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.

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!

Where are your Customers Gathering?

You know that phrase “go where your patrons are?” It’s always bugged me. Not because of the concept – the concept’s great. But because of the grammar – that ending in “are” thing. It’s never sounded right to me (says David, who got a B- in grammar).

At the Free State Social conference last week, someone – not sure who – added a word to that phrase that made a lot of sense to me. Or maybe it just sounds better to my ears. Anyway, here it is:

Go where your customers are gathering.

Besides just sounding slightly better (to me, anyway), it also gives a bit of direction, doesn’t it? Where “are” your customers/patrons? You don’t have to look around every corner for them – just find the places they’re already gathering … then figure out how to exist in those places.

So – where do your customers gather? I can’t answer that one, because it will look different for every organization. My library’s customers gather … at the actual library, on Facebook, at the mall. At church. In schools and our one university in town. And probably other places, too.

Chris Brogan put a marketing spin on the phrase during a small group session. He said “the marketplace convenes where it’s convenient.” Where are those “convenient” places in your community? Facebook is convenient for a lot of people (but not the people you probably think of when you think of Facebook). Not kids and younger teens (although they’re certainly there). Think people with easy, convenient access to the web, at work, at home, at school … and on their mobile devices. Just one example of many.

Find those convenient gathering places – online and off – and take your message/your services/your library to those places.