Here’s the Slideshare version of the presentation!
Here’s the Slideshare version of the presentation!
Here’s a pic of the reference desk at Anywhere Public Library in Fakeola, USA. As a service to their customers, they decided to create a sign letting their patrons know that their questions might not be answered right away.
After all, some questions simply aren’t answered instantaneously – staff might need to wander out in the stacks to find an appropriate resource, or the question might lend itself to a lengthy reference interview. And once in a great while, questions really DO take up to 2 days or so to get answered, so it seemed like the right thing to do to post this sign.
When asked about their sign, here’s what library staff said:
OK – obviously, I’m fudging a bit. My reference desk pic is fake (my Photoshop skills astound no one). But the answers from “library staff?” These are all quotes from real librarians, commenting on my two previous posts about electronic reference service needing a reboot.
Some readers who thought my post was a bit over the top said one of three things:
So – what do you think? Do you have to give patrons a time frame online? Are most of your email/electronic reference questions answered pretty fast? Do you think that long or detailed reference queries can be handled online?
What would you say if I told you that some libraries discriminate against a certain type of customer? That some customers, because of the way they asked a question, were purposefully pushed to the back of the line, told to wait 2-3 days for an answer, and that they couldn’t get an answer to some of their burning questions … because they’re “that kind” of customer?
You’d be furious, right?
Well … believe it or not, many libraries are doing that RIGHT NOW – today, in fact. Take a peek at these email and chat reference policies for a sec, then come back and let’s talk:
Ouch! Now, let me ask you this. If I walked into any of these libraries and asked the same question in person:
Is this REALLY how you want to treat your customers? Especially that growing group of customers who are already using your digital branch and are taking advantage of your digital services? Please don’t tell me that you can somehow only serve those customers who actually walk into the library and up to your physical reference desk, but can’t get to the customers who call or email or IM or txt you in a timely fashion. I’m not buying that.
The problem isn’t the volume or the format of the question, but the way your reference services are arranged. Rearrange it. Now. Please.
In essence, you ARE discriminating. Discriminating against a growing, younger, web-savvy customer base. Customers who *almost* have all the tools in place to simply ignore you and your grad-degreed, professional information-retrieval services. Especially if they are treated like second class customers when they ask a question using their preferred, and handy, means of communication.
Does this make sense? Do you really want to be “that guy?” I think not. The libraries I mention above all want to do a great job, I’m sure, as do you. So let’s work on improving our online services … like now already!
To be fair, I checked out my library’s ask page too (and crossed my fingers, and said a little prayer before I clicked . We did great! Here’s what we do:
And my personal favorite – for more complex questions, we direct customers … not to the physical desk, but to email! We don’t even mention the desk or having to visit the library in person on our Ask Us page.
Why? Because those customers are already in the library, using our Digital Branch. They need to get the same treatment as any other customer with any other question.
photo by Neubie
Title: Isn’t it Great to Be in the Library (wherever that is)
Joseph Janes, presentation
Panelists: the “It’s All Good” bloggers: Crystie Hill, Alice Sneary, George Needham, and Eric Childress
First, Joseph Janes:
Showing pics of libraries – showed a pic of a reference desk from around 1906, and said we probably recognized it as a reference desk. That’s not good. We’d have a different viewpoint if we were doctors – we’d hope that a doctor would NOT want a current operating room to resemble one from 1906!
Then he said librarians have a strong sense of tradition – what should we keep, what should we get rid of?
information environment evolves
Highly dynamic environment!
What does it mean to be in the library?
by implication, the library
all this implies:
an extended notion of library, librarianship, etc
there’s lots of potential with both ideas
somewhere and everywhere – you need a physical presence (you need the puppet closet) when you have physical objects, you need a physical place
but you have to be everywhere – be where your clients are when they want to use you
presences and identities are tied to environments – you can be in multiple presences at the same time. In each, you can have information needs.
be where they are
Plan services for these people in new digital communities!
We have to be better online
basic human urges
How do we get there?
Move beyond the building
Discussion Panel (interesting snippets):
what matters is why people use these tools – not how a library can use the tools
A priest – is ALWAYS a priest – at church, on the plane, at the cookout. In the same way, a librarian needs to be a librarian in all these emerging digital outposts.
What will make the difference is the experience around the stuff – not the stuff itself. If other places provide a better experience than the library, our customers will go there instead of the library.
We are doing the work right – but are we doing the right work?