Category Archives: customer service

If all else fails…

you can promote that your library has a public restroom.  I mean, there are worse things to be known for.  So, y’know, if other awesome aspects of your library (free entertainment! charming staff!  untold treasure troves of knowledge!) don’t boost the door count, consider listing your library’s restrooms!

Check out Sit or Squat.  They even have an app!  Yes!  There is an app for that!

Little bits of interesting…

Here’s a quick summary of some neat things from the web – all with potential library applications!

Tweet Seats – Theaters are reserving seats towards the back of venues and encourage those sitting in those seats to live tweet during performances.  Totally worth trying at your next large event!  Check out the article!

Google+ Hangouts – A great opportunity to host community meetings or book clubs.  This article provides the top three reasons to use this Google+ feature.

PressBooks – PressBooks is a platform that gives you or your library users an easy-to-use digital publication solution.  When we talk about empowering content creation in our libraries, these are the tools we need to look at!

Turn young patrons in to coders – Thomas Suarez is a 12-year-old coder who spoke at TEDxManhattanBeach.  He touches on an interesting and cool idea for schools that applies for libraries too – download the Apple app development pack and start teaching kids to code! is

I was testing out in an experiment for work. I wanted to see what it did and how it worked.  Subject experts, take note.  By typing in some key words or selecting particular folks in the social media world (twitter, Facebook and RSS feeds) you can put information on a number of topics in to your own digital newspaper.  From there, you can curate as needed, send it on to students or post it to your webpage.

You’ve probably gotten a newsletter/news round-up via some organization (I’ve gotten two so far) but try it for yourself.  It’s easy to set up and it’s free.

Here’s my quick test of it with key words “libraries” and “librarians”.

Open Data and the Role of Librarians

In the June issue of Wired Magazine there was a brief piece about governmental open data initiatives.  In it, writer Jesse Lichtenstein brings up the crucial point that getting lots of data out on the web and available to the masses is great and all, but the people who might be most empowered by the trends and information that could be gleaned are the those least likely to have the skills, resources or knowledge to extract what might help them fight for their cause.

And isn’t this where libraries come in?  Isn’t this the type of role we should be taking on?  I’m certain that there are some libraries doing this – providing Internet access to help communities get this data, then teaching them how to sort, slice, dice and come to conclusions based on what they find and discover. Libraries can be the liason and interpreters of this data – or teach the “language” of data/data analysis to library patrons.

There are some other arguments surrounding the article – but I’m trying to focus on the one aspect I see as being most significant to our profession – helping communities harness open data is a role libraries should consider more heavily when they are looking at ways they can stay relevant.

If your library is doing this, please tell me about it, I’d like to learn more!

Ya gotta have standards, y’know?

Today my friend Sara tweeted this from the Michigan Library Association Annual Conference:

And I was like “YES – standardized practices!”  Except I said it to myself in my head, not outloud.  I talk to myself a lot at work and people look at me weird.

BTW – Sara is funny, charming, intelligent and an amazing librarian and I highly recommend you follow her @sarabethw

Anyways, this made me think back to an interesting conversation I had with Christie Brandau, the now-retired state librarian of Kansas.  It wasn’t about business reference standards, but overall service standards.  But it got me thinking about this conversation: I was interveiwing her over a year ago about best practices for library service in rural areas.  And the way the state of Kansas approached service standardization was really fantastic.  They didn’t say “Every library will have at least ten computers” or “Every library will have 150 parking spaces” because really, that’s not practical.  In Kansas, the gap between tiny libraries and huge libraries borders on hyperbole – the difference in library types is significant.  There are libraries that serve 2000 people spread over a 700 square mile area.  And there are urban libraries that serve people a very dense population center with multiple branches.  All extremely valuable, but all reaching out to patrons in different and unique ways.

So, the librarians in Kansas started with criteria like the following (and these are not exact, so don’t quote me, kids…)

  • A library patron in the state of Kansas should not have to wait longer than ten minutes to access a computer
  • A library patron in the state of Kansas should be able to easily access a bathroom. 
  • A library patron in the state of Kansas should be able to find a parking space within reasonable distance from their library.

So, easy access to a bathroom.  That sounds silly, right?  Okay, but think of all your patrons.  Do you have a bathroom that’s easily accessed by a five year old?  What about a bathroom that’s easily accessed by the elderly?  The handicapped?  A mom or dad with four kids in tow?  Ohhhh…it’s not so easy now, is it?  Hint – if the door is really heavy and hard to open, it’s not easily accessible.  If the toilet is very high up or doesn’t have a child-size toilet seat adapter (and they do exist) it’s not accessible.

The thing I like about this is that the standards expand and contract based on the library being discussed.  Forcing a library to have ten computers because that’s the state standard is silly if the library only sees 150 patrons a day and 125 of them are just in for reading materials. 

Thanks for the reminder about that conversation Sarah.  I love your business reference standards concept.  Maybe elements of the above service model can somehow be applied?  I don’t know…just thinking out loud!

Facebook Support Centers: A next gen library service?

There was a great article on Mashable today about the top 5 emerging brand trends on Facebook.

I could see how all could have a role in libraries, but the Support Centers were interesting to me.  Could these be a way to field patron reference questions via Facebook?  Interesting to consider and think about.

