Volunteering, Job Duties .. and an apology

OK – first for the apology. Some of you have told me I was dismissive in my last three post, especially when I used phrases like “up in your grill.”

I apologize for that. I really didn’t mean to sound dismissive – it was an attempt at humor while talking about a difficult subject. Honestly, it usually works – but it’s also not usually about such a sensitive issue. In this case, I failed miserably, and for that, I definitely apologize.

Now on to the next part of the post – While my views on names and pics on websites haven’t really changed, it does bring up an interesting issue I’m seeing. With the name/pic thing, some of you have asked for what you would see as a more reasonable “opt in” approach. Here’s where I fall on that – opt in/volunteering usually doesn’t work to it’s full potential. In Topeka, it’s either someone’s job or it isn’t – we’re not fans of the opt-in approach.

That said, of course we get staff buy-in for new projects first, which makes the whole “this is now part of your job” thing much easier.

But this opt-in idea … in many libraries, it’s not just for whatever personal info goes on the library’s website. It’s also for other job duties, even for services of the library, like programming, teaching classes, or IM reference. I’ve seen volunteering for posting to a blog or for maintaining the library’s Facebook presence.

I think a much better way to do things is for the library to set strategic goals, with staff input into those goals. After that, it’s management’s job to change/adapt the work to be done to meet those organizational priorities. There’s really no room for opt-in there.

See where I’m going with that? And I know – some of you strongly disagree with me about the name thing – I get that. But isn’t an opt-in approach in disagreeing, you’re also asking for a sort of wishy-washy implementation, from an organizational perspective?

Isn’t it better to have an either do it or don’t do it approach?

Apologizing & Communicating with Customers

Ever had to apologize to a customer about something you or your library didn’t do well? Well, guess what? I did that just last week.

We have a Mediabank media dispenser that has been acting up (as in, it’s been out of order for a month, and been spotty before that). We have been doing a lot of work on the back-end of things, working with the vendor to get things fixed, etc – to no avail. We have a weird problem, and Mediabank’s sending someone onsite to fix our machine. So – fingers crossed on that front!

During this “oh darn it’s down” month, we have been explaining what’s going on individually at our service desks, and we’ve had an “out of order” announcement that appears on our website and in our building (it’s a pretty popular service).

But it finally dawned on us that we weren’t actively communicating the issues or what we were doing about it – we just passively put up signs, and only answered those who took the time to ask about it.

So we went one step further, and created an apology video that we posted to our website. In the video, we state the problem, state what we’re doing about it … and also apologize to our customers for the less than stellar service we’ve given in that area.

Watch the video and tell me what you think. But more importantly … think through how YOU communicate huge problems in service to your patrons. Do you:

  • put up signs in the building?
  • put up announcements on your website?
  • give front-line staff some talking points?
  • make a video or blog post, then update that post when progress has been made?

Or something else entirely? I’d love to know!