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David Lee King

Above and Beyond Customer Service



Director's desk and patronsSomething cool happened in my library a couple days ago. Take a peek at this picture, and let me explain the scene:

This elderly couple (you can’t see him, but there’s a man sitting down in the pic with the woman) came to the library with a specific task in mind – to look at some old slides from the 50′s and 60′s that had been turned into digital photos on a CD. The couple doesn’t own a PC, so they naturally thought “I’ll go to the library.”

Walking into our main doors, they met Gina, our library director, who was taking her turn at our Greeter Desk (we have a “grand rotunda” that looks amazing. It’s also a directional challenge, so we’ve been placing staff in the rotunda and calling it our Greeter Desk). They explained the problem, she said “sure, we can help,” then looked at me (I was chatting with her). I had the unfortunate task of reminding her that we don’t have CD drives in our public PCs (it’s an inherited problem – hopefully changing it soon!).

Gina gave it some thought for like 5 seconds, then asked me to take this fine couple up to her office to view their pictures. Yes, you heard that right – on a staff PC, in the Director’s office.

When they were done, I walked back to Gina. She looked at me, pointed a finger at me, and said “that’s 2.0, David.”

And I’d agree. No, it’s not really about technology. It’s not about using RSS feeds. But it DOES display the type of above-and-beyond customer focus that my library is developing. For us, that’s a 2.0 change for the better.

And… if you like that story and want to hear more from Gina, well… you’re in luck (that is, if you’re headed to Computers in Libraries). She and I will be giving the last presentation of the day in the Innovation and Change track on April 8. Here’s more about our session:

Title: Leading Technology in Libraries: Making Time for Web 2.0

Description: Millsap explores the digital divide between administration and staff and looks at how leadership is the key and technology the tool. She shares strategies for leading with technology, not in spite of it. King focuses on why libraries need to make time for Web 2.0; why they need to learn about and experiment with new tools; allowing staff the time needed to play with these tools; making time for Web 2.0; and facing change.

Stop by and say hi!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://meredith.wolfwater.com/wordpress/ Meredith

    That is so right, David! It’s not always about the whiz-bang tech stuff. It’s the little things like that. It’s making exceptions to rules and doing things out of the ordinary to meet the expectations/needs of our patrons.

    I remember once I was covering the circulation desk (our head of circ was out that day) and a faculty member came up with a book she needed to put on reserve immediately (apparently the bookstore didn’t have enough copies of that textbook for her whole class). Well, first of all, they’re supposed to give 48 hours notice. Second of all, the head of circ is the only one who knows how to put something on reserve in the system. My colleague came up and said “no we can’t do this. She’ll have to wait until the Head of Circ comes back.” I disagreed and another colleague and I mucked around with the circ system until I got the book listed as a reserve reading (not exactly the right way, but good enough).

    Sure, I was not following procedure, but it made the faculty member happy and it made her students happy. And if we’re here to support the academic mission of the University, we should care more about meeting those needs than following procedures. Fortunately, the Head of Public Services agreed with that attitude too. :)

    Looking forward to see you at CIL!

  • http://meredith.wolfwater.com/wordpress/ Meredith

    That is so right, David! It’s not always about the whiz-bang tech stuff. It’s the little things like that. It’s making exceptions to rules and doing things out of the ordinary to meet the expectations/needs of our patrons.

    I remember once I was covering the circulation desk (our head of circ was out that day) and a faculty member came up with a book she needed to put on reserve immediately (apparently the bookstore didn’t have enough copies of that textbook for her whole class). Well, first of all, they’re supposed to give 48 hours notice. Second of all, the head of circ is the only one who knows how to put something on reserve in the system. My colleague came up and said “no we can’t do this. She’ll have to wait until the Head of Circ comes back.” I disagreed and another colleague and I mucked around with the circ system until I got the book listed as a reserve reading (not exactly the right way, but good enough).

    Sure, I was not following procedure, but it made the faculty member happy and it made her students happy. And if we’re here to support the academic mission of the University, we should care more about meeting those needs than following procedures. Fortunately, the Head of Public Services agreed with that attitude too. :)

    Looking forward to see you at CIL!

  • http://shelfcheck.blogspot.com Emily Lloyd

    Yes!

