Good Library Customer Service

Pointing to good examples of well-designed library user experience is something we’ll always want to do here at DBL. This post is not exactly one of those, but it does point you to a good article that shares some useful thoughts and observations about customer service in the library – and as DBL has stated previously, customer service is an important component of any library UX strategy.

The September 1 issue of Library Journal includes an article (the Backtalk Column) titled “Lessons of Good Customer Service” by Amy Fry. What makes this a worthwhile read is that Fry shares her experiences as a member of the Barnes & Noble retail sales force, and how that has influenced her thinking about customer service in her library. One of the observations that caught my attention (and something I’ve commented on previously) was that front-line librarians do indeed have something to sell – so having some qualities of a talented salesperson can contribute to better customer service and library outreach.

Fry also shares some lessons learned from working on the front line in a public library (something I’ve experienced myself quite a few years ago). One of the important ones for delivering good customer service in libraries is understanding how to say no to users. It’s vitally important to have policies, but not when the policies are rigidly followed in order to deny patrons services because it may be inconvenient for staff. Libraries are often too focused on a rules-based culture. Retail organizations like Barnes & Nobles know they wouldn’t stay in business long if they couldn’t do everything possible to say “yes” to customers who need special accommodations.

So while customer service is not in and of itself a user experience, without good customer service at every touchpoint in the library, there is no hope for a better library experience.

Author: StevenB

Steven Bell is currently Associate University Librarian for Research and Instructional Services at Temple University, and was previously Director of the Library at Philadelphia University. Steven is the author of two regular columns published by Library Journal, From the Bell Tower and Leading From the Library. With John Shank he is co-founder of the Blended Librarians Online Learning Community. Bell and Shank are also authors of the book Academic Librarianship by Design. Bell's latest book is Crucible Moments: Inspiring Library Leadership. More information is found at his website.

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