Use the Front Door

A front door in Delft

If your library’s like mine, you have staff-only ways to access library stuff … things like employee parking, a staff-only entrance, a back-end way to access the library catalog, etc. Whenever I put a book on hold, I get it delivered via inter-office mail.

I never have to use the library like a patron if I don’t want to!

My question – is this a good thing?

Try using your library like a patron. Is it easy or hard? Is there something that frustrates you about the whole process? It’s probably doing the same thing to your patrons.

Here’s a thought – maybe we should create a “Work Like a Patron” week, where we only use the library like our customers do – use your library’s wifi (bonus points for using a Public PC), search using the patron version of your catalog, maybe even sit at those lovely desks in the library. Or hang out in a cafe, accessing all work- and library-related stuff from outside of the building. Use the front door, and see the library through your patrons’ eyes.

This works for the IT department, too. Use library employee tools like … library employees, rather than like IT dudes and dudettes. Is it hard? If so … it’s probably hard for the rest of the library, too. Make it work for everyone!

If it works wonderfully, great! If not, maybe you have some things to improve.

  • Kathleen

    Great suggestion! Not working directly IN a library but FOR libraries, from time to time I like to work in my local library branch (which RULES – I’m lucky enough to live in King County Library System area) and experience the library from the patron view point as well as interact with library staff. It always makes me feel really good about the work we do here at WebJunction!

  • Erica

    I rarely use the front door when I get to work because there are several locked doors between the front door and my desk, but I do receive my holds with the patron holds and I check out my books on the floor (my books aren’t on the floor, the check-out stations are) and I go to the reference desk with questions instead of IMing/e-mailing. That’s how we find a lot of the glitches in the system. It’s also how I wind up fielding questions I can’t always answer (thank goodness I always know who can) – that’s when it’s scary for catalogers to be patrons. And being scared is better than drinking three cups of coffee to stay awake in the afternoons.

  • Dsieradzki

    Don’t forget overdue fines and returning items late.  I try to give the patrons the same perks as the staff, we eliminated fines, tell people not to worry about being a few days late, allow quiet cell phone calls, and other conversations that routinely go on at the desk.  I always thought it was hypocritical to ban cell phone use while staff walked around with a cordless phone answering questions or troubleshooting a problem.

  • Robin Hastings

    I’ve written about my experiences working the circulation desk as the IT manager and how it really helped to keep me informed about what challenges the circ desk people go through in regards to their technology. Stuff that they never even considered asking about could easily be changed/adjusted so that things run more smoothly. Without that experience, though, I’d have no idea that things needed to be changed and they’d have no idea that those irritations were changeable. Cross-training and stepping out of your department is just as valuable as using the library as a patron!

  • Marianne Reddin Aldrich

    Dunno about a whole week (patrons need to find me at my desk), but people have been doing Work Like a Patron Day for some time – I think Brian Herzog was the first to suggest it, back in 2008:

  • Moreno Barros

    more importantly: try using the library restroom, not the staff one.

  • Pingback: Swiss Army Librarian » Work Like A Patron Day 2011 :: Brian Herzog()