Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fully Engaged

Everything you do, say, your facial expressions, your attitudes and nervous ticks, communicate something. As we grow it becomes easier to hide our emotions and control our attitudes. But, Beware! We cannot, and do not, hide everything.

When someone approaches us, you, me, at an information or circulation desk, we, you, I project my demeanor from the moment they, the patron, sees me. (I'm going to write this in the first person to make it easier to write, and to take ownership. An unsubstantiated statistic from the workshop suggests 68% of complaints received in Libraries are lodged because of poor staff attitudes.)

Probably the hardest thing for me is to think like a patron. I've worked in a Library too long. When I first see someone I profile them. Are they wandering around? Do they fix their eyes on me as they approach? Do they stop at a computer first or turn directly toward the books? There are a thousand other indicators which help me make a decision about how, or if, I will help this person. Can I smell them? Do they look like they just sold their meds? Are they dressed in a business suit, carrying a backpack, male or female, old or young? Am I tired, hungry, stressed for any reason? Just as I profile them they profile me.

Unless I am approachable I will not be able to connect with them to the degree necessary to provide the service I want, they need, and for which I was hired.

There are limits to what the Library can offer. It's not my job to "make people happy" or to make my patrons "better citizens." I am not going to be able to provide everything a patron wants, desires, or needs. I cannot fix their credit report. I can listen and, hopefully, offer usable suggestions. I must be able to understand what they want, and even bring them to a better understanding of what they are asking. And, I need to do this without using Library Jargon: "holdings" "stacks" "serials" "OPAC" etc.

One of the primary objectives of the workshop was to reinforce the need for concentration. Several games were designed to teach us better concentration when dealing with each other and with the patron before me. Activities like verbally mirroring back what someone just said, or tossing and catching beanie babies flying around a circle (people who work in libraries have to be coordinated?) and other activities made me aware of certain deficiencies. Then toward the end of the day we all heard a familiar squeal, thud, tinkle, shouting, just outside the door. No body was hurt, but we were all distracted for some time.

Distractions happen!

1 comment:

  1. Our shadower from SJSLIS noticed before I did that one patron I had this afternoon wanted print materials she could take away, but not books she would have to check out. She said the loose change the patron laid on the counter was the giveaway. I ended up printing some articles from Gale for her.