Interesting to Us or to our Customers?

I was just reading a blog post on Seth Godin’s blog about stuff being interesting. His main point – is it interesting because it happened, or is it interesting because it happened to you?

That made me think – what stuff do libraries do “for our customers” that we find interesting or useful or amazing … but our customers – not so much?

Think about some of these things libraries have, for example:

  • Library Catalog – interesting to our customers?
  • Article Databases – interesting to our customers?
  • Periodicals reading room …
  • Reference desk …
  • Dewey Decimal System …
  • etc

I don’t have a big problem with anything listed above. But still – libraries pour a LOT of time, money, and expertise into each of these fairly traditional things libraries have and do. Do our customers really … REALLY … find them all that interesting?

Asked another way – is your periodicals reading room standing-room only? Is it hard to find a public computer because so many customers are using the catalog? Get the idea?

I think our goal should be two-fold:

  1. spend time, money, and expertise on stuff our customers care about
  2. do stuff that our customers care about

Not always easy to do, huh?

photo by abeckstrom

  • Sarah Louise

    Well, Internet and printing are pretty interesting to our patrons. Computer classes, pierogis, how to download stuff, yes. The databases need more of a sales pitch, but you are always good at boiling it down to what is essential, DLK.

    Thanks for that.


  • Heather Backman

    I agree in principle but, as a marketing/outreach librarian, I would also like to suggest that some of these things are not being used heavily not because they aren’t interesting to our public, but because our public doesn’t know about them. Databases are a great example, as Sarah Louise mentions. Our patrons are almost always *very* interested when we show them what they can do with EBSCO. They just didn’t know about it before! (And yes, we’re working on some marketing and other things to try to fix that problem.)

  • Sunny Purdin

    If your library gives away pierogis, I need to go there. :)

  • Becky Schneider

    Agreed. Our periodicals room is a happening place (people like to study in there as well as browse because it’s a nice room) and we have great magazine circs because we market them heavily.

    Now, some services, like, databases, are kind of… anti-marketable. They have a dumb, technical sounding name (and “premium resources,” “e-resources” aren’t much better). Many of them have bad interfaces and even worse tutorials. People don’t associate them with public libraries as they do books and storytime. For these reasons they are not consistently “interesting to our customers” however interested they would otherwise be in getting online articles, encyclopedias, genealogy resources, and online learning from the library. We can either throw our hands up in despair or continue to work on these challenges.

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  • Catherine

    I’m not sure if it’s the library things themselves that aren’t interesting or how we present them. The catalog probably is interesting to both parties but in very different ways. Trying to understand what a non-expert needs and wants from a system goes a long way.

    And for the long rambling answer:

  • Steven Schwengel

    I’m amazed at the questions outside the library I get. Last weekend, I was running a 1/2 marathon & during the course of conversation while running a lady asked why the library lets cards expire (1 year is the policy) and why she cannot update an address online while the department of motor vehichles in the state can. In short it is for correct billing address for fines. Most of the time it is centered on tech or it is that lingering ‘itch’ that is about to be scratched.