Friday, May 13, 2005

Do you make the first move? How?

One of the reasons that Elise set up the AkLA blog was to try to hold extended conversations that might be better suited to this format than the akla-l list. I think I might have one of those.

What is your personal or institutional policy on helping patrons who appear to be having trouble searching your catalog? Some library literature suggests trying to get to these patrons before their frustration levels ruins their day and yours. Other librarians feel that it is condescending to a patron to assume they NEED help before asking.

My personal experience in offering "preemptive help" is that a few patrons are grateful that someone has noticed their trouble, most say "I'm doing fine," but continue fruitless searching for the next five minutes, then leave with nothing; and a few patrons say something to the effect of "I'm not stupid, thank you very much!"

So what happens in your library? Do you only offer assistance if asked, and if you offer without being asked, how do you approach them and what is the reaction?

Thanks for sharing your experiences! - Daniel

7 Comments:

Blogger Daniel said...

I just noticed that Library Journal has an article on this very topic, at least for academic libraries.

If you can't pull up this article and live in Alaska, be sure to contact me at the Alaska State Library.

3:32 PM  
Blogger Elise Tomlinson said...

I read the article Daniel and it seemed a bit extreme, i.e. the example of looking over someone's shoulder to see if they're using the best search terms! Anyone could see why that would be invasive and unacceptable.

I have my own way of "roving" which is much less intrusive; Once or twice during a 2 hour shift I pass the computer stations located in front of our Reference Desk. If there are only a couple of regulars working away, I don't say anything.

On the other hand, if I see new users with confused looks on their faces, or all of the computer stations are busy, I might say something general to the group like "Is everyone finding everything OK?” Many times people will look up briefly, smile, and nod the affirmative, but just as often I'll have a patron wave me over to help them in some way.

One problem we have at our library is that we produce a lot of wasted paper from patrons who print out a bunch of partially blank pages so if I notice a lot of printing going on, I may walk over, inspect the printers, as though checking to make sure the paper is full etc. and after a few seconds say something like "If anyone needs help with printing just let me know".

This query often initiates interaction as well.

I don't think we need to be in people's faces or anything but I do think it's a good idea to gently remind isers from a respectable distance that we're there to help.

3:12 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

On the other hand, if I see new users with confused looks on their faces, or all of the computer stations are busy, I might say something general to the group like "Is everyone finding everything OK?” Many times people will look up briefly, smile, and nod the affirmative, but just as often I'll have a patron wave me over to help them in some way.


Hey Elise!

I never thought of addressing a whole group before. That seems a lot less patron-threatening than zeroing on a specific user.

I'll start giving that a try at the reference desk.

12:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like to refer to it as 'working the room'. Fairly simply questions gain better responses. We have a small facility, so it's easy for me to go 'organize magazines/newspapers' and greet the patron(s) while they are muttering inexplicables to the catalog. I just ask if everything is going ok and give a little advice, if needed. -Pete (Homer Public Library- Library Tech I).

6:11 PM  
Blogger Elise Tomlinson said...

Good idea Pete, you're doing 2 necessary things at once: keeping the library tidy and helping lost patrons without being "in your face". Our library is small enough to take that approach as well.

By the way Pete, if you'd like to be able to start new subject threads in this blog, just write me at: elise.tomlinson@uas.alaska.edu and I'll email you an invite.

3:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Warning bad/corny joke to follow...

Our library is so small your have to go outside to change your mind!!

But seriously folks.... Ahem.. Tough room.. This IS the show folks, I don't dance... I know you're out there, I can hear you reloading.

-Pete

9:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A friend just showed me this neat website full of lawyer joke
I cant believe the quantity an quality of humerous lawyer joke it contains
Heres one of the jokes i found on it:
Bob brought some friends home to his apartment one night after they had been out painting the town. One friend noticed a big brass gong in Bobs bedroom and asked about it."Thats not a gong" Bob replied "thats a talking clock. Watch this!"
Bob struck the gong and sure enough a voice on the other side of the wall screamed "Hey your jerk its 3 o'clock in the morning!"

10:00 AM  

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