Service with a Smile

January 16, 2007

Since I am still fairly new to my current place of employment I have been trying to grab some shifts on the circ desk during some peak and off peak hours in the hopes of bettering my understanding of how our ILS works. Of course we use an ILS that I have no prior experience using so it is all familiar Greek to me.

Aside from the practical reasons to work the circ desk, I also enjoy it because it gives me a chance to have some facetime with our patrons. Our patrons are mainly students and faculty, but mostly students. They are overwhelmed, exhausted, stressed, and at times frustrated. A lot of times they need extensive help with a literature search to get that term paper finished, but sometimes all they need is someone to help them find what they are looking for and say “you’re welcome.”

I stress to my staff the importance of being earnest. To be sincerely pleasant even when their first response may be to jump over the desk and tackle someone. We all have our bad moments and they can rear their ugly heads at inappropriate times. In the event of an “unpleasant patron encounter” naturally I would back up my staff and try to diffuse the situation as calmly and friendly as possible. I have always reminded my staff (at all the libraries I have worked) that whatever bothered that patron enough to take it out on a stranger is all about them, not about you and that anyone who crossed that person’s path today was going to experience the rage.

But for all the rage and snottiness (and there really is not that much of it) there is a plethora of smiles and gratitude. I love working the circ desk because I love seeing people smile when I say “good night” or “have a nice day.” Sometimes all people want is a little kindness and a smile.

Tonight I helped a professor locate a journal that was up in the stacks. He had a hard time finding it and came to the desk to make sure he didn’t overlook something. I accompanied him upstairs and proceeded to find the journal he needed (in his defense it was actually very confusing to find and took me 10 minutes to get it straight). He was so happy to get the article for his class tomorrow night he insisted on buying me coffee.

I live for patron encounters like this one. They make my day. If saying “good morning” and “good night,” asking”how may I help you?” and saying “you’re welcome” is all it takes to make someone’s day/night, then I definitely want to work some longer shifts at the desk.

Don’t let me fool you, it isn’t always all smiles and daisies and sunshine, but I think that often we forget the positive experiences with patrons and only tend to remember the negative ones (let’s face it some of the negative ones are pretty unforgettable). I thought about this quite a bit and I can honestly state that the patron interactions are the main reason I love working in access services, if this component were removed I would not enjoy my job as much as I do.

One Response to “Service with a Smile”

  1. Tom Goodfellow said

    Yes! As professionals we tend to get caught up in backroom stuff, but from the client’s perspective this can be THE most important aspect of the library experience. I tend to remember good (or bad)experiences in shops long after I’ve forgotten what I was actually buying.

    I’m enjoying this blog, it’s an aspect of library work that is too often overlooked. Keep it up!

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