    And that’s how I really feel. But the not-a-library-director-in-me also says, “I wish we were all empowered to do stuff like that. If I did it on short notice like that, then certainly the couple would be back, and deal with someone else in my library, and feel like, ‘Well, the OTHER librarian let me do it’…and we’d get a reminder at the staff meeting that we need to be consistent…and that we can’t be taking every Tom, Dick & Harry into the staff room…etc.”

    Good, good, GOOD to see a director with that sensibility.

  • http://marklindner.info/blog/ Mark

    I think this is a wonderful story, David, but I simply do not agree that it has a darn thing to do with 2.0 anything. It is simply good customer service. And not to be snarky but what if it was a 13-year old Goth kid all in black with spiky hair and large quantities of metal sticking out of his face? Would she have done the same?

    I could come up with countless stories like this that happened before O’Reilly coined “Web 2.0″ and everyone else borrowed it. Does that mean we were 2.0 before there was a 2.0?

    You (and many others) are certainly welcome to label this as 2.0 as you see fit. I am not trying to circumscribe your use of language, but it is one reason many of us tired a long time ago of this whole movement/meme or whatever you want to label it. It is about service and you either provide good service or you don’t.

    Has the idea of customer service shifted somewhat with the new tools and techniques available to us? Certainly. But that has been happening and will happen as long as there has been resembling customer service.

    Again, thank you for the heart warming story. To me, that is the point.

  • http://marklindner.info/blog/ Mark

    I think this is a wonderful story, David, but I simply do not agree that it has a darn thing to do with 2.0 anything. It is simply good customer service. And not to be snarky but what if it was a 13-year old Goth kid all in black with spiky hair and large quantities of metal sticking out of his face? Would she have done the same?

    I could come up with countless stories like this that happened before O’Reilly coined “Web 2.0″ and everyone else borrowed it. Does that mean we were 2.0 before there was a 2.0?

    You (and many others) are certainly welcome to label this as 2.0 as you see fit. I am not trying to circumscribe your use of language, but it is one reason many of us tired a long time ago of this whole movement/meme or whatever you want to label it. It is about service and you either provide good service or you don’t.

    Has the idea of customer service shifted somewhat with the new tools and techniques available to us? Certainly. But that has been happening and will happen as long as there has been resembling customer service.

    Again, thank you for the heart warming story. To me, that is the point.

  • davidleeking

    Hey Mark, thanks for your comments! As to the spiky-haired goth – yes, she would have done the same thing without blinking an eye (notice from the pic that I was sitting in her office with the patrons).

    As to the 2.0 thing – certainly fine to disagree! I’m using the looser, library 2.0 model found in wikipedia. Some of that relates more directly to emerging tech trends, but some of it relates more to an emerging model of user-centric customer service that’s different than what was found in a more traditional library.

    For example, see the comment directly above yours, from Emily. She says “I wish we were all empowered to do stuff like that.” There’s the difference I’m seeing in action.

  • davidleeking

    Hey Mark, thanks for your comments! As to the spiky-haired goth – yes, she would have done the same thing without blinking an eye (notice from the pic that I was sitting in her office with the patrons).

    As to the 2.0 thing – certainly fine to disagree! I’m using the looser, library 2.0 model found in wikipedia. Some of that relates more directly to emerging tech trends, but some of it relates more to an emerging model of user-centric customer service that’s different than what was found in a more traditional library.

    For example, see the comment directly above yours, from Emily. She says “I wish we were all empowered to do stuff like that.” There’s the difference I’m seeing in action.

  • http://marklindner.info/blog/ Mark

    Glad to hear that who the patron was is irrelevant. And I did catch that you were there from the post. :)

    David, I agree there has been a shift in some places in things like empowerment. Unfortunately, the comment above mine was being made while I was adding mine or I might have said something a tad different.

    But she also made another point there, and that is that this can still lead to the “But the other librarian let me do …” syndrome. And while there are ways to deal with it there will always be misunderstandings as to what is allowed no matter how empowered one is. Sure, it is progress. But no amount of empowerment or lists of rules can cover all the possible situations, nor will everyone agree on what we should allow patrons to do.

