Librarians are the keepers of knowledge. One day you might be pointing a local high school student to information on the lost tomb of Pharaoh Sobekhotep, the next, advising veterans on the resources your city has available to them—and the next, managing a career fair for your city’s unemployed. Your job is never quite the same, meaning you must be able to cater to wide variety of people, their questions and interests at a drop of a hat. With so many services that a library can offer, how do you meet the demands of all users, regardless of age, background, language or interest?
The answer? Smart customer service. We reached out to some of our friends in public libraries across the country for their ideas on how to meet the needs of every one of your library patrons.
Introduce lesser-known resources
Even the most seasoned of library guests may not be up to speed on everything your public library can offer. As a librarian, it’s up to you to educate your guests and “upsell” your library’s services. According to Annie Norman, the state librarian and director of the Delaware Public Libraries, “[Librarians need to] figure out how we can bundle these library programs so that people will engage with them. So many times, people say, ‘I didn’t know libraries did that.”
Sometimes, education on library services falls through the cracks. Take active steps to make sure that your library’s resources are in front of patrons and they know exactly what’s available to them. Is your patron writing a report on the ancient Chinese Cradle of Civilization? Connect them with resources online and in print around the topic. Do they speak another language? Refer them to a bilingual staff librarian. By introducing patrons to some of your lesser-known resources, you enrich their experiences at your library—and get a higher ROI on your offerings.
Embrace your online presence
You don’t have to be face-to-face with your patrons in order to provide great customer service. Set up a Twitter or Facebook profile and encourage people to message you with their questions on those profiles (inside voices optional). Elyssa Kroski, Director of Information Technology at New York Law Institute maintains that you should “be diligent about keeping up with posts on your library’s Facebook page and respond to them in a timely manner.” Timely is key here: if you take a week to answer a patron’s question, that’s not good customer service at all.
Another tip to maintain a timely online presence is to set up a FAQ page so that your customers know the best way to receive the help that they need. Include plenty of links to online databases of photos, articles and video—and be sure to include a space where patrons can renew their materials! Patrons might not know they can read the full collection of the greatest speeches in history from the comfort of their own homes, but with a great FAQ page and a strong social media presence, they will always be up to speed, whether it’s from the library or the comfort of their own home.
Do you want more insights from top librarians? We’ve got you covered. From social media to advertising best practices to creating a community of library-loving folks, we’ve collected top tips for branding your library. Click below to read “Branding Your Library: Insights from Today’s Top Librarians.”