Showing Patrons the Door

First, a funny story. When I lived in Nashville, I frequented a cool used record store. During one trip, I was trying to decide whether or not to buy a couple of old jazz cassette tapes (hey – I was on a tight budget).

The tiny shelf these cassette tapes were on was packed WAY too tightly, so when I tried to pull one cassette out to examine it, 2-3 others would fall out at the same time. And make lots of noise as they hit the floor (it was tile, of course). This happened a couple of times … in a row … and was pretty embarrassing!

So – to ease my embarrassment at not being able to figure out how to successfully pull a cassette tape off the shelf, a “helpful” shop security guard came over to me. He stood behind me, stared at me for a second, and said (and I quote) – “you’ve got 10 minutes, then you’d better be out of my store.” Then he walked away.

Boy, that helped. Thanks :-) That day, the store essentially “showed me the door” in no uncertain terms. Even though the problem wasn’t me – it was their tightly-packed shelf.

Now on to the title of this post, and to my point. Showing patrons the door? Yikes – we’d never do that (under normal circumstances, anyway)! Unlike the silly used record shop, librarians would never consciously walk up to a patron and tell them to leave if that patron was having trouble using something in the library … right?

I think we DO sometimes tell our patrons to leave when we make things difficult for them. We might as well be saying “here’s the door, don’t let it hit you on the way out.”

For example, if your library has a blog, do you moderate those comments? Quickly? I know of libraries that can go 1-2 weeks before they get around to moderating comments. In and of itself, moderating a comment is fine, as long as they are moderated fast (like within 1-4 hours). Blog posts are supposed to be the start of a conversation; comments continue that conversation. If those comments aren’t approved at least in the same day, you have essentially killed that conversation. To me, that sounds like showing patrons the door.

Is your website confusing? Do customers have to puzzle out what they need to do next while on your site? If so … your website is showing patrons the door. Same with our catalogs – a confusing catalog might just steer customers away from checking stuff out – and that’s one of our major, must-have services!

Do you let patrons sign up for a library card online (some libraries don’t)? How about having an online sign-up form that asks for WAY too much info? That’s a sure-fire way to show patrons the door.

What labels and naming schemes do you use on your site? Using heavy-duty librarian jargon might just be a great way to usher patrons towards the door.

How about not having a Facebook Page (or even blocking Facebook altogether)? Or simply doubting that your patrons use Facebook (without actually signing up for a Facebook account and checking)? Yet another way to show a group of very active, involved patrons the door.

Other ways to show patrons the door might include hard to find stuff on your website, hidden content, or even library services that aren’t mentioned anywhere on your website.

So – what do you think? What else shows patrons the door, and how can we fix that?

Pic by Cayusa

  • duh

    cultivate self-learners. if a patron does x several times in a row and causes a disturbance (say, like extricating one single cassette tape from a row of cassette tapes), then assume that they'll never learn to follow implied policy and show them the door.

  • davidleeking

    Honestly, I think it'd be better to review the policy – it's obviously
    not working as intended.


  • Charm Ruhnke

    A major “shows patrons the door” is not having a Web site. I am amazed at how many public libraries don't have a Web site.

    Or how about dropping evening hours?

  • davidleeking

    Wow – and you're right. That WOULD be a major one, I'd think. Thanks for adding that!

  • Jeff Imparato

    I actually had a patron call this afternoon and ask if we blocked Facebook. It sounded like she had been at other libraries that did. I told her in no uncertain terms that Facebook is a social network, and we encourage the use of social networks.

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  • davidleeking

    Thanks, Jeff, and you're right. I'm participating in the 23 Things Kansas program – there are several school libraries that do block social networks like Facebook, etc. They are having to work around those filters to participate.

  • Colleen Harris

    I think an unintentional “showing patrons the door” is that when public libraries reduce hours, it is inevitably the weekday evening hours (and ususally shorter hours on weekends), and the bulk of the programming happens from 8-5 and is directed at seniors or pre-school aged children. By not choosing at least one weekday to be open later, libraries are effectively telling adults who work 8-5 that they are not welcome. I understand the budget issues that lead to this, absolutely, and I do not think there is an easy answer. But after talking with some fellow community members, I wonder how much libraries understands that it has “shown the door” to an entire segment of the population.

  • davidleeking

    Good point! Really, if a library needs to reduce hours … shouldn't it be that 9am-2pm time slot that is reduced? The library NEEDS to be open in the 5pm-10pm range to be available for the most patrons, I'd think. Same with programming – do them on the evenings and weekends.

  • Canvas Stretching Machine

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