Today I read two blog posts that made me think, “Duh! Isn’t that obvious?” But if two of the library world’s most esteemed bloggers are writing about it, then maybe not?
One was David Lee King talking about Darien Library’s Extreme Customer Service (or should it be Xtreme?). The other was the Library Rebooted.

The message I gleaned from both posts is:

  1. Libraries need to endear themselves with their user community.
  2. Libraries need to convey some value not easily replicated by the internet.
  3. Libraries need to make an impression on their users, preferably positive.

So what do cupcakes have to do with that? Well, I know my users (primarily grad students) love baked goods. Giving them free cupcakes during finals could be called extreme customer service, but it goes along with the whole library as the living room concept. If libraries are to survive, they need to not just be a place for books, but a place where people actually want to go and feel like part of the family. This is a mutually beneficial relationship – users or patrons get what they want or need, and libraries have a better understanding of what those needs and wants are and how to provide them. Of course people will want to be a part of that! (On both sides.) It’s sort of like that coffee shop you love, or your favourite record store. I know I could make a pot of coffee and save money, but I also like the experience of going to the coffee shop on the corner. I could easily buy that new record from a place like Amazon, but I go to Amoeba Records or mail-order from a small distro, like Little Type, for the experience and the interaction. I want going to the library to be the same sort of experience for my users, and I try to foster that sense of community. It can be difficult with limited resources, but little things definitely help. My library may not yet have an ILS, but we have free candy, a white board for math problems (or doodling), and computers for homework, Sim City, or internet quizzes.

Have a discussion with your users and it pays off.

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