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A Look at Basic Service Design

by on January 6, 2017

The five previous posts in this series have all been mostly concerned with physical spaces. Now let’s take a quick look at basic service design.

The Design Thinking For Libraries website states:

With [the Design Thinking] approach, libraries have:

  • Developed new spaces that promote play as a central part of childhood learning
  • Engaged teens in maker­ oriented events that encourage deeper, long-lasting connections with librarians
  • Created new programs that facilitate users to teach one another about digital media resources

Design thinking is a creative approach, or a series of steps, that will help you design meaningful solutions for your library. It’s also a mindset, because you start to think like a designer, even if you aren’t one.

Any kind of service can be transformed and made better. Let’s take one example: the core service of identifying, finding, and checking out a book or other resource.

How do your users identify an item they want to borrow?

  • Word of mouth recommendation
  • School booklist
  • Saw an ad on the media
  • Browsing
  • Reader’s advisory
  • Online catalog search

Imagine each of these possibilities from the patron’s AND the staff’s point of view. Use personas and think about what the customer wants. Are they a grab-it-and-go kind of person? Or do they want a chat and personalized service? Do they need an in-depth reference interview to determine what they’re really looking for? Are they a digital native who likes chat-based reference, or do they want to get up-close and personal?

Once the item is located, what check-out options are available? Is your e-book and e-audio service user-friendly? Can a person in a hurry grab their DVD from the hold shelf, use the nearby self-check station, and be on their way? What happens when the book they want isn’t on the shelf – or in the collection at all?

All of these scenarios require a different approach and series of steps to implement. In public libraries, we are blessed and cursed with the full gamut of personalities, ages, and skill levels. The ability to read a patron and tailor services to their needs is something that most people are not born with, it takes practice.

A few simple places to start:

  • Ask how much time the user has up front – this can help set the tone of the interaction
  • Ask the user if s/he wants you to look something up for them, or would rather you show them how to use search techniques themselves
  • If they want a particular item, or books on a particular subject, offer to walk them to the area in the shelves if at all possible
  • If self-check is a new service, make sure a staff person is nearby at all times to help newbies through the process, and always offer at least one traditional checkout station for those who prefer it

Try to remember that most people using the library are not well-versed in classification systems, and don’t keep detailed knowledge of your materials and procedures in their head. Things that you can do in your sleep are brand new concepts to many. The point is to make collections and services accessible. That’s what libraries are for.

Previous post: Identifying Your Library’s Users 

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