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David Lee King

Extreme Customer Service at Darien Library



I recently visited Darien Library with the goal of checking out their innovative approach to technology – goal achieved! Check out the video in this post (and thanks to John Blyberg for the tour and for putting up with my video camera!). While their technology is amazingly cool, that’s not really what excited me. What excited me most was Darien’s idea of extreme customer service.

During my Darien visit, I had the privilege of chatting with Louise Berry, Alan Gray, and John Blyberg over lunch (great lunch, great conversation – thanks guys!). We talked about technology, new library buildings, and how we should be serving our library customers. Louise and Alan told me about their library’s core message – extreme customer service. Basically, they want to demonstrate extreme customer service in everything they do.

This idea of a “core message” is discussed in the book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath. Most of the book is devoted to making your core message “stick” – this is what Darien Library has done.

They even provided examples. During lunch, Louise, Alan and John mentioned an after-hours wine and cheese event they held at the library. The library was closed, but doors were open. Patrons not attending the event came in anyway … and guess what? They weren’t turned away – instead, they were allowed to check out books (RFID-based self-check-out machines help). Staff were even seen setting up new library cards for patrons. This is very different from what many libraries do. For most after-hours events, patrons would simply be told (nicely, I’m sure) to come back tomorrow.

So – one example of extreme customer service at Darien. You can find another example in the video. Watch for the mini laptops in the children’s area of the library. Those are staff public service laptops used for roaming reference type stuff. But listen to the children’s staff talk about them – kids pick those laptops up and use them. Patrons even use the public service desktop … and Darien’s staff is fine with that! When I asked about this, here’s what I heard: “why would we NOT allow that?”

John said the same thing later on in my tour (not captured on video). We were in a staff area, and I noticed someone had brought in her personal laptop. I asked what she could connect to … and John said staff can bring in their personal laptops and connect to Darien’s staff-only network. I pried a bit further, and this is when John said “why would we NOT allow that? It would simply hinder their work!” Then John went on to explain that they plan for the exceptions and fix those things, rather than lock down technology so much that it hinders the work of the library. Extreme customer service for their staff, too!

Does your library have a core message, and how does that play out? And … does your library lock technology down so much so that it hinders the work of the library? What would happen if you opened that can of worms up? Would any escape? Something to think about…

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