Archive for October, 2007
On June 7, 2007 I blogged about a keynote talk I gave on June 1, 2007 at the Oregon Virtual Reference Summit 2007 organized by Caleb Tucker-Raymond, Oregon Statewide Digital Reference Services Coordinator for the L-net: Oregon Libraries Network consortium. The talk just became available as an audio file on the open web. (Thanks Caleb!) I promised to post to the blog when this happened, so am now able to make good on my promise.
If you’d like to listen to this presentation, click here: “I Was Kind of Confused b4” Interpersonal Communication Research in Virtual Reference.”
The talk focuses on the information-seeking and communication behaviors of the youngest Millennials – the Screenagers. I discuss their predilections and characteristics (multi-tasking, impatience, practicality, convenience, etc.) as well as their perceptions of librarians (“I don’t trust librarians, I trust Google”) and fear of cyber-predators in chat rooms that extends to chat librarians (“I don’t like to chat with strangers.”)
In addition, I comment on some recommendations for improving chat reference encounters with teens . These recommendations were derived from focus groups with screenagers and from in-depth chat reference transcript analysis as part of the IMLS grant project Seeking Synchronicity.
The keynote was about 50 minutes, followed by Q and A, so be forewarned that it is long. Hey, feel free (of course!) to check your e-mail while listening, or to multi-task with other activities 😉
I begin by talking about my background and how I got interested in studying chat reference, so if you want to get to the research results, fast forward through the first 15 mins. or so.
The Human Touch (in which a crazy-bad “system” is made less bad by a live, caring human being)
In November I’m going to be staffing a booth at New Jersey’s annual teacher’s convention to help promote our statewide virtual reference service QandANJ. A few months ago I filled out the necessary forms to reserve booth space on the exhibit floor in the Atlantic City Convention Center. Soon after, I was sent the “exhibitor’s manual” which included another myriad of forms to fill out. So many options! Do we want a table? How many? What size? A table drape? What color? Carpet? Plush? Regular? Color? Chairs? How many? Wastebasket? Do you want the booth vacuumed? How often? Do you want electricity? What kind? (yup, there’s different kinds.) Internet Access? Telephone? Help setting up the booth? Taking it down? Will you be sending boxes of stuff? To the warehouse? To the booth? Etc. Etc.
I suppose choice is good, but the quality of the forms that would (hopefully) reflect my choices were not so good. Small type. Poor design. Lot’s of repetition. Yesterday I spent the better part of the morning attempting to fill out these many poorly-designed forms, all written in 6 pt type. There were eleven different forms. Eleven. And they had to be faxed to three different places! Each form asked for the same information: Name, phone, email, fax, credit card. Name, phone, email, fax, credit card. Name, phone, email, fax, credit card. Wouldn’t it have been great if I could have gone to a single website, entered this information ONCE, then made my selections electronically? Hey, a boy can dream, can’t he?
As it was, my morning was eaten up, my eyes were crossing, but there was a single saving grace: The exhibitor hotline. I had called the exhibitor hotline months ago when I first ordered the booth. In fact, I called it five times in one day (the initial forms I used to order the booth were no less confusing.) Each time I called, the phone was answered on the first ring by Kris. Kris was pleasant. Kris was helpful. Kris was friendly. When I called, I was feeling equal parts stressed, frustrated, and stupid. Kris talked to me like I wasn’t stupid. She comforted me and made it clear that I could call as often as I needed to. So I did.
Yesterday morning I renewed my contact with Kris. She was still there, picking up the phone after one ring with a friendly greeting, helping me figure out the forms and understand the ramifications of my choices. She even made a few phone calls to assure that I’d get the early-bird rate even though I was a few days past the deadline (“Oh, since this is your first time exhibiting…”)
So yes, the “system” sucked, and yes my eyes hurt, but in the end, to be honest, I felt fairly positive about the whole thing. Sure, I would have preferred a system that didn’t require me to interact with another human being (and I’m an extrovert). And I certainly would have preferred a system that didn’t take 3 hours of my time to communicate some relatively simple choices. But having a live person–a warm, caring, informed live person–available to help me gave a HUGE boost to my overall level of satisfaction.
So I ask: What happens when our customers need help? Whether it’s a reference question, a query about branch hours, or someone trying to find out what time storytime starts. Do they get a live person? Do they get an informed, warm, caring live person? Is the phone answered after one ring? Two rings? Five rings?
Kris was my escape valve. Ultimately it’s better to design our systems so we don’t need an escape valve. After all, what happens when Kris retires, or takes another job? Without her on the other end of the exhibitor hotline I would have been in hell. But even the best systems can only benefit from having an escape valve. A Kris who picks up after one ring. A human touch.