Social Media and the Retail World

I read this white paper today and wanted to share.  The white paper, written by BrandSwag, discusses various phone apps and social media tools that can be used in retail environments.  Libraries do have similarities to retail environments, whether we want to admit it or not and by keeping tabs on trends in the retail environment, we can help our profession.

1) Some of this stuff applies to libraries, some of it doesn’t.  If anything, the white paper provides a great description of location based social networking options like Foursquare and Gowalla.

2) Even if you don’t really care, you might want to read it anyways because patrons are asking about this stuff.

Have a good weekend, folks!

Patron Privacy and the Library Copy Machine

A friend sent me this video recently:

It’s a CBS report about how information is stored on copy machines and how that information can be accessed when the wrong people get a hold of your copy machine.

They found medical records, police reports, and more on the copiers they examined.

If patron privacy is a concern for you, then you need to look into ensuring your copy machine hard drive is wiped clean or that your library purchases the document deletion technologies that are available.

Customers First? Not All The Time…

Mark Henson (Chief Imagination Officer of Spark Space) just blogged about why service oriented folks need to take time to focus on themselves once in a while.  During that time to focus on themselves, they can recharge and often will learn more about providing great customer service.

You’ve all seen burnt out librarians.  They’re mean, surly, and treat everyone like they’re an idiot.  Because, honestly, who are these people that come into a library and insist on asking dumb questions???  And when you’re not trying to dodge those mean people and avoid eye contact, you’re mumbling to your co-workers “Y’know, I think that Janey Sue might need some time away from the desk…”

Mark’s going to be taking some time out to relax and learn more about customer service.  Check out Mark’s live blogging from the Customers 1st Conference – looks like it’s going to be great!  You can follow him at

Should libraries take a clue from Ikea?

Saw this interesting tweet today: RT @ikeafans: haha! RT @Leask: Best Salon comment ever: “getting lost in the IKEA? … Christ, it’s more efficient than the library.”

So, that makes me think two things – the person who made the original comment just goes to a really crap library or maybe libraries should take a clue from Ikea about organization.

I hear you moaning now – geez Chris, first libraries want to become more like bookstores, now you’re saying libraries should be more like Ikea.  You’re killing us!  Killing us!

Calm yourself and read on.  I’m not advocating anything…I’m just pondering…

Now, I get lost in Ikea.  It drives me nuts sometimes – as crisp and supposedly efficient as the store is, I struggle to find things sometimes.  But, let’s play devil’s advocate and chat about what Ikea has that libraries should consider:

Food and Drink
Those  Ikea cafes rock and I’ve actually scheduled lunch and dinner appointments at Ikea.  Libraries are doing this of course, but I’m just saying.  (Having food, coffee and cafes I mean, not having lunch and dinner appointments at Ikea…)

Child Care
Attention public: Children’s librarians are NOT babysitters.  Nothing is worse than having people plunk their screaming child into the kids section and then wander off to go look at movies or something.  But what if libraries offered child care for adult patrons who want to attend a class at the library or pop in to use the computer?  I’m sure some library out there must have at least tried some sort of similar service at one point.

Signs, Signs, Signs
No one reads signs.  How often has your library put up signs and they just don’t work?  But Ikea puts up pretty large centralized signs – if you want to know where something is, you have to read down the list of arrows that point in many directions, thus providing a sense of layout and where things are.

Bright Colors and Lights
The lighting in Ikea is pretty good.  It’s bright and shows off the vibrant colors of the store.  It’s not so harsh though that it’s headache inducing – it makes you want to hang out and not leave until you’ve purchased hundreds of dollars worth of stuff. 

Yellow Shirts
You always know where the Ikea staff is.  Bright yellow shirts make them visible like a brightly lit buoy.  You can pick those folks out right away.  Are library staff members always so easily visible?  Some library people don’t even wear nametags – even if it says “Librarian” or “Circulation Clerk” then you’ve got something to show folks you work there!

Here’s a great example of how physical space increases purchases.  In order to get through Ikea, you have to walk through some areas to get to others.  You want to get to kitchen stuff, you have to walk through living room stuff.  You go in for a mixing bowl or a wok, but then you see a pretty pillow or picture frame and well, you may as well pick that up too, right? Oh Ikea, you vixen!  Same is true for libraries.  If you can get people to walk past certain collections to get to other collections, maybe they’ll see something they like, pick up one or two more things and bring those circ stats up, up, up!

At Ikea, you don’t often rely on a staff member to help you get your couch out of the warehouse.  They are very willing to help don’t get me wrong, but their model isn’t set up to help you with every little thing.  Unless you need a forklift, you and a buddy find the aisle, pick up the couch flat pack, load it, buy it, get it to the car.  Libraries are doing this more and more – letting patrons get their own holds and self scheduling for meeting rooms and such (shameless Evanced plug – we’ve got a room reservation software that will help patrons do that). 

Ikea is pretty whimsical and they aren’t afraid to build a community that expresses their whimsy.  They aren’t rude or silly, they’re just kind of sweet and fun loving.  Most libraries use their website, Facebook, blog, and Twitter accounts to provide very dry library information.  We are good at getting fans, making websites, and all that, but it’s okay to express the fun side of the culture of your library.  Featuring staff members on your website or giving library users an idea of the “back stage” of the library can be fun and interactive.

Mostly, libraries are doing the Ikea thing already, but I couldn’t help but write down my thoughts on it after reading that tweet.  140 characters can sure conjure up a lot of thoughts!