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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