If asked to evaluate my experience as a prospective exhibitor at NJEA I’d give failing grades for convenience, but an A plus for the customer service I received from Kris. Overall, a solid B.
In my next post (on convenience) I’m going to describe a very different experience…
I was reluctant to post this at first, but after telling Amy about this yesterday over snacks at Applebee’s (and seeing Michelle’s post today), I guess I will share. Here’s the back story…
Romina Gutierrez and I had a tour and lunch with the some of the staff at Princeton University Press a few weeks back. While at their offices we noticed that they had the newest biography on Garibaldi on display, it was hot off their presses and being released that week. We were able to get a freebie copy during the course of our conversation – but it was not for the PPL collection that we wanted the freebie. We wanted to get this for one of our favorite long-time customers, an elderly gentleman who takes a bus some distance and then walks several blocks to reach us so he can do research on Garibaldi at our library. He has been here on an almost daily for as long as I have worked here (9+ years). The staff all know him by name and we have literally purchased or done an ILL on every book and article every published about Garibaldi by this point.
When he was given his own copy of the new Garibaldi biography to keep, he was deeply moved – we knew he would be happy, but we had no idea how happy. Here is the poem he wrote and typed on his typewriter and mailed to administration to give his thanks. It brings a smile to my face to read it (I have it on my bulletin board next to my desk).
O Janie! O Romina!
Wish I knew a better way,
To let my heart (thank you) say,
For your generous book gift,
Giving my sagging spirit a lift.
Newest bio, I do not own,
On “Garibaldi” which I’m prone.
To some librarians, well known,
Thrives the noble gestures pull,
Into that zone of the wonderful.
Eye-ing graciousness hue
Embedded in Library’s two.
In parting, I will plead
Words are _______ next to the deed.
Anyone care to share Reason #455 to love being a librarian? Perhaps the making of a meme…
David Lee King has offered up a new song/video Social Digital Revolution. I love this tune! The poppiness. The playfulness. The great lyrics.
Enough of my blabbering, just go watch it: http://blip.tv/file/441515
Nowadays, I consider myself really lucky because I have an extremely level-headed boss. She might tell you her opinion and will definitely let you know when things need to improve but, in doing so, she never speaks in a way that I’ve construed as offensive. It’s always been direct but not demeaning and I have never left her office feeling like I just got pummeled.I haven’t always been so lucky though, I used to have one of the worst types of bosses imaginable: A Screamer.
On a near daily basis, I would hear my boss yelling at someone in her office. To put that in perspective: the distance from her office to my desk was through one room, then a hallway, up a flight stairs and then behind a solid oak door… a distance over 100 feet. To put this it in further perspective, I have a moderately severe hearing loss. If I could hear the screams just imagine what other employees and patrons actually heard her saying! I left the position almost exclusively because of her and took the first job offer that came my way… Fortunately, it lead me to my current boss.
But some of my friends aren’t so lucky. Just having to listen to the nightmare stories and thinking back on my own experiences I am dumbfounded as to how these people wind up in management positions. What quality did they possess which made the administrators willing to go with such a nasty and ineffective communication skill? And what possibly makes that boss think that their method of management is, if not effective, is constructive or pragmatic in the overall scheme of running business!? Furthermore, how do these screamers possibly think they are actually good bosses!? And yet, it seems that I always have at least one friend who is plagued by such a boss.
So, why is this being put up on our library’s blog? Because we are certainly not immune to such poor managerial practices and maybe some of us are active participants, and I have been offered a promotion to the Head of Youth Services in the Library where I work. As excited as I am, this had led me to really reflect on the poor bosses I’ve had in the past and my own managerial skills.
In hopes of being proactive against the habits of “poor bosses” I have compiled a list of, shall we say, ethical goals I would like to instill upon myself in hopes of becoming a quality supervisor. By all means, please add your own advice.
Do not panic: Even when things are at a panic stage, it is my job to present level-headedness, which leads to the second point…
Do not play into histrionics: Situations should emit their own sense of emotions and do not need my help.
Do be approachable: If staff and I cannot talk openly, then we are already on losing ground.
Do be pragmatic: When problems arise, find ways to ‘fix’ them.
Do be clear with expectations: Make sure that staff knows what is expected of them and their job details.
Do not micromanage or get bogged down in minutiae: nobody likes someone looking over their shoulder and critiquing their work to the very foundation.
Do not personalize: Sometimes, you have to be the bad guy and some times people will goad you… but do not let it sink in.
DO BE POSITIVE: Remember that your leadership will affect how the department runs.