or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk


Customer Service and “Reverse Justification”

   July 29th, 2008 Brian Herzog

sign: If it bothers you, it bothers usAt the Simmons Tech Summit, we talked about more than just tech stuff - we had a good discussion on customer service in libraries, too.

A few of the attendees visit lots of libraries, and so witness different levels of customer service in action. Since good customer service is absolutely fundamental to libraries, we talked about a new trend that is a bit alarming.

We dubbed it "reverse justification," but what it boiled down to was libraries claiming "customer service" as the reason for continuing to do something "the way it's always been done" - regardless of whether or not patrons benefit from it. Examples:

  • We only allow patrons to use the internet for 30 minutes a day ... because it's good customer service
  • Bathroom doors are always to remain locked ... because it's good customer service
  • Patrons cannot use flash drives, only floppy disks ... because it's good customer service

I'm not saying there aren't legitimate reasons for rules like these - technological limitations, staff shortages, etc. - but "customer service" is not it. Customer service is very important, so some serious critical thinking should always be applied when customer service is cited as a justification for something. Are the patrons really being served, or it is that policy/rule/situation just easiest for the library?



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Simmons Tech Summit

   July 24th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Simmons Tech Summit Tech ToysLast week, I was invited to participate in the first Simmons Tech Summit.

Organized and hosted by a few instructors in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College, it was a small unconference of tech librarians discussing using web 2.0 tools to reach out to patrons.

It was fun. I was the only public librarian there (and, it seemed, the only one without an iPhone), and it was interesting to hear how academic librarians approach web 2.0 tools. Also, I like meeting other librarians, especially when they're doing cool things.

We created a del.icio.us account for the tools we covered - a lot I don't use, a few I'd never heard of, and some I need to investigate further. Check out the full list, but here's a few highlights:

  • VoiceThread and Animoto are different, but similar in that they are both easy tools for creating videos. Animoto puts music over photos, to create fun music videos. VoiceThread is a bit more powerful, and is a tool for creating presentations with slides and voice - but best of all, viewers can leave comments on the slides. Great for interaction in the classroom, but questions/feedback is also great for instructional screencasts or collaborative creativity
  • LibraryFind came up early in the day, as any meeting of tech librarians will quickly turn to lamenting the state of ILS software. LibraryFind is an open source metasearch/federated search tool developed (and in use!) by Oregon State University - definitely worth some play time
  • ChaCha was new to me - it's basically a reference service for mobile devices. Send them a reference question via text message or phone call, and they send you back an answer. Registering your mobile devices means it can log the questions you ask, so you can see who answered it (the "Guide") and where they found the answer. It looks like Guides can be anyone, and are paid $0.20/answer
  • Wordle.net was new to me, too - upload a block of text to it and it creates a pretty "word cloud." Like a tag cloud, but not linked, so it can be eye-catching but not inherently useful. But I like the concept, though, and it's fun: here's a wordle of the Tech Summit delicious feed, this blog, and the White House's news feed

Keeping up by reading journals and blogs is okay, but I usually learn a lot more by talking to people and hearing their ideas on tools. Yay for sharing and working together.



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