Thursday, November 12, 2015

The librarian’s ‘customer service’ hat

Head and shoulders shot of Cynthia M. Parkhill wearing a brown-and-green paneled 'newsboy' cap
What would my ‘customer service’ hat look like?
Among library blogs, 500 Hats by Barbara Braxton is a personal favorite; it expands the perceptions of people who think of librarians only as “keeper of the books.”

Each entry focuses on one of many “hats” worn by the library professional.

Hats are a big part of my image and so in that vein, I offer thoughts on my “customer service” hat. Customer service is a big part of my daily activities in Bellview Elementary School library.

To begin with, each day I assist with check-outs during scheduled visits to the library as well as during students’ recess times. During the day each week that my teacher-librarian teaches library skills, I make myself available to help in any way that she needs my assistance.

I conduct reader’s advisory interviews to recommend items to patrons, and I assist them to find items in the library. Student interests and faculty needs often guide my recommendations for new materials to be added to the library.

Checking in books and shelving returns is a great way to see first-hand which items are being used. I use that information to help identify new materials that may be worth adding to the library. The familiarity I gain also helps me recommend materials to other readers whose interests seem to match.

I rely on students’ familiarity with materials when making some decisions — for example, whether to shelve books according to their order in a series or shelve their titles alphabetically.

I make an effort to align customer service with the wider school culture by employing consistent language when describing library resources. Children are taught to make use of “informational” books, so I use that term to describe “non-fiction” books that are shelved by subject in the library.

Finally, I retrieve library materials when patrons mistakenly return them to the local public library. I also hand-deliver public library books that I find in Bellview library.

Bottom line: While I find from daily experience that I truly “wear many hats,” nearly all of my activities and efforts have an underlying customer service theme. So if I had to identify one overarching “hat” to describe my work, “customer service” would be a good fit.

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