Patron bashing—i.e. venting, ruminating, gossiping—might be the greatest failure when it comes to customer service and perhaps the greatest barrier to excellent customer service in libraries. It creates a toxic, negative environment that stunts innovation, wastes time, and waters down service. If that isn’t bad enough, patron bashing is a drain on our mental and organizational health.
Posts Tagged ‘Meeting the Needs of Patrons’
It’s no secret to librarians that many patrons come to the library for more than our collections. Most people can find books and DVDs online. They can use our research databases without getting out of bed. For reference questions they can call, email, text, or instant message. We have reference resources that don’t circulate, and anyone who’s worked in a children’s room knows that parents don’t want to buy the thirty-five books their child wants that day, so coming to the library can be a life (and pocketbook) saver. Still, many patrons who come in the door don’t, strictly speaking, need our services. Many come for another free service we provide, albeit indirectly: human contact.
Every decade or so, I complete a career check. I don’t know if you do the same, but I find it’s a way for me to measure who I am against what I do. Now, since I’m in the fourth quarter of my life’s game, I really shouldn’t bother, but if I don’t stop measuring and evaluating, I’ll stop learning and growing, and that just doesn’t appeal to me. So, I trotted out the old question, “Am I happy with what I’m doing?” and set up my check list.
I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about the traditional old reference interview. Yes, we seldom talk about reference practices and services anymore, even though we (mostly) agree that it is still a vital and fundamental library service.
An informal observation of library websites and policies shows that even leading public libraries are evenly split between the use of customer and patron in their formal taxonomy. The traditional term patron is used by New York Public Library (NYPL), Cuyahoga County (OH) Public Library, Seattle Public Library, and Multnomah County (OR) Library. The terms customer and user can be found in the policies of Denver Public Library, Topeka Shawnee (KS) County Library, Columbus (OH) Metropolitan Library, King County (WA) Library, and Anythink Libraries in Colorado.
Stop giving patrons the runaround. Become a One Point of Service Library.