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Saying No In My Library, And How We Can Say It Less Often

   July 24th, 2014

I know I've mentioned before that my library has a strong "Get To Yes" policy for customer service - we want to do whatever we can to meet the patrons' needs.

To identify areas where we're coming up short, occasionally in the past we've kept "No Logs" at the service desks - log sheets for staff to track patron questions where we had no alternative but to answer "no." For this fiscal year, we're really trying to improve customer service even more, so we've made the Reference Desk's "No Log" a permanent thing.

Below is a snapshot of our "No" questions from July 1st until now - mostly museum passes this library doesn't offer, extended study room use, or printer/copier questions. But there's other good stuff in there that I think we can improve on, and that's what this is all about:


Nothing earth-shattering - which is good, really - but small steps are sometimes the best approach for improvements. I'm really curious to see how these things trend over time, too.

Also, slightly related to this is OCLC's Top reasons for no - the reason libraries report for interlibrary loan requests being denied. I can't remember where I saw this link posted, but I like this sort of thing.

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9 Responses to “Saying No In My Library, And How We Can Say It Less Often”

  1. Bret Says:

    Working at a law library and with the current state of a low employment economy, I’m having to say “NO” to giving out legal advice at lease 5 times daily. I could stop there but as a front line Librarian, I usually continue with, “While I can’t answer legal advice questions (i.e. what do you think, how should I apply, what is your opinion), what I can do is answer is ‘where can I find…'”. Where “NO” is often a death knell, it is the responsibility of the Library to find ways around it and move forward.

  2. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Bret: I agree, and I think this is where public librarians have an easier time of it than special libraries. Whenever we get asked legal questions (or a variety of other topics), we can say, “No, I can’t help you sue your employer, but here’s the contact for the state’s law library system which can help you find the most appropriate resources far better than we can.”

    Of course this doesn’t work in all cases, and we can help up to a certain degree, so you’re absolutely right that there’s usually something we can do.

    For the purposes of the No Log, those questions don’t really qualify – if we can offer some resource that helps, it doesn’t count as a No (unless it’s a really paltry resource). Only true Nos, for which there is no alternative, are what we’re going for.

  3. Catherine Says:

    The notary question is a hard one for me, because while I’m definitely willing to become a notary (and have been one in the past), I’m not willing to take on the responsibility and burden without library support. It surprises me that many libraries (my own included) don’t know where the nearest notaries are — even though it’s a no answer, it’s a helpful one if you can hand over directions.

  4. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Catherine: I agree on notaries – I actually did start the process to become a notary as a service to offer at the library, and our Town Hall wouldn’t let me because of whatever liability is involved. We have one part-time staff person who is also a lawyer and notary, and although she’d be willing to do that for a patron, it’s not something we advertise and she never brings her tools to work.

    So, we’re left with referring people to banks (most of which have notaries), and there’s also a UPS Store and a Staples nearby that offer notary services.

    Which, again, isn’t exactly a “no” – no, we can’t do it ourselves, but yes here are some resources that will meet your need. To me, that’s the same as saying no, I can’t tell you how to make chicken teriyaki, but here is a book on our shelf that can.

  5. Jami Says:

    Most of our “nos” are “No, you can’t have a 3rd go at the computer.” “No, I can’t waive your fine of $50.” “No, we’re closing and I can’t let you use the computer for just a minute.”

  6. Sue Says:

    “Is the air conditioning working YET?” We regretfully must answer no to that one.

  7. Gelesenes – 28. Juli 2014 | netzphilosophieren Says:

    […] Army Librarian : “Saying No In My Library, And How We Can Say It Less Often“, Brian Herzog (24.7.2014) Gute Idee, zur Nutzerwunschforschung, eine […]

  8. Infobib » Wann, warum und wie oft “nein” an der Theke? Says:

    […] (gute) Idee hat sie vom Swiss Army Librarian, der nebenbei auf OCLCs “Top reasons for no” in der Fernleihe […]

  9. Infobib » Wann, warum und wie oft “nein” an der Theke? Says:

    […] (gute) Idee hat sie vom Swiss Army Librarian, der nebenbei auf OCLCs “Top reasons for no” in der Fernleihe […]