Round-up for May 2013

So what’s the outcome for May 2013?

It’s been an interesting, and challenging, month of blogging. A commitment to regular posts (a new post every 48 hours), focused on two key topics #customers and #collections, all with a degree of flexibility and creativity thrown in for good measure. I’ve found that setting specific parameters for my blogging has been a good way to reign in the audacious ideas that fizz in my head.

I’ve had positive feedback, interesting conversations and continued encouragement throughout May 2013 from all corners of the globe. I’m grateful that these posts are making folks think about their own professional practice, and that different posts have challenged folks to reflect on the ways in which their libraries engage with customers, how they manage & develop collections, and subsequently make connections between the two.

I feel there’s some common themes coming through, so we’ll see how that continues over June & July 2013, and the remainder of the #alphabet.

Be light-footed : tread with agility and nimbleness

LA customer walks into a library.

A customer phones the library.

A customer tweets the library.

A customer posts on the library’s Facebook page.

A customer emails the library.

A customer texts the library.

When a customer wants to engage with you, please make it easy-peasy for them to do so, through whatever channel they choose.

How nimble, agile and light-footed is your library? Do you have the data to demonstrate how responsive your library is to its customers? If I asked you how many customer interactions are responded to, and resolved, within 24 hours of first contact, could you tell me?

What if … you measured where your customers actually are, and allocated staffing accordingly?

What if … your staff are proactively located in the same space as your customers, from Twitter to Yammer, from Facebook to online chat, to outside the four walls of your library?

What if … you publicly state that you will respond to customers via the same channel they engaged with you, be it Twitter, email, text, telephone, letter or Facebook, be it publicly or privately.

If you aren’t in a position to proactively support a wide range of communication channels, then please ensure that the ones you do have are in tip-top shape, easy-to-use and accessible for all.

Make your online feedback forms meaningful, with space that is big enough to type in, and offering the option to email a copy of the form to the customer. You may (or may not) be surprised to know that these two things are not always a given on feedback forms.

What if … you had a sizeable “I’ve got something to say” button that appeared on every page of your website? Instead of making customers hunt through your website for the feedback form, it’s right there on every page, easily accessible, inviting conversations.

Does your library have agreed terms of engagement with your customers? Does your library encourage staff and enable them to engage quickly, freely sharing the information customers seek, and clearly communicating the reason for any delay? Does your library have agreed time frames for responding to customers?

What if … you publicly state that you will respond to all messages, be it via phone call, emails and walk-ins, within an hour when your library is open, and within the first hour of the library re-opening on the next business day?

How responsive you can be to customers is highly dependent on the communications systems that are already in place, and the level of self-sufficiency that customers feel when they engage with your library. If you make it easy for them to use your library, and there are plenty of ways for them to independently find the information they need in the first place, then you may not feel the pressure to improve your communication channels immediately.

What if … you were proactive and not reactive?

Being able to tread lightly, respond quickly & meaningfully, invites your customers to widely share with the world their positive interactions with you.

Being heavy-footed, blaming a poor communications system, using old school tools and forcing the customer to engage in the ways that you (not them) are comfortable with, may just ensure that they exercise their democratic right to tell everyone just how poor your customer service is.

Inspiration from How to give your users the LIS services they want

Book cover image for How to give your users the LIS services they wantHow to give your users the LIS services they want by Sheila Pantry & Peter Griffiths (2009) reiterates the value of analysing user behaviour because, as the titles clearly indicates, it really is all about what the customers want.

Your library exists because of and for your customers.

The collections, services, programmes all exist for your customers. This book gives practical advice about creating a library that meets the needs & wants of customers, including tracking customer usage, involving customers in planning & improving processes, and auditing your existing services.

The authors remind us that we need to frame the data & information about our services & collections through our customers eyes. For example, by asking meaningful questions in surveys.

Instead of asking “which of the following databases have you used in the last 6 months?” (how many of your customers actually know or care that it is called a database?) and because really, you should instead be able to get this kind of data from your database statistics.

Ask customers to list their top five priorities for library usage in the coming 6 months.

Or ask your customers to identify the barriers they face – what stops them using the electronic resources – is it lack of knowledge about what is in the resource, or is it a lack of confidence in searching, or are they confused about which resource is the “best” one to use? Determine where information skills & information literacy is lacking.

