Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

I'm currently canvassing local libraries to see how customers interact with and use their library.  After several days of observing, I've become very familiar with the dazed and confused look.  If you work in an area near the front entrance of your library, you may be familiar with it, too.

The person of interest walks through the door proudly 
and then stops abruptly.  The eyes dart around looking for something,
anything, to point them in the right direction.  He quickly glances 
at the information desk to find librarians' busy at work
 and decides he'll have to figure it out for himself.

In this scenario, how well equipped is your building to provide the customer service?

Signs frequently walk the line of being too wordy or non-existent. When the sign does not exist, the previous scenario is bound to happen.  I've noticed in my own library where signs are lacking and, if created, would help the library customer in this scenario find his way around.  Here is an example of signs that will aid in a pleasant user experience:

Large signs over areas help customers identify sections of the library.  After working in a library for so long, you take for granted how familiar you have become with the building around you.  In my post Rate Your Library,  I talk about observing your library from an outsider's perspective.  When contemplating what signs to use and where to put them, it is imperative to take the customer's point of view into consideration.  For example, to the trained eye, it is obvious where the children's books are kept because the shelves are lower and, usually, there is kid friendly furniture.  To the newcomer, however, shelves are shelves and furniture is furniture.  Without a sign designating that the area is indeed for children, a new library customer may feel lost.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Getting Over Yourself

Every person has a flaw - it's what makes us human.  It is using your flaw to your advantage that counts.  As a leader this can be particularly difficult because, not only do our flaws effect our work, but they can actively effect the lives of our staff members (and not always in a positive way.)  But before you can own your flaw and make it work for you, you have to know what your undoing is.  In a Webjunction webinar I recently took called Skills for the Everyday Leader, presenter Edra Waterman lists ten common mistakes that managers make.  See if you fit into any of these categories:

  • Thinking nothing has to change
  • Wanting everyone to like you
  • Buying into the hype (that you are the best)
  • Ignoring problems or behaviors
  • Being a doormat
  • Being reluctant to make decisions
  • Thinking you are always right
  • Hiding in your office
  • Being a jerk (and no, I'm not kidding about this one)
  • Taking things personally
At first glance, these traits seem pretty off-putting but they are reversible.  After reading Good Self, Bad Self: Transforming Your Worst Qualities into Your Biggest Assets by Judy Smith, I realized that each of these traits can be identified as one of the following:

  • Ego
  • Denial
  • Fear
  • Ambition
  • Accommodation
  • Patience
Not sure what I mean? Take "hiding in your office" or "being reluctant to make decisions" as an example.  These are direct reflections of the bad quality "Fear."  An example of the quality "Denial" would be "ignoring problems or behaviors" and an example of "Ego" would be "thinking you are always right."  Get the picture?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Digital Literacy and You

There should be no doubt that the libraries of today are very different from the libraries of yesteryear.  Everywhere we look technology is being integrated - from online periodicals to self checkouts.  If the library is to stay relevant, it has to reach customers with formats they have grown accustomed to.  While the library is definitely still associated with the printed word, there is an obvious surge in computer usage.  The onslaught of eBooks and other digital media has definitely kept library organizations on their toes in order to meet customer demand.  But what good is having the technology if the IT staff are the only ones who know how to use it.

Technologically savvy is a term I've been hearing thrown around a lot these days and, while the correct term is digital literacy, the concept is the same.  Libraries are looking for staffers who know their digital stuff.  And what about the rest of us?

If it seems that everyone runs to Jane when a customer has a problem connecting to wifi or pulls John off his lunch break to answer an eBook question, then there is a definite digital divide happening in your library.  Because not everyone on staff is on the same page, a list of Core Competencies may help you assess staff and determine a plan of action from there.  I've linked to the State Library of North Carolina as a starting point, but here is a short list of hot topics in the library digital sphere:
  • Email 
  • Creating, saving, and attaching files 
  • Printing and Photocopying 
  • Wifi Troubleshooting 
  • eBooks and other downloadable media

An entire year's worth of training could be done from a detailed Core Competencies list, but asking staff to indicate which topics they don't understand or would like refreshers on is a good way to start.  Just as I mentioned in my post Understanding The Need, asking what is needed will ensure that the training is relevant and well received.  The idea behind the technology training is to ensure that all staff are equipped to handle every customer's question without having to rely on John or Jane.  Perhaps John or Jane would even like to do some of these trainings . . . but I'll save that for another post.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Search Like a Pro

When you look at the make-up of your library, what is the ratio of professional staff?  Most libraries will staff only several MLS holders (usually in a management position of some type) and yet, to the average customer, everyone who works in the library is a librarian.  So what does this mean for a library trainer?  It means that selected bits of wisdom learned in Library School should be passed on to those staff who are engaged most with customers.

In the age of Google searches, the art of the Boolean operators has almost died - except in the world of libraries.  Using Boolean operators in the library's catalog and databases are almost necessities in order to retrieve the results desired, but I've found many coworkers resorting to natural language searches that just do not seem to deliver the goods.  Now, we can argue that said databases and catalogs should be more user friendly for the "non-librarian," and I would definitely agree, but this is just splitting hairs.  Until the day comes when catalogs and databases have been transformed, library staffers should be continually trained on the skills of searching.

If you are unfamiliar with Boolean operators, they are the use of the words "AND," "OR," and "NOT" to be used with search terms in order to retrieve query results.  Based on Boole's logic, databases use an algorithm to search multiple terms based on conjunction (AND,) dysjunction (OR,) and negation (NOT.) Just as Google can be a librarian/teacher's worst nightmare, the fact remains that Google itself employs a  Boolean algorithm which converts natural language into the Boolean terms.  Because most databases and catalogs are not as sophisticated as Google, it is important to know how these operators work in order to maximize results.

Of course, there are other factors that go into a good search (i.e. knowing which phrases to use and how to expand or narrow results) but mastering Boolean operators can effectively save searching time - and time is valuable.

Perhaps a fun searching contest among staff will help do the trick.  I highly recommend A Google a Day for a no cost, easy, and effective training.  Be careful - it's addictive!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Library Leadership Meets Customer Service

There should be no doubt that customer service is serious business.  But how does the functionality of your organization effect its ability to give excellent customer service?

Successful leaders/library managers know their staff's strengths and weaknesses and can use this knowledge to build trust among their team.  If library managers can take to heart Patrick Lencioni's The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, your library's organization may have the power to jump start a new era of library.  I truly believe that in order for external customer service to be stellar, interoffice politics must cease and be replaced by these five effective team elements:

(Absence of) Trust:
It is important for staff members to trust their coworkers. It is even more important for management to be able to trust their staff.  This is difficult for most people because it means backing off and letting people run with it.  When a team has a high level of trust, there is little politics at play because everyone is voicing opinions without . . .

(Fear of) Conflict:
When staff members aren't communicating then you know you have a problem.  Healthy conflict is great because it means team members are communicating their thoughts and ideas without fear of stepping on someone's toes.  Successfully working through a problem by debating the key points means everyone's opinion is being heard and respected.  By respecting other team members opinions, you allow them the opportunity to commit to a project or edict that they may not have originally agreed with.