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