Mittwoch, 2. Mai 2018

For Libraries, the “Customer is Always Right” Might Be Wrong / Kristen Arnett in: Lit Hub Daily May 2, 2018

When I’m sitting a shift at the circulation desk, I’m generally sipping from a giant mug of coffee and wishing it were something stronger. The front desk is the front lines, that exciting place where nightmares find you when you’re least prepared.
People come to circulation to air their many grievances and to ask if you sell postage stamps. Because it’s generally located directly next to the entrance, you often experience the brunt of people’s anger. Patrons hold you personally responsible when the wifi password doesn’t work or when you won’t override a fine or when a toilet gets clogged. It’s a rough job and you’re expected to power through it, even if you’re hungover from drinking two pitchers of beer at karaoke the night before (I’m speaking from experience here).
Circulation is the face of the library. It’s a public-interaction job, which means customer service, which means you better be able to smile at someone even if they’re yelling about how they broke the copy machine by sticking newspaper in the feed tray “just to see what would happen.” It’s a glamorous gig, circulation, and so much of it is dealing with people getting pissed off because they can’t have the thing they want exactly when they want it.
Think about it: what’s allowed in a library? Not that long ago, you couldn’t bring in food. Couldn’t make noise above a whisper (hence that stupid shushing joke that people always make when you tell them you’re a librarian). Couldn’t use a cellphone. These rules were put in place for a reason. Back then, what communities needed were quiet places for patrons to read, check out books, and study. We still meet those needs, but it’s safe to say that libraries have expanded to take on wildly different demands.
Now we offer charging stations for your cellphones and even barcode chargers for checkout. We provide internet access and try turning it off and on again when the wifi goes down. Our collections contain selfie sticks, digital cameras, bicycles, and seed collections. Many libraries house coffee shops or cafes; lots of our program attendance is based on what kind of free food we’re offering. I mean, I get it. I’ve ordered a pizza for the circulation desk (mostly for myself). But what this implies is that there has been a decided shift in how libraries function. Because of budget cuts and how severely our services are scrutinized, we’ve become hyper-focused on doing whatever it takes to get you in the door. ... [mehr]

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