Tuesday, June 9, 2009

What do you do?

I'm trying out a new line.

When people ask that inevitable, American question of "What do you do?" I've changed my answer from the standard reference librarian response to this: Sales.

The inevitable follow-up question tends to be "Sales of what?" to which I reply "the Spokane Public Library. I sell the library."* It's fun and it immediately gives you the opportunity to pitch your collections, services, awesomeness, etc. You should give it try.

*You may want to substitute your library's name for fear of getting some really strange looks if you aren't from Spokane.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Reference Revisited

I don't know about y'all, but my recollection of library school reference training went something like this:

  1. Customer asks a question/states a need.
  2. Librarian asks clarifying questions, generally open-ended questions at first and then follows up with closed-ended questions.
  3. Librarian determines the information need, takes the customer to the stacks or computer, shows them the relevant material and asks them to return to the reference desk if they have any other questions.
All fine and good. Sort of.

There needs to be a step 1.5, which would sound something like this: Yes.

When a customer asks if we have information on China, avoid immediately launching into a reference interview -- this just makes people defensive. It may be unclear to them if we are just stalling because we don't know the answer or if we are mocking them or who-knows-what-other story the might be telling themselves. If we start with yes, then a number of things start to happen: the customer knows that we have an end game in mind but we just need some clarification, the customer and the librarian become part of a team working toward a common goal and we (the library) look more competent.

The next time someone swings by the desk and their question isn't extremely narrow or obscure, try saying yes right out of the gates and see what happens.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Good grief, has it really been since November?

Latest "Eureka!" moment: I'm part of a sales leads group through Greater Spokane Inc. and I've made myself the personal librarian for the ~25-30 folks who are in the group. They love it. They love having a personal face to put on the library and the longer I'm in the group the better sense they have of just how much we have to offer.

But the real beauty of participating in the leads group is that when people from the group refer others to me, they are usually sending them my way because they know that I can help this particular individual with their particular problem. The end result is that those being referred to me (after not being in a library for a number of years) come to me with softball questions that I can crush out of the ballpark. It makes a good first impression and makes it likely that they will come back with other questions when they arise.

So the nugget to remember here is this: get a group of folks out in the community who are familiar with what the library can offer and then bask in joy of being able to look really competent when referrals are sent your way.