Revitalizing the Library Experience – ALA2009

Speakers – Joan Frye Williams and George Needham

The Classic Objections:
– it will never work
– we tried that…
– our patrons etc won’t like it ..
– etc

Stop thinking of the Library Experience as the library experience. When we talk about that, we usually focus on what we do.

They’ve visited lots of libraries, and found out there’s not often a true customer focus.

We need to think more about what the user does, and who they are!

Joan mentioned TSCPL! They love our mission statement – “you know us, and we know you.” (cool – I wrote that part :-)

Being held back by confidentiality – we often go for ignorance & call it privacy and confidentiality

The independent user is invisible to us.

Re-imagine the user experience!!! Yes. The experience belongs to the user.

If we imagine the user as our audience, we get mad when they don’t applaud us. Interesting thought…

Patrons should start feeling successful right when they walk into the library – just like when they use google (ie., there’s no user manual for google)

situational signage

Shouldn’t have to use our jargon just to get started (hmm… databases fails here…)

Environments that learn from and adapt to the user is the right way to go

New ways to experience library service – layered services. A way to unfold what the library offers

Time: layer services depending on how much time the patron has
Ex – quick start guide vs complete manuals
So – set up libraries for both the “I have no time” patron tot he “I can spend a day here” patron

Place: layer services by place.
– the users aren’t remote – the services are.
– the library experience takes place outside the library.
– all social networking, web, etc certainly does. iPhone apps, Facebook are examples
– Showing barcodes on signs – scan it with phone, get local info – b-tags.
– me – could you set up a b-tag for a “fact of the day” and put it in a park/mall/on the street/in a school? Hmm…

Make sure it’s always about them, never about us

First Impressions:
– how does your place look on a first impression?
– how many of you use the same doors/bathrooms as the patron?

Get out from behind the desk

Org chart/service points – circ desk, ref desk, etc. For the patron, it’s all part of the same story.

First point of contact – driving around building, walking into the library, etc. Who does the intercept? Usually the shelver.
– deploy staff around the library, standing up – you will increase the number of interactions
– make this intercept so that everyone, building, etc can make that intercept universal

Triage – figuring out some choice to make.
– we act as if we are the arbiters of triage (ie., the reference interview). Instead, most people do this themselves. You watch the other people instead of talking to staff. It HAS to be self-service.

I have a stupid question… translation – your library, setup, etc  just made someone feel stupid. Not a good thing.

Outcomes: When a patron needs to use a computer to do a job search, the goal isn’t to find a guide or do a job search … it’s to find a job.

Patrons are looking for staff that want to enter into their success…
– gave an example of an academic library – student said here’s what you do – find a librarian you can work with, who seems to care, and they will help you ace any class. Didn’t say they will help you find a book… They are looking for success, and we need to set up our libraries that way.

Main goal – get people to come back – it’s all about relationships… not stuff.

Revitalize your point of view.

“Libraries are at a crossroads” – actually, everyone’s at a crossroads. Successful libraries help guide people through their crossroads. There are a lot of common ones – ie., birth, marriage, divorce, retirement, getting a job, etc.

Wane Gretsky – “I don’t skate to the puck, I state to where the puck is going to be.” Libraries can do this, too – we know some common transformations/crossroads – so how can we be there at those crossroads for them?

Communication of meaning – that’s the business we’re in. Google can’t do this. We should be building this across the community. It’s not transactional, it’s not about the stuff. The setup of transformation is a heck of a job to be in.

Staff is also at a crossroads:
– start treating people like they’re smart and independent.
– presumption of innocence – don’t defend against potential disaster.
– the reference desk – feels like the seat of shame.
– respect and remember their preferences.
– look for ways to say yes.

Give respect and get respect – you have to treat every connection as if it has a transformative potential.

The library experience has that long, transformative view. It’s not about the transaction.