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In Reading Round Up

By Elizabeth Wroten

Reading Round Up: Late September

On 25, Sep 2013 | In Reading Round Up | By Elizabeth Wroten

Since I have been plowing through all these novels lately I haven’t made much of an effort to read anything online. Now that I’m reading a bit less, though, I have come across a few articles I thought I would share here (both for others and to help me remember to refer back to them!).

First up is a blog post from Meredith Farkas about how important it is to understand where errors are coming from. I could not agree more with this and think it’s applicable to all levels of education and across all subjects. When I first started out after college I began tutoring and I had one student that was really struggling with math. She was trying to do pre-algebra and it just wasn’t clicking for her. She was bright and I was baffled. It took me awhile but I finally realized, based on some mistakes she made, that she didn’t have any basic math skills (like fourth and fifth grade math) or any understanding of how numbers worked. As soon as I discovered that, we went back and covered the basics. I even stopped working on her pre-algebra with her to get her up to speed, except to limp through her homework. After a few weeks and before we had even finished her crash course in basics she was already better understanding the harder mathematical concepts. That was a turning point for me. I realized how important it was not to just see that students make errors, but what those errors can tell you about gaps in their learning and understanding.

Last Friday I was listening to Science Friday and they had on some guests talking about science fairs. Personally I wish we did a lot more with science in our schools, but for those self-motivated enough these science fairs sounded amazing. One comment that was made that really stuck with me, though, was that working on science projects is a good way for kids to learn about failure. I think our current system of testing kids like crazy really doesn’t value failure and what it can teach us. It makes kids see failure as something to be afraid of and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Apparently David Truss also had failure on the brain, because I came across this post from his blog two days later. It’s short but has some great thoughts.

And I guess I’ll get on the Banned Books band wagon. I came across this post from Teen Librarian Toolbox about changing the discussion of banned books. It reminded me of one of my classes in library school. I can’t remember which one, but the professor gave us some tips for dealing with upset patrons that might object to a material in the library. The very first thing she told us to ask (after apologizing that they were offended) was, what was it you were looking for when you found this and can I help you locate what you were looking for? That always sounded to me like changing the subject to avoid conflict, but in light of this post from TLT I realized it can be more about redirecting the conversation and not validating their complaint. Not sure how I would actually handle this situation IRL, espeically if a patron was irate, but it’s definitely something to chew on.

Okay that’s it for the time being. I may have more in the next few weeks, but in the mean time enjoy the reviews. I have ton of them to write still!

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In Reading Round Up

By Elizabeth Wroten

Reading Round Up: Twitter

On 17, May 2013 | In Reading Round Up | By Elizabeth Wroten

I’ve decided to do something a little different with these posts for the future. Now that I’m feeling more on top of following blogs and librarians on Twitter, I want to start actually tweeting more. To that end I am going to start actually tweeting the links I would normally include here. Then every Friday, I’ll aggregate them here for anyone who missed them or isn’t on Twitter. I can also add a little more detail to my thoughts on the articles.

Since most of the links I find to share are in blogs I follow, I tend to come across them on Thursdays when I read my blogs. I found a service that allows me to set up tweets in advance (Twuffer, a Twitter buffer) so that I don’t inundate my tweeps. Without further ado:

I agree so much with the idea here that customer service in libraries needs to be top notch and of a type that is more than pointing to the bathroom. I know added value is an irritating buzzword, but I think it’s still a relevant and necessary concept.

I have mixed feelings about this piece. I agree in so many ways, but I also think that undergrads (and other patrons like the general public and younger students) do not always approach librarians. It’s true that the results they get from new fangled, improved search interfaces may not be the best, but are they better than what they got before? I don’t really know the answer to that. I think the issue lies more with marketing reference services and getting students to the reference desk (virtual, real or otherwise). However, I hadn’t really thought of those types of tools in regard to writing librarians out of reference. I think this underscores the importance of digital/information literacy skills.

I didn’t work with these types of teens, but as a new parent I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to be a single, teen parent. The sentiment is really sweet and I think the ideas are really awesome.

I think a lot of people believe technology is some sort of silver bullet. That you can just take a new technology and use it the same way in every situation. But that just isn’t true. As with any program or tool you need to know your culture in order to know if it’s right and how it should be implemented. I’m going to address this topic in more depth next week.

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In Redux

By Elizabeth Wroten

Redux: Patrons vs. Customers

On 07, Jan 2013 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten

I know there’s an age old debate in Libraryland about what to call the people who visit our libraries. There was recently an excellent post about it on Designing Better Libraries and I totally agreed with the ideas in it. But the debate came up again, for me, in this recent piece in the New York Times about libraries and bookstores, so I thought I would add my two cents.

I don’t think it matters what we call those people who come through our doors (virtual or real). What matters is that we give them a great user experience.

I’m a strong believer in customer service be it at a store, a restaurant, an airport, where ever. I have expectations for how I will be treated when I go somewhere, especially where I am either paying for the service through my taxes (e.g. the sheriff’s office, the library, etc.) or where I will be spending my hard-earned money. I want to be greeted and acknowledged, not ignored. I want to feel welcome. I want to be treated fairly, politely, and respectfully. I want to be asked if I need help, especially if I am standing near an employee clearly waiting to be helped. I also want to be apologetically told if you can’t immediately help me or serve me. I want to be thanked if I am kind or spend money. I know this can sound demanding, but for the most part, I’m low maintenance. I don’t expect groveling or great shows of gratitude.

The thing is, I think librarians need to realize that we are in customer service. We are there to serve the people who come in and wouldn’t be there if not for them. We need to be friendly and helpful. Librarians love to talk about how we have knowledge and skills in all different areas that we want to share with people, so we need to make sure those people want to come to the library and learn from us and use our collections.

I do understand there are always people who are rude and undeserving of politeness. I like to call them jerks (or worse), not customers or patrons. Sometimes it’s hard to keep your composure, but if you do they look all the worse for being out of line. Keeping customer service in mind doesn’t mean we need to let people walk all over us or carry on deep conversations with people while we check out books. Just that we need to remember why we got into the profession.

So, as I said, it doesn’t matter what we call the people who come through our doors. If it helps you to think of them as customers so that you remember to give them a positive user experience, then you should. If you already know and think it sounds too insulting to call them customers, then don’t. Just be sure everyone is getting what they need with a smile or at least a polite and respectful attitude.


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