December 14th, 2010 Brian Herzog
One question I get asked all the time, by patrons who were attracted by one of our book displays and then spent a few minutes looking at all the books, is, "can these books be checked out?"
The answer is of course yes (that's why we put them on display). I don't actually mind answering the question, but any time I'm repeatedly asked the same question, I think there has got to be a better way to communicate the answer.
Signs are always the first option, but signs can go wrong quickly.
Then it struck me to use the same trick that restaurateurs and buskers use - you know when you see a tip jar with money already in it, you're more likely to put some in yourself versus a jar with nothing in it?
To translate this theory to book displays, we could start using dollar bills as bookmarks in display books, but I thought a better idea would be to always leave one of the display stands empty. It's subtle and non-verbal, but if someone sees that someone else has already checked out one of the books from the display, it might communicate to them that it's okay for them to check one out, too. Which is what we want them to know, especially if no staff person is around for them to ask.
I did this on all the displays around the Reference desk last week, and I'm waiting to see if anyone asks about checking out a display book. Usually it happens a couple times a week - so far so good.
What do other people do to let patrons know it's okay to check out display books?
Tags: book, Books, communicating, communication, display, displays, libraries, Library, public, sign, signs
February 16th, 2010 Brian Herzog
I liked this post about a library experience Marilyn Johnson wrote while researching her book, This Book is Overdue!* - actually, I like reading any non-librarian review of a library experience, because it's the best way to learn how well libraries are serving patrons.
Another post worth reading is Do Library Staff Know What The Users Want? (via Jessamyn). Good user experience has to start with library staff making an effort to accommodate patrons' needs and wants, but we will not out-smart (or out-stupid?) patrons about everything.
"Anticipate and respond" are words to live by, but it's also a good idea to go right to the source. Here are a few ideas for that:
- Easy-to-find suggestion box at each service desk and online (and promote it)
- Teen advisory board, or Adult Advisory Board, or ESL Advisory Board, etc
- Focus groups (private and confidential) and open forums to invite comments, reviews and suggestions
- Encourage members of the Friends of the Library to regularly relate their library experiences, good and bad
- Trustees organize a "secret shopper" program - especially to test out library policies, which will help keep them up-to-date with patron needs
- Have evaluations at the end of each program (library-sponsored as well as club/group meetings) and ask open questions as well as specific questions about the facility
- Pay attention to what people ask - if everyone needs to ask where the bathroom is located, that might be an area to improve
- If a patron comes to you with a comment/complaint/suggestion, listen, and encourage (but don't require) them to put it in writing to make actionable paper trails
- Ask friends and family what their experiences have been
- Visit other libraries for a fresh perspective, and share ideas with other librarians
- Then of course, celebrate Work Like A Patron Day
[Please share additional ideas in the comments]
And when you do make adjustments based on patron input, get feedback on the new setup, too. Nothing is static, and it's possible to improve improvements.
Using the library shouldn't be annoying or complicated or antagonistic. Occasionally patrons tell me that they come to my library because the staff at their town's library was rude or unhelpful, or they can't find parking, or the policies are prohibitively restrictive. It should make me feel good about where I work, but really it makes me sad they had to shop around for a library.
I am glad they came to us, but I also always tell them to make sure they report their complaints to their home library to make sure they know about it and can work to improve it. Most of the time they laugh at that idea, as if they've washed their hands of their home library. What really worries me are the people who have a bad experience at one library and never go back or to another one, and instead take their information needs, community participation, children, and votes elsewhere.
There has to be a balance between what the patrons need and what each individual library can offer, but if we don't support our patrons, why would they support us?
*Full disclosure: I was mentioned in the book
(page 20 and 258!), but absolutely read it anyway. And if you're interested in obituaries, I also enjoyed her previous The Dead Beat
And check it out - there's a contest to win a This Book Is Overdue! mousepad
January 26th, 2010 Brian Herzog
A patron asked for help finding books on Taoism, so we walked over to the Religion section. As we were flipping through the index of books in the 294's and 299.514, I noticed something odd - many of the books we picked up all had bookmarks in them.
It's not uncommon for people to leave bookmarks in library books. But in this case, all of the bookmarks were identical - they were all business cards for a local yoga studio. Interesting. After I finished helping the patron, I went to the 613.7's, and sure enough - all our yoga how-to books also had these business cards tucked in them.
I dislike businesses targeting patrons, and in fact it's against our library policies, but I did think this approach was clever (although I shudder to think whose business card would end up in the 613.96's).
It also reminded me of a library tactic I fail to use effectively: put promotional bookmarks in books. It's a great way to drive traffic to your subscription databases, online subject guides, special programs, or general announcements, but it's also tough to maintain.
But too, this book-based advertising could be used as a fundraiser for libraries. Local business could donate money to purchase books on a certain topic, and in exchange they'd get a label on the book saying it was donated by them. Libraries would be able to expand collections, and perhaps also charge these businesses a fee on top of that.
This last idea is of course a terrible one. But the one before that is legitimate, really. And for another interesting library/business idea, check out Brett's idea for "Amazon Libraries."
November 3rd, 2009 Brian Herzog
I've mentioned the Library Use Value Calculator a few times, including that the ALA liked it so much they added it to their Tough Times Toolkit (under Making the Case).
Now they've gone one better - the ALA partnered with Safeway to take the Library Calculator out of the virtual world and bring it to the breakfast table.
The artwork [pdf] on the back of their cereal box looks great*, and it certainly gets the point across (I think the "get rich" angle is odd, but I guess that's marketing). It seems fairly intuitive, lists useful facts, and also includes a nice library-related quote from Barack Obama.
Check out the ALA's webpage, the box itself [pdf], and if there's a store near you that carries Safeway cereal, look for it. Sadly, there doesn't seem to be any in New England.
*Also good is that it satisfies my cereal box rule: whatever is on the back of the box should be interesting enough to keep you occupied for as long as the cereal inside the box lasts. I mean, those little mazes they put on the back of some boxes might keep me occupied for the first bowl, but what about all the subsequent mornings I eat that cereal? See, if I were president philosopher-king, the world would be a whole lot different.
Tags: @yourlibrary, ala, american libraries association, box, calculator, cereal, get rich, ilovelibraries, libraries, Library, library calculator, library use value calculator, public, safeway
October 17th, 2009 Brian Herzog
Instead of a reference question this week, here's a good example of another question-of-the-week service:
The Seattle Public Library has a regular feature on the website of a local paper, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. It's titled Shelf Talk, and in addition to general library content, it also features interesting reference questions (and their answers).
I think it's a great idea for libraries to have regular columns in the paper, in addition to events listings. It's not only entertaining and informative, but also promotes the library's reference service, subtly reminding people they can get help with tough questions at the library. And not surprisingly, Seattle is doing an excellent job of it.
September 17th, 2009 Brian Herzog
My cousin saw the ad below in the Las Vegas airport:
I like seeing a library with a sense of humor, but it's also a smart place for them to advertise (and it's big, too: 5' x 7'). Good job, Las Vegas-Clark County Library District.