Sunday, September 27, 2009

Service Excellence: Positioning Library Staffs for the Future, New York Public Library, September 21-22, 2009

Really interesting conference put together by DeEtta Jones and the NYPL. NYPL has been going through a bit of a renaissance, their circulation is up, hours have increased, staff morale is up, yet their budget is down. Part of their transformation comes from a program they call LeadershipNow. The program is to get all staff to think about their future TOGETHER and how to bring the best of your staff out when they are tired. They also looked outside the Library world for examples.

The first morning speaker was Danny Meyer, author of Setting the Table and the founder and CEO of the Union Square Hospitality Group which runs some of New York's most beloved and highly acclaimed restaurants. His premise was that everyone has the same 5 stakeholders:
  1. staff
  2. customers
  3. community
  4. suppliers
  5. investors
How you prioritize these 5 is how you build your business. He believes that most important stakeholder is not customer - but staff. If, as an organization, you put your staff first they then are positioned to create the appropriate experience for your customers. Reminded us that in your organization everything other than people is an inanimate object so it all really comes down to people.

He believed it was important to water the flowers not just keep pulling the weeds - in other words discover what it is that is working right and really build on that rather than just keep trying to work on problems. In addition, he talked about the difference between service and hospitality. Service is what you do TO someone; hospitality is what you do FOR someone. Huge difference, huge. Service is a process that has to happen the same way every time. It is what is written in your service manual. Service is a monologue; hospitality is a dialogue.

6 key characteristics of someone with high HQ (hospitality quotient): kind, curious, high work ethic, empathy, integrity, and self awareness. You cannot expect your customers to have a good experience if your staff is not having a good experience working for you. Focusing on your staff helps you set up what Meyers calls a Virtuous Cycle, which you can find out about in his book. The other important thing is that all his senior leaders are subject to 360 evaluations.

The afternoon speaker was supposed to be Jeff Jarvis the author of What Would Google Do? Unfortunately Mr. Jarvis had health problems and had to withdraw. In his place Gary Wasdin, formerly at NYPL (and co-creator of the Leadership Now program with DeEtta) and now at U. Alabama let the group in a discussion on Re-Imagining Libraries: Putting Googley Ideas Into Practice. Some ideas include:
  1. Find one thing you control and relinquish it.
  2. Screw something up. If you are a manager or supervisor, make some mistakes and make sure people know about it.
  3. Disband AT LEAST one committee.
  4. Ask your manager or supervisor "If I told you I was leaving my job, how hard would you work to change my mind?"
  5. Take the Library Cyclone quiz...if every object and person in your library were to be blown out into the parking lot, what would you put back in place and what would you toss out?
  6. Post a large blank banner with markers in your library and ask your customers to share their ONE GOOD IDEA FOR THE LIBRARY. Act on as many as you can and publicize that you did. Do the same thing on your Web site.
Wasdin highlighted the following key points from the WWGD? book:
  • The customer is in charge. They may be always right, never right, or somewhere in between, but they are always in charge.
  • There is no more mass market....there is now a mass of niche markets
  • Your worst customer is your best friend
  • Do what you do best, and link to the rest
  • Middlemen are doomed
  • Collaborate
  • Listen and accept what you hear
  • Don't be evil
  • There is an inverse relationship between control and trust
  • Your best customer is your partner
  • The most effective advertising will come from your customers
  • "Free" is an excellent business model
  • Be transparent
  • Make excellent and visible mistakes
  • Somethings should always be in beta
  • Keep it simple
  • Create platforms where communities and thrive.
He asked us to think about the fact that only libraries can make what we call the people that come in and use our services controversial.....customers, patrons, users, readers....I think we need to get over that and worry much more about providing better experiences.

He also asked the crowd a very simple question - what business are libraries in? I have to admit, I think most of the answers were pretty narrow - information literacy, books, instruction, providing information resources. Granted I don't think I have the perfect answer but, upon reflection I believe libraries are really about connections - connecting people to information, connecting disparate types of information together, connecting old knowledge with new knowledge, connecting.

The final presenter I want to mention is Michael Lascarides who is a User Analyst in the Digital Experience Group at NYPL. That group (note I said GROUP) is responsible for all user interfaces at NYPL except for a few (they are a III ILS library). He talked about how we need to stop thinking about the difference between digital and physical collections - they are not two separate things.

Drill bit analogy - remember no one wants a 1/2 inch drill bit they want a 1/2 inch hole. Our collections, any part of them, are NOT special - how the collection fills a specific need is what makes it special. I think this is what is THE MOST IMPORTANT fact libraries really need to understand as we move forward - what is great about libraries is not about us or our stuff, it is about how people use our stuff.

Things we can do today for FREE to understand our user:
  1. spend a day watching your users - keep your mouth shut and really observe
  2. Google Analytics - does about 90% for free what you pay big $$ for
  3. Twitter search for your library and see what people are tweeting about you
  4. Look what is on every screen of your site - remember that in the web world instructions are a sign of bad design
  5. send user feedback to your ILS or other software vendor - your patrons are not stupid
  6. INFOMAKI - open source software that allows you to set up one question surveys
  7. Decide what metrics constitute success - think about the stories you want to tell
  8. List the things that make your library unique
  9. write down 10 things your patrons are passionate about
  10. Audience, serve, words - ask your staff who is your audience, who do you serve, and what words do they use
  11. Start blogging
  12. Share content
  13. Play especially with the line between physical and virtual
  14. steal and idea
  15. look for stories in your search terms
All in all it was a great two days.

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