Design & Discovery

The Design & Discovery department of the Library Information Technology (LIT) division provides expertise in program and project management, user experience research and design, digital accessibility, and front-end development. Our projects and initiatives involve staff from across LIT, the Library, the University of Michigan campus, and beyond. Contact the Design & Discovery team at

What We Do

Program and Project Management

We support an intentional strategic collection of library services, functions, or activities that span multiple departments and extended periods of time. We do:

  • Provide long-term planning, prioritization of strategic and tactical initiatives
  • Coordinate among LIT projects and resource stewardship initiatives, such as the Front Door project intake process
  • Design user-centered IT service models and cross-division workflows
  • Promote the adoption of technology policies and standards
  • Provide analytics-driven guidance for public discovery, access, and content systems
  • Lead research efforts in the use of internal library data

User Experience Research and Design

  • Promote user-centered design
  • Provide leadership and expertise in UX strategy
  • Assess and improve user workflows across the web presence
  • Provide analysis of UX research and web analytics to improve services

  • Conduct quantitative and qualitative user research

  • Offer expertise information architecture and content strategy

Digital Accessibility Expertise

  • Provide accessibility expertise to designers, developers, stakeholders
  • Develop team expertise on digital accessibility standards (WCAG, 508, ATAG, ARIA, EPUB) and accessible design best practices
  • Provide consistent, understandable and actionable web accessibility evaluations for library staff as needed
  • Provide consultations for LIT staff and create, maintain, and contribute to resources that promote a culture of incorporating accessibility into all development
  • Work closely with the Library Accessibility Specialist and the campus Council for Disability Concerns

Front-End Development

We create applications and employ mastery in front-end programming, user interface architecture, content management systems, and supporting web applications across our web presence. Our work powers infrastructure and services including:

  • Style guides, design systems, and supporting frameworks for use across IT applications
  • Content management systems like Drupal, Omeka, WordPress
  • The library website, library staff intranet, and many other library applications
  • Library Search, Course Reserves, MGet It, Favorites

Who We Are

  • Rachel Vacek, Head of Design & Discovery
  • Ken Varnum, Senior Program Manager for Discovery, Delivery, and Library Analytics
  • Heidi Burkhardt, Web Project Manager and Content Strategist
  • Robyn Ness, Senior User Experience Specialist
  • Albert Bertram, Web Applications Team Leader
  • Ben Howell, User Experience and Accessibility Specialist
  • User Interface Designer (we're currently conducting interviews)
  • Bridget Burke, Front-End Developer and Accessibility Specialist
  • Jonathan Earley, Front-End Developer and Accessibility Specialist
  • Senior Front-End Developer (Posting coming in October)
  • Eliot Scott, Drupal Developer
  • Nancy Moussa, Web Developer
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Last modified: 09/11/2018