This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, November 1, 2000

November 1, 2000 - Patron Comment Cards

You see them everywhere. Sometimes they're called "complaint cards." Sometimes they're "suggestions," or "comments." Sometimes they're "quality check cards."

My favorite was one that we had right in the Philip S. Miller Library some 10 years ago. The forms were stacked below a box with a big sign over it that said: "How are you feeling?"

That sign so bemused me, I filled out a card myself. "Fine," I wrote. "How are you?" Then we tried to make the form a little more specific to libraries.

The purpose of such cards and forms is plain: the establishment is seeking feedback from its customers. Why? Several reasons come to mind.

1. Because it's trying to catch its employees doing something right. Assuming that management takes the time to do employee evaluations, it's always pleasant and useful to be able to rattle off a list of compliments -- especially when they have been earned.

2. Because its trying to catch its employees -- or the business itself -- doing something wrong. All too often, problems are only revealed after they've gotten big. Comment cards can help catch those problems when they're still small, and more easily addressed.

3. Because sometimes customers have great ideas for the improvement of services. Free consulting!

4. Because the manager longs to hear that the customer is thrilled with the service.

OK, maybe that's just me. As Assistant Director, I once had the responsibility (at another library) for setting up a big bulletin board of patron suggestions and complaints. My job was to write and post the responses. I braced myself for a flood of "what an impressive library!" comments. And maybe, just maybe, a "What a great assistant director!"

That's not what I got, of course. I got, "You're out of toilet paper." Or "How come nobody ever picks up the cigarette butts outside the front door?"

The sad truth is, people are more motivated to offer criticism than praise. Another sad truth is that sometimes criticism is necessary.

These days, most of our libraries offer some kind of comment sheet. (We will soon offer one on our Internet site, as well.) These go to the managers, and sometimes the managers refer them to me, usually when a pattern becomes clear.

For instance, we got a whole lot of complaints about our Internet workstations at Highlands Ranch. We had implemented a pretty interesting new technology called "disk on a chip," that looked like it might save us a lot of money. It didn't work, as our patrons made most pointedly clear. Result: a complete overhaul of the system, which involved moving from the "skinny client" to the "thin client" network model we have used successfully at our other locations for the past couple of years. (It even SOUNDS healthier, doesn't it?) By the time this column hits print, the problem should be resolved.

The general pattern at our other libraries is fairly predictable. People want more sit down Internet stations, more Harry Potter, quieter kids, etc.

But, according to Claudine Perrault, Manager of our Lone Tree Library, "every once in a while, something original or adorable comes along. For instance, tonight I received this request from a child:

'I want a pool and a dog.' He signed his name and left his phone number. Perhaps he thinks librarians have Santa's ear?"

No comments:

Post a Comment