Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Customer Service

Posted by lpearle on 20 February 2007

In an unrelated article, Chris posted about his recent experience at a restaurant. He writes

While we as librarians do a great job of identifying new customers and helping them a’la Moe’s, what can we take from this? Are there parts of our libraries (physical or virtual) that could benefit from proactive directions like this? Would our customers prefer the ability to quickly read and learn and thus enter into an interaction without feeling like such a newbie?

And yet… there are limits. Working in a school, you want the library to be a warm, inviting place. There should be great signage, lots of helpful hints on how to use sections or equipment, etc.. Should there be a greeter? I’m not sure.

With younger students, it’s a great idea. With the older ones, the ones who can choose to come to the library (or not) during their free periods, a greeter can seem like a gatekeeper. Even the simple “Hi! Do you need help?” can make them feel like they have to have a reason to be in that space (the cafeteria staff doesn’t greet them when they enter the dining hall!). Walking around helpfully can appear to be patrolling – ever vigilant for the illicit/illegal (be it dress code violation, gum, food, whatever your school bans).

Also, I’m mindful of Joan Williams’ comments about letting students fail – or, in their minds, letting them explore and learn by doing.

It’s difficult to balance the ingrained “be helpful” with the above. Doesn’t mean I’m not trying.

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