Free Your Library

set-free

Image used under a Creative Commons license from http://www.flickr.com/photos/sararichards/174516776/sizes/o/

Andy Woodworth and Nancy Dowd have written two cool blog posts that seem to be intersecting with two new policies I officially began implementing last Wednesday.   Andy muses about the power of liberating information and removing barriers to access in libraries.  Andy asserts the following:

Ease of access is not simply a convenience, but a necessary aspect for our patrons.

Nancy Dowd then goes on to muse on Andy’s post and wonders if we have failed to change by continuing to have “one size fits all” policies and plans in our libraries. Dowd maintains:

Valuing our customers requires us to go deeper than finding the right resources for them, it demands that we recognize what they want, need and desire and begin creating solutions that work for them and stop holding them captive to systems that meet our needs.

I thought of Valeria Maltoni’s  “3 Steps to Mapping the Customer Journey” and how she encourages you to “innovate at each touch point” of customer service.   In her blog post, she goes back to David Lee King’s question, “Who’s at the center of your processes, you or the customer?”  She also points out that personalization is in. Nancy’s post also made me think of my principal, Dr. Bob Eddy, who is encouraging  our faculty this year to embrace differentiation to do what is best for each individual student.

While I had not read Andy or Nancy’s blog posts before making two key policy changes this year, they reaffirm these decisions I have made for our library.

First, I am being more proactive and interactive to work with teachers who are assigning independent reading to extend loan periods from the standard two weeks to four weeks.  In addition, I am encouraging students in their initial visit (whether with a class or on their own as they drop in) to let us know if they need extended time for a book checkout; as long as they can live with the extended time period we agree upon, then I am all for keeping them out of fine territory  and helping them find a checkout period that works best for them!

The second policy change is about lunch visitor passes.  In years past, we have required lunch passes for lunch visits to the media center.  Students could qualify for a honor roll semester pass or a “good library citizen” semester pass; students could also get a “daily” pass right up through the first few minutes of each lunch period.  While this system seemed to help create a happy balance between the needs of lunch visitors and scheduled classes, I always felt pangs of guilt that perhaps we were making access more difficult in the name of having some semblance of reasonable order even though we tried hard to make the pass system as accessible as possible.

I feel our upper classmen have a good idea of what we expect at lunch—we are fine with conversation, recreation, and collaboration as long as they are respectful of the needs of the students and classes around them.    Because they have consistently demonstrated maturity, respect for others, and a willingness to help take ownership of the library and the privileges we try to give them (such as food and drink), I consulted with my library staff to see how they felt about doing away with the lunch passes.  After we weighed the pros and cons of doing away with passes, we felt that the benefits outweighed the risks, so we are not requiring passes for lunch visitors during the month of August.   If this trial period goes smoothly ( and so far it has), then I will happily retire the passes for the rest of the 2009-10 year if it means easier access for the students.

I feel these two changes will help create a more participatory environment and be more in line with the emphasis I am trying to place on customer service during 2009-10.   What are you doing to remove barriers to your library?  How are you making your services and information more accessible?  What customized experiences and services could you offer your patrons in whatever library environment you are?   Please share your ideas here as I am  contemplating additional steps I can take to free up what my library has to offer!

2 thoughts on “Free Your Library

  1. In regards to the question of who is at the center of the library process, the patron or the library staff? I think it is possible for library policies to be criticized when they seem to get in the way of serving a specific patron’s needs. It is important to keep in mind the origin of library policies. The whole purpose of a library is to serve the patrons. Library policies are established to maintain order and fairness to as many people as possible. Circulation times are established with durations that are considered reasonable amounts of time for borrowing an item. Occasionally there will be situations where someone needs something for a longer time than the established period. The philosophical question arises, do we make an exception for an exceptional request. Many times this could make good sense when all factors are considered. On the other hand when exceptions are made it can create an erosion of standards leading towards administrative chaos. So it is important that frustrated patrons realize that systems are put in place to make it work for everyone which includes patrons and library staff. If the item that they want to keep beyond standard check out duration had been allowed to be out beyond the standard check out time, the patron may have had to wait an unreasonable time to initially receive the item. The holds request procedure is a great solution to this problem.
    Having the same policies for all patrons may create frustrations for a few patrons. How practical is it for library staff to tailor policies to each patron? Some restaurants will tailor orders and others say something like, no substitutions please. The restaurant has staff and material limitations as does a library. It needs to be recognized that in general, policies are established to give as much equal access as possible.
    On the other hand it is good for a system to be examined periodically. Minute adjustments may be helpful and other times, major changes may be helpful. When ever flexibility can be built into a system, it enhances adaptability to new situations. As mentioned in your blog, your new checkout system provides a way for patrons to increase their checkout time. The flexibility is a great innovation. If no unexpected problems arise, your new policy may be just the right policy to more effectively meet the needs of your patrons. Your library’s experiment of having no lunch pass required during August was great. This gives a limited time to try out a change to see if the new policy will work. I applaud your progressive ideas. Progress is helpful and inspiring.

    Wayne A.

    • Wayne, I so love your eloquent thoughts! Do you have your own blog? If you do, please post the link, and if you don’t, you definitely need to start one!

      Thank you for always making me think—I love hearing your voice in your writing!

      Buffy :-)

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