    And what if your library had been a tad busier and you or no one else was available? Does that mean you are now providing poor customer service? Does it mean you weren’t 2.0?

    I will not challenge Wikipedia either as I use it myself for many things. What I would challenge is the act of “definition” in the 1st place. Hard to get by without them, but once one has to go to the dictionary (or Wikipedia) to set the limits of discussion we are in the realm of (pure) rhetoric. If I (or anyone else) disagree with the meaning of, or even need for, a term then trotting out a definition is useless.

    But on that note then, if we have to use the term then I DO much prefer the looser definition. Certainly all the changes we are seeing (most incrementally evolutionary) are not *only* technologically-based.

    I guess I can (and do) live with the fact that “xxxx 2.0″ is shorthand for the above noted changes. If one were to check my delicious tags they’d notice I have tags for web 2.0 and library 2.0. That is not because I believe they are useful concepts but because it is hard to track and participate in a conversation if one isn’t willing to admit that the other folks are using some term.

    Perhaps in the end the use of this term falls back on a philosophical bent of one kind or the other. I really don’t object (too) much to people using it as I even need to on occasion. But my concern–and I guess my philosophy–is that it obscures far more than it has ever begun to illuminate. The breadth (and depth in a few cases) of change are far more complex than some simplistic term can cover.

    And on that note, keep up the awesome customer service and best of luck to you and your awesome sounding library. May your patrons benefit no matter what we label what we do.

  • http://marklindner.info/blog/ Mark

    Glad to hear that who the patron was is irrelevant. And I did catch that you were there from the post. :)

    David, I agree there has been a shift in some places in things like empowerment. Unfortunately, the comment above mine was being made while I was adding mine or I might have said something a tad different.

    But she also made another point there, and that is that this can still lead to the “But the other librarian let me do …” syndrome. And while there are ways to deal with it there will always be misunderstandings as to what is allowed no matter how empowered one is. Sure, it is progress. But no amount of empowerment or lists of rules can cover all the possible situations, nor will everyone agree on what we should allow patrons to do.

    And what if your library had been a tad busier and you or no one else was available? Does that mean you are now providing poor customer service? Does it mean you weren’t 2.0?

    I will not challenge Wikipedia either as I use it myself for many things. What I would challenge is the act of “definition” in the 1st place. Hard to get by without them, but once one has to go to the dictionary (or Wikipedia) to set the limits of discussion we are in the realm of (pure) rhetoric. If I (or anyone else) disagree with the meaning of, or even need for, a term then trotting out a definition is useless.

    But on that note then, if we have to use the term then I DO much prefer the looser definition. Certainly all the changes we are seeing (most incrementally evolutionary) are not *only* technologically-based.

    I guess I can (and do) live with the fact that “xxxx 2.0″ is shorthand for the above noted changes. If one were to check my delicious tags they’d notice I have tags for web 2.0 and library 2.0. That is not because I believe they are useful concepts but because it is hard to track and participate in a conversation if one isn’t willing to admit that the other folks are using some term.

    Perhaps in the end the use of this term falls back on a philosophical bent of one kind or the other. I really don’t object (too) much to people using it as I even need to on occasion. But my concern–and I guess my philosophy–is that it obscures far more than it has ever begun to illuminate. The breadth (and depth in a few cases) of change are far more complex than some simplistic term can cover.

    And on that note, keep up the awesome customer service and best of luck to you and your awesome sounding library. May your patrons benefit no matter what we label what we do.

  • http://librarybytes.com/ helene blowers

    Bravo Gina 2.0! What a great story.

  • http://librarybytes.com helene blowers

    Bravo Gina 2.0! What a great story.

  • http://www.legislature.idaho.gov/ Kristin Ford

    Honestly, I don’t even know what 2.0 is. To me, doing whatever you can to help your patron is just being a good librarian. I wouldn’t (and haven’t) hesitated to temporarily “loan” my own computer or printer or whatever the situation calls for, either. We are run on tax dollars. We’re here to help and I make sure my employees live to provide good service. I firmly believe, if you are going to do something, do it right! The issue of “but the other librarian let me…” is a real one, but I’ve been handling it the same way for nine years and have very rarely had a problem. That is, I always say (or my employees say) up front, “We may not always be able to do this for you, but….” or “We wouldn’t be able to do this on a regular basis for you, but….” and then proceed to help them. The customers seem to understand, appreciate and not take advantage of us. Keeping your employees in the loop understanding the REASON behind the policy being bent helps them make good decisions when they are on the “front” and I am not around to consult with. It enables them to make the decision to provide the service, yes or no, and if yes, to provide any safeguards or conditions that make the whole transaction satisfying to both sides.

