Innovative Services & Practices

I’ve come full circle this afternoon by coming back to the Cultivating Innovation & Change track. This late afternoon session on Innovative Services & Practices is being presented by John Blyberg, Gretchen Hams, Sarah Ludwig, Kate Sheehan from the Darien Library. Serve community of 20-20K people.

John kicked things off.

Libraries have not been preparing for the future in a way that is sustainable. Traditional library services misaligned with needs of the users. Took services apart and reassembled to meet needs of the users. “Delete” the reference desk.

Sometimes we fail with innovation. That’s ok.

We have to adapt and be willing to adapt.

Innovate. Fail. Adapt.

Users do not see drastic change they see us responding to their needs.

If you build change and innovation into your culture your staff and users will come to expect it.


Gretchen – Children’s Librarian

Children’s librarians don’t always get a seat at the innovation table.

Picture books start with QJ. We’re asking customers to assume this knowledge.

Reorganized picture books and used color coded labels to empower browsers and searchers.

People come to the library as a 3rd place – especially in the winter to get out and socialize.

Just putting computers in the children’s room is not good enough.We need to find ways for them to collaborate.

Story time should not be one way. Kids should participate.

Examples of innovation: kids giving tours of the library, signs made by kids.

We’ve been missing a special demographic by focusing on only the kids and not their parents who don’t always know about adult services available.

Sarah – Teen and Technology Librarian

Teen room does not have a service desk

Teen space has all glass walls to see what is going on from outside

Trust teens with their space. If you give them the trust they will respect the space.

All furniture is movable.

Teens can move it where ever they want and whenever they want.

Let them make it their own!

Gaming – you should be doing it if you are serving teens.

DPL does not program around it. Just leave it open for them to use as they want.

Use tools to reach teens – Facebook.

If working with teens it is not appropriate to use a personal Facebook page. Need to have a professional teen librarian appearance. Do not friend coworkers or other adults. Only teens.

Kate – Reference

Reference is dead. Roving.

Long term wanted to move to 1 on 1 reference.

Meet people at their need without being invasive.

Allow people to browse independently.

When you change your space you have more space.

Reference desk was scary! Now a small curvy table.

Put 300 and 600 personal finance together.

If you rove you need a wireless phone.

We are able to do a lot of reference because we are not doing computer sign ups and tech support and other things.

Most important tool has been name tags.

Reorganizing is like weeding. Permanent upkeep. Constantly ask why you are doing this. Reassess.

You might not get a lot of positive feedback. The happy users will go along their way. The unhappy ones will complain the loudest.

“We have all changed our shoes. We no longer wear heels, but we all have great legs.” This is the best quote of the conference! This session really hit home with me as my own library is moving toward a similar service model.

Library Service in Tough Economic Times

Things are a little crazy here in Charlotte. In case you haven’t heard we’ve had a gas shortage for over a week now. The pipeline that supplies this area was partially shut down, word got out, and chaos ensued as anyone with a vehicle (and gas cans) went to fill up.

What would have been a mild shortage has turned into a major headache as some people hoard gas while others cannot find gas to get to work, school, etc.

I was lucky enough to find gas this weekend but had to wait in line for an hour and watched as tempers flared.

Then today came word that one of the largest employers in our area, Wachovia, was bought by Citigroup. Charlotte is the headquarters for Wachovia and it is estimated that thousands of Wachovia employees will be laid off within the next year. I’m hearing from my online friends that the ripple effect is already being felt. Businesses who did contract work for Wachovia will be effected along with the people who provided services for those families–landscaping, house cleaning, retail, restaurants, and eventually the government will feel the affect from the huge loss of tax revenue.

Although the situation I’ve outlined is close to home for me, it is far from unique. Across the country there are similar stories of businesses and people in crisis. So what does this mean for libraries?

First and foremost people are unsure, scared, angry–stressed. Be empathetic. Be courteous. Be respectful. You have no idea what someone is going through.

If your library has a policy that prevents access to materials for customers who owe more than a certain amount in fines and fees, see what you can do to change this. In these tough financial times people need access to library materials and resources more than ever. The more people we can help find employment, the less people we will have on government assistance programs.

Realize that the economic challenges our country is facing effects your coworkers too. It is entirely possible that someone you work with is experiencing or has gone through bankruptcy or foreclosure on his or her home. Be extra kind to the colleague who is having a bad day.

In sum be kind to everyone. Be kind to yourself. That small act of kindness you show someone could make all the difference in a person’s day.

ALA Part III: Customer Service Disney Style

Saturday morning I had the privilege to hear Bruce Kimbrell from the Disney Institute speak about customer service. Soft-spoken and pleasant mannered, Bruce has a great sense of humor that can liven yet put any audience at ease.

Some notes that I took during the session:

