said they were going to steal some of your techniques for their own teaching. …Your ability to connect theory and practice, to address questions based on deep knowledge of available evidence, and your ability to communicate effectively to an audience with widely divergent experiences, concerns, and roles are inspiring.

The reverberations from the day will be felt for some time to come, as people take greater notice of the how and why they do things, act on some of the aspects they wanted to change, and build on relationships that began at the workshop. Your workshop created a space for us to build on common experiences, examine assumptions, and develop a shared language to communicate across tasks and departments.”