  • http://www.legislature.idaho.gov Kristin Ford

    Honestly, I don’t even know what 2.0 is. To me, doing whatever you can to help your patron is just being a good librarian. I wouldn’t (and haven’t) hesitated to temporarily “loan” my own computer or printer or whatever the situation calls for, either. We are run on tax dollars. We’re here to help and I make sure my employees live to provide good service. I firmly believe, if you are going to do something, do it right! The issue of “but the other librarian let me…” is a real one, but I’ve been handling it the same way for nine years and have very rarely had a problem. That is, I always say (or my employees say) up front, “We may not always be able to do this for you, but….” or “We wouldn’t be able to do this on a regular basis for you, but….” and then proceed to help them. The customers seem to understand, appreciate and not take advantage of us. Keeping your employees in the loop understanding the REASON behind the policy being bent helps them make good decisions when they are on the “front” and I am not around to consult with. It enables them to make the decision to provide the service, yes or no, and if yes, to provide any safeguards or conditions that make the whole transaction satisfying to both sides.

  • Jeff Imparato

    Gina 2.0, I love it. I’m sure Gina 1.0 was fantastic, but when she came to the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, she brought back a customer service mentality not seen since the beloved Jim Marvin retired. As for updating the PCs to read CDs, given the technology shift and the ever increasing memory requirements, I would like to see us bypass the CD only philosophy, and go directly to the Read/Writeable DVD player capable of also reading CDs.

  • Jeff Imparato

    Gina 2.0, I love it. I’m sure Gina 1.0 was fantastic, but when she came to the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, she brought back a customer service mentality not seen since the beloved Jim Marvin retired. As for updating the PCs to read CDs, given the technology shift and the ever increasing memory requirements, I would like to see us bypass the CD only philosophy, and go directly to the Read/Writeable DVD player capable of also reading CDs.

  • Terry

    I have done this numerous times for people, but I just use the computer at one of the staff desks. I guess I just thought this was part of my excellent customer service skills. Also, because we have no CD drives on the public computers, what’s a person to do? 100% agree with Kristin, above.

  • Terry

    I have done this numerous times for people, but I just use the computer at one of the staff desks. I guess I just thought this was part of my excellent customer service skills. Also, because we have no CD drives on the public computers, what’s a person to do? 100% agree with Kristin, above.

  • Valerie

    Kudos to those of you who don’t have to get a pat on the back just to do what comes naturally to us customer service inclined librarians. Why wouldn’t you help anyone in anyway you can?

  • Valerie

    Kudos to those of you who don’t have to get a pat on the back just to do what comes naturally to us customer service inclined librarians. Why wouldn’t you help anyone in anyway you can?

  • http://rambleonsylvie.blogspot.com/ sylvie

    so cool,
    it is 2.0 in so much as the 2.0 tech stuff can’t exist in a vacuum and is still too often “killed in the egg” when boards and/or director try to support 2.0 service models while continuing to insist on 1.0 organization and managment model.
    kudos

  • http://rambleonsylvie.blogspot.com/ sylvie

    so cool,
    it is 2.0 in so much as the 2.0 tech stuff can’t exist in a vacuum and is still too often “killed in the egg” when boards and/or director try to support 2.0 service models while continuing to insist on 1.0 organization and managment model.
    kudos

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  • http://shelfcheck.blogspot.com/ Emily Lloyd

    Yes!

    And that's how I really feel. But the not-a-library-director-in-me also says, “I wish we were all empowered to do stuff like that. If I did it on short notice like that, then certainly the couple would be back, and deal with someone else in my library, and feel like, 'Well, the OTHER librarian let me do it'…and we'd get a reminder at the staff meeting that we need to be consistent…and that we can't be taking every Tom, Dick & Harry into the staff room…etc.”

    Good, good, GOOD to see a director with that sensibility.