  • The front-line is the bottom line.
  • When you find out what a customer’s “wow” moment was, make sure to share that with other employees and celebrate it with the employee who provided it.
  • The most common comments Disney receives are not about how great the rides are, but how clean the parks are and how friendly the employees are.
  • The most common question from customers, “What time is the three o’clock parade?”
  • Customers can feel perfection even if they can’t see it (for example, eyelashes on the figures on a ride)
  • Disney 2.0 – “Pal Mickeys” interactive GPS Mickey dolls that kids can take around the park. They talk and give you tips about where to go, when to go, and what to do. If kids accidentally leave them at the hotel the maids pose the dolls in interesting places. Then kids started purposefully leaving them in the rooms to “have fun.” This costs nothing, but adds that extra special touch and helps to make it a magical experience.
  • A lot of what we sell is intangible – same in libraries
  • 18% turnover rate
  • At Disneyland there are 24 unions! Yikes!
  • One of the keys to customer service is holding staff accountable. Make them aware of what is expected prior to hiring and during orientation.
  • Separate on-stage presence from back-stage presence to maintain the setting. Snow White may smoke and fight with her boyfriend but not when she is “on-stage.”
  • Safety is not negotiable.
  • When you have to say no, turn it into a wow moment. At Disney if a child waits in line for a ride only to find he is not tall enough for the ride, he is presented with a certificate that allows him and his family to go immediately to the front of the line when he is tall enough. A potentially bad moment turned into a wow moment.
  • Every face to face interaction is a moment of truth. If a customer interacts with 60 cast members per day there are 60 moments of truth. If there are 59 great moments and 1 bad, which do you think the customer will remember? We need all moments of truth to be great.
  • First and last interaction at Disney is parking. Another three o’clock question, “Where did I park my car?” If a customer forgets where he or she parked the car Disney staff can locate it based on arrival time (stamped on ticket) they put the family on a golf car and locate and take the customer and family to the car. (Now this is process improvement!)
  • Continuously improve the process. Training/learning/improving never ends. You have to keep looking for ways to improve. 🙂

Going back to the “three o’clock question.” I think this is a key area for improving customer service within libraries. As Bruce pointed out, we all have three o’clock questions. Identify them. Then come up with a response or better solution. You are not going to stop the three o’clock questions so you need to find a way to handle them with finesse. Disney was not going to stop the question, “Dude where’s my car?” So instead they created a solution.

So what are some three o’clock questions in libraries?

  • Do you have any books?
  • Can I use the computer?
  • How do I get my print outs?
  • Why do I have these fines?
  • Where is the restroom?
  • What time do you close?

I remember when we first installed our PC Reservation and print management software. There were days when I felt like I could bang my head against the wall if one more patron asked me how to set up a print account. Yes it is tedious. Yes there are a lot of steps. Yes I must have went through the steps over 100 times a day for a few months (or at least it felt like that many). BUT…nearly each time it was the customer’s first interaction with the system. This was my chance to offer a “wow” moment to that customer.

We have to find a way to turn three o’clock questions into wow moments because the three o’clock questions are the easy ones. These are the questions we can prepare for.

After the session I introduced myself to Bruce and told him about one of my new roles in our library with leading a team that will create a standard for customer service and provide training. I asked Bruce if he had any book recommendations to get me started. He offered to send me the book Be Our Guest written by staff at the Disney Institute. My first day back from ALA guess what was waiting on my desk?

Waiting on my desk this morning...

A true Disney fan I also had to get a picture with Bruce. If you look closely can you see what kind of watch I’m wearing in the picture?

Me and Bruce from Disney Institute

I got that watch nine years ago on my honeymoon at Disney World. I still wear it nearly every day to remember the great time we had. The level of service Disney provides is something we should all aspire to. In the age of Google and Twitter the human touch we provide to our patrons/customers is where we can truly stand apart from the competition.

Truth in Advertising? You be the judge…

Yes I have lots to blog about re: ALA, but it’s the weekend and family time. So I thought I would share my shopping experiences and why Web 2.0 – shared user content is so great.

I bought my kids a kiddie pool for the 4th of July and it had a rip in the seam. Just what you want on July 4th when it’s hot and you want to entertain the kids.

So I’ve got the defective one all packaged up and ready to return and am taking a few minutes to look online at reviews of other pools. I finally found the pool–who wouldn’t love a pool with two slides!

Original Image

But wait, the reviews are horrible and look at this user uploaded photo. It’s obvious that the manufacturer did some major photoshopping to the original image. I am so glad I spent the time looking at the reviews.

I love that Amazon is allowing users to upload their own photos with their reviews. It’s nice to see a product in real use…even if the consumers in this one do look a little miserable.

Learning from Corporate America: Zappos will pay you to quit

I once worked in a call center where we went through a week of training. On the last day of training we were put on the phones to take customer calls. I knew after about day 2 of training that this was not for me, but I needed a job. I needed to pay my rent that month. After a few weeks when I finally quit, the supervisor begged me to stay. About to be the busiest time of year in retail, they were desperate for bodies–anybody to take customer orders.

Looking back I wonder why a company would want someone to sell their product who does not want to be there. How enthusiastic is that person going to be? How much is that employee going to go out of his way to make the business shine?

Tonight I discovered a company that is at the polar opposite. Zappos will pay you to leave if you don’t want to be there. Talk about engaged employees and customer service.

[Zappos] is a company that’s bursting with personality, to the point where a huge number of its 1,600 employees are power users of Twitter so that their friends, colleagues, and customers know what they’re up to at any moment in time. But here’s what’s really interesting. It’s a hard job, answering phones and talking to customers for hours at a time. So when Zappos hires new employees, it provides a four-week training period that immerses them in the company’s strategy, culture, and obsession with customers. People get paid their full salary during this period.

After a week or so in this immersive experience, though, it’s time for what Zappos calls “The Offer.” The fast-growing company, which works hard to recruit people to join, says to its newest employees: “If you quit today, we will pay you for the amount of time you’ve worked, plus we will offer you a $1,000 bonus.” Zappos actually bribes its new employees to quit!

Read the full Harvard Business Review post by Bill Taylor

The comments for this post are fascinating too. Ever wonder why a library should have a Twitter account? Read on…

The Twitter effect makes me feel like I am buying from friends, not a big company. I follow Zappos folks from both the Vegas and Kentucky facilities and with each Tweet, not only am I entertained, but I also become a more loyal customer and most importantly, an advocate.

– Posted by Judy C
May 19, 2008 4:47 PM

Granted libraries are already running on tight budgets so we can’t pay people to leave, but what can we learn from Zappos?