Customer Service includes ALL Customers
August 18, 2007
There has been some discussion lately in the press, in blogs, and on Uncontrolled Vocabulary about homeless people in libraries. Even though I work in an academic library, we are open to the public most of the day and evening (after 10pm you must have a valid ID card to enter) and we do have our share of homeless people. We have a core group of 2-3 regulars who come in every day after the shelter makes them leave. They mostly keep to themselves, are quiet and are either using the computer to send/read email and surf or they find a quiet corner and sleep most of the day. We don’t hassle them and they don’t hassle us. Not the greatest relationship in the world, but it is one that works.
The sad fact is that my library is not set up to deal with any services other than providing the internet and a couch. Our primary patron base are the members of the campus community and all of the social services that we can point our patrons too are only open to students, faculty, and staff.
To get around this we have began to keep a constantly evolving list of agencies, services, and places that we can point people to if they need assistance and we work with campus police (who are also city and county police) who have more contacts than we do. It is heartbreaking to think that is the extent of the assistance we can and are capable to give.
What makes me very proud is knowing that my staff always treat everyone who comes to the service desk with kindness and respect. I have watched my staff go out of their way to help solve a problem or answer a question and I know that they care about the patron and about giving excellent service. I have witnessed interactions with our small homeless population and am delighted and again proud to note that they receive the same level of service and attention that everyone else gets.
I like to believe that this small gesture and acknowledgement makes a little bit of a difference.