Friday, August 23, 2013

Doing All We Can for Our Customers

This past Wednesday, I worked a split shift. In the morning I was out of sorts. My state of mind had nothing to do with customers or colleagues, just allergies, but I hated feeling like I was in a funk. That evening, however, I was in the zone. My search queries quickly returned great results, I helped save school documents in the nick of time, and I rocked some readers' advisory conversations with middle graders. By the time we were ready to close, the library quiet, I started to think on my two very different states of mind during the day and whether how we feel affects the service we provide.

Doing all we can means picking
up on customers' needs--even if
they haven't figured them out yet.
You see, in the evening, a mom came into the library with her preschool-aged daughter. The mother needed to get a library card so she could use our computers for a little while, and her little girl was about to have a meltdown at the prospect of sitting next to the computer for what is, in kid-time, eons. In this particular instance, the library's level of busyness allowed me to give this girl a few minutes of attention to get her acclimated to the library and engaged in something. I asked her if she'd like me to bring some toys over by the computer for her to play with--and of course she said yes. Off I went to the children's area, grabbing an alphabet machine, a magna doodle, and a wordless picture book, and I brought them to a table adjacent to the computer where her mother was working on something important. I showed the girl how she could make up the words to the story that was just pictures, and when she asked for crayons and paper to draw her own story, I grabbed them from the reference desk. Meltdown averted, little girl engaged in self-directed activities right next to mom doing the work she needed to do. That five minute, full-attention interaction with the young girl saved the whole library from hearing bored whining for an hour while mom was on the computer, and it made mom feel successful in her library visit.

My question is, do we always do all we can for our customers? Even if we're not feeling like our patience tanks are 100% full? Even if the customer interaction isn't driven by a question or even an address to a staff member? Or do we do just enough for everyone to be superficially satisfied? My questions kind of relate to that Reference 101 scenario: a customer asks if you have a book on x topic; you could say "No" and leave it at that, or you could say "We do not have a book, but let's look in our databases for some good information." Both technically answer the question. But are we doing all we can?

Perhaps this whole post--sorry if it's not that exciting or idea-driven--is a way of reminding myself to always ask myself that question: am I doing everything I can here? Am I trying to respond to unspoken questions or concerns, or am I ignoring them because they aren't formally part of the reference interaction? In particular, am I doing all I can for the children who use my library who may not even know what to ask for, or how to express what they want or what they're feeling?

Doing all we can for our customers can be hard some days, easier on others. But doing all we can does wonders for building a sense of comfort between the library and its customers, a sense that the library is a place they want to spend time and where staff care. I like to think that's the sort of library we all want to work in--one where we'll happily move some items from the children's area when a caregiver has computer work and a kid needs something to do. Next time I'm having a cranky allergy day, that's what I'll be reminding myself.


1 comment:

  1. Great post! I think we all have human moments when we are not 100%. This puts it into a nice perspective. Thanks.

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