Instant Ideas and Collaboration

#uklibchat Summary – Putting the User First – 7th November 2013

The idea for this chat came out of a conversation between @agentk23 and @sarahcchilds. We wanted to do a chat on something to do with customer service, but didn’t want to only cover old ground on being polite to customers and smiling nicely. We agreed that with an increasing number of library users accessing material virtually as well as physically, customer service is not just about empathy and interpersonal skills. It’s also about UX, web design and learning from and acting on user feedback and research. We hope the tweets in the chat have made you think about customer service and libraries differently! Please find a summary below – a full archive of the tweets from the chat is available here:


1 What is unique about your library’s user-group? What are their characteristics?

Most respondents to this question were from public or academic libraries, although