Set out to make the learning pathway easier for your customers.

This book serves as a solid base to think about LIS services from a customer perspective. It also offers some creative inspiration to think broadly about how to “think outside the box” for future LIS services. It’s a good place to start your journey to flipping your thinking into a customer-centric, UX-inspired frame of mind.

I’d recommend it : to new managers, solo librarians, institutional librarians (from schools to tertiary).

Be known : what are you famous for?

KMake a choice, as a library, to be well-known. I am not talking about being known for being nice, friendly, or open. These sorts of things should be a given, not an aspiration.

Choose a point of difference. Find your niche. Create your unique selling point. Commit to doing it well. Commit to doing it very well. Be known for that awesome thing.

What if … your library was known as “best little public library in New Zealand“? Imagine the marketing campaign!

What if … your library was known for sourcing & actively supporting Open Access research publishing outputs? Imagine if your special library collection & its staff were a key selling point for your research organisation!

What if … your library was known for incredible availability of staff & resources – online & in person? If your academic library is open from 7am until midnight, to increase access for your “seldom-on-campus” or your “working full-time & studying part-time” student communities, then commit to more staff in non-traditional business hours to reward students & teaching staff with guaranteed access to library staff & resources. Imagine if your breakfast or evening shifts were the busiest part of the day!

What if … you committed to all staff (all the way up to your Head Librarian) in your library being known for their amazing Reader’s Advisory abilities? Invest in staff training. Commit to the creation of amazing Reading Journeys. Make connections between your fiction & non-fiction collections, adult & youth collections. Ensure that your community taps into staff RA knowledge. Imagine if your community then ultimately contributed to the collective Reader’s Advisory knowledge base by sharing their own Reading Maps!

What if … your school library was known for its digital savvy? Ask your students to support other students & staff in learning about ICT tools. Create your own apps. Commit to entering every single digital competition you can find, such as Mix&Mash. Imagine if you kept count of all the competitions you win!

A lot of these ideas might involve some significant change of thought about the philosophy of existence of your library, changes to how & who you hire, why you collect, and where staff focus their energies.

Massey University is known for its APA Interactive tool via OWLL (Online Writing and Learning Link).

Christchurch City Libraries is known for its fantastic digital content, especially its kids pages.

Other libraries know that this content is fabulous, so instead of re-inventing the wheel, you might notice that they’ve supplemented their library website with “See Christchurch City Libraries site for more great content”.

These are just New Zealand two examples where the decision has been made to resource & support the development of being “well-known” for something awesome. Achieving this takes vision, and the commitment of staff/time/resources/money, but it shows that outstanding “known-ness” as a result is well-worth the investment.

Ask your community for ideas about what could be your unique known quality, and then find a way to reduce or eliminate the busywork of library staff to achieve your “be known” awesome. Show others how it is be done. Be a leader in your chosen niche.

Be judgemental : take a stand

JMaking clear statements about why, what and how we collect ensures that our audience(s) are in no doubt what we stand for. It also gives our customers an opportunity to challenge our stance. This gives us a chance to modify our policies & procedures directly as a result from customer feedback.

Being judgemental is about being honest.

For example, what exactly is your library’s stance on self-published material? Do you have a clear statement about why your library will/won’t accept self-published material? Have you made an honest judgement about it?

  • Is your library’s mindset still “self published = couldn’t get published elsewhere”?
  • Do you actively embrace new publishing models?
  • Do you actively look for content outside of the mainstream, to build a deep, rich collection?
  • Do Suggestions to Purchase for self-published materials end up it in the “too hard” basket as too difficult to source?
  • Are you in a position to purchase materials published by non-mainstream publishers?
  • Do you have flexibility to receive & process non-mainstream materials to your collection?
  • If the self-published content is valuable, wanted, just plain awesome, but the format isn’t supported by your library (e.g. spiral bound books), do you have the flexibility to repackage & process the content into a supported format?
  • Will you support Kickstarter or PledgeMe campaigns if they involve formats & content that your customers want?
  • Will your vendors source anything from anywhere for you?
  • Do you purchase directly from self-published websites?
  • Will you only make exceptions for self-published local content?

Be judgemental & take a clear stance about your collections. Be prepared to debate it with your customers. Listen to their reasons about why you should change your stance. Invite discussion. Invite ideas. Invite debate.