customers focus

Designing my ideal ILS

Posted on February 29, 2008. Filed under: access, catalog, customers focus, ideas, ILS, library |

Today in our management meeting, our Executive Director, Gina Millsap, made the comment to the effect that much of the talk with open source systems is just using that tool to replicate existing ILS practices. This thought ties into my recent post about the inter-relation between library catalogs and other sources such as bookstores.  All of this makes me think that we should really talk about what we want our ILS to do for us.  What would it look like? I’m going to pretend that I don’t know anything about BI or catalogs or any of that library stuff.  I actually had pretty good BI as a kid, thank you to my school librarians, but I’m pretending a dream system here! When I want to find something – I put whatever comes to my mind into the computer and it tells me where I can find it.  A map of the library pops up on the screen and it leads me to the correct shelf and shows me what the book looks like and exactly where it is.  If the “book” comes in an audiobook format or as a movie it needs to show me those options as well, even if they are not located next to each other.  I don’t want a big list of things.  I somehow want it to understand what I’m looking for and make the necessary decisions to provide that for me.  I’m not a techie person, so have no idea how this would actually happen.  A big Google-like list of things is not helpful in this case.  I want the system to do the work for me. It would provide me the options of finding something else or if what it found was not correct, it would provide some options for me to pursue.  It would also give me connections to other similar items; the “if you like this, you might like..” concept. What do you want to see in a system like this?

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Connecting libraries to bookstores

Posted on February 2, 2008. Filed under: access, administration, barriers, collections, customers focus, service |

I’ve been planning a conference, so most of my time has been hectic, but I’m back! 

Through a post on Librarygeekwoes I read about a post on LibraryThing regarding Tim’s ideas on connecting libraries and bookstores.

 This got me to thinking about how I use libraries and bookstores and the synergy between them, or lack thereof. Even though I have daily access to a well-stocked library with a lot of resources, I find myself going to bookstores and ordering books online on a regular basis.  Is this where I admit to being a bookaholique?   When I’m at a library conference, I will often stop by local bookstores to browse and typically see many people from the conference doing the same thing – they have their name tags on so it makes it easy to spot them.  Typically, the bookstores put up welcome signs for the visiting librarians.  That must mean I’m part of a large group that does the same thing.  If we do that, isn’t it reasonable to expect that, at least some, of our library customers do the same thing? So how can we help make customer frustration, as expressed by Tim at Librarything, go away?   

Our library has reasonably good relations with our local bookstores, which are predominately large national chains.  Administratively, we can encourage interaction and sharing of information, perhaps even signing agreements to cooperate. 

We do reach a point where we need to protect some information.  Libraries are typically required by state law to keep some information confidential.  We have always interpreted this law broadly to include just about everything.  Businesses will share information up to the point that it might infringe on their ability to make money. It would seem that technology is capable of drawing a very fine line between what we can share and what we can’t. We just need to make sure that it does so.  Not to throw this point away casually, because it is absolutely crucial, but I do think the confidentially issue can be resolved fairly easily. The harder part would seem to be developing the relationships and providing access to the appropriate information in all of the right places.   I would love for our catalog to have buttons on each search page that provide our usual options, plus the option to Interlibrary Loan – if not available, to locate the title at a local store or to access a national site for online purchase.  I have a sliding scale for how patient I am based upon my need of the moment.  All of those options would allow me to indulge my impatience in the best available method. Now we need to figure out how to share information so that this can happen.

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Customer Service definition

Posted on November 8, 2007. Filed under: customers focus, library, service |

So much of our focus is on customer service.  Tom recently commented about the term servant leadership and how that spoke to him.   I just finished the book, “Service Included: Four-star secrets of an Evesdropping waiter” by Phoebe Damrosch.  I like to read about the food industry and my son did a stint as a waiter in a fancy New York bistro, so this book was particularly interesting to me.  I found that Phoebe did a really good job of describing service from her perspective.  On page 74 she starts the chapter “Four-star mistress” with this paragraph: The secret to service is not servitude, but anticipating desire.  This had nothing to do with obeying the commands of the sort of demanding customer who snaps his fingers from across the room.  Garçon! Miss! This was about the art of careful observation and the intimacy of knowing what someone wants before he does. I did omit the middle of the paragraph because it dealt very specific restaurant details.   While we, as librarians, have the information of the world as our menu and a restaurant is much more proscribed, I still think there is an underlying similarity.   We will never be able to completely know what someone wants before they ask us, but the idea that we are hyper-sensitive to their expressions, nuances in their questions, etc., is something that I enjoy and strive for.  I have seen a number of librarians who are excellent at this and really enjoy watching them work.  They seem to effortlessly flow with the customer and anticipate directions that the questions might go and offer up information and suggestions before they are asked.  The delight on the customers’ face is a joy to behold as they leave with more than they even thought they wanted.  It can often be a simple as getting a customer started on a computer and then slipping a piece of scrap paper and a pencil next to them so they can take notes or noticing that they have several items just going due and offering to renew them before they ask. For me, this kind of thing can make a dreary day a success.

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Question: Dump the Org Chart vs. Servant Leadership

Posted on October 4, 2007. Filed under: administration, customers focus, ideas, leadership |

During the SirsiDynix Webinar “Dump the Org Chart” we were asked the question, “Since our reason for existing is to serve our customers, how does this relate to ‘servant leadership?’” Our perspective in the webinar was looking at how we could engage and involve the staff and the public in planning and executing the future of the library.   My experience with the concepts of servant leadership is that they promote collaboration and being able to serve as leader from any point in the organization.  It doesn’t rely on the hierarchy to provide leaders and it looks both inside and outside the organization to provide direction and goals for the organization.   Those same principles are inherent in our presentation.  We talked about:

  • Drawing on the collective wisdom
  • Scanning the environment
  • Listening to customers
  • Investing in staff
  • Committing to quality, continuous improvement and excellence
  • Re-allocating resources to focus on the work

 While stated differently, I believe that the customer focus of both servant leadership and our presentation is the same.  We may all use these tools in various ways to achieve the same goal, but in the end, I think we are working for the same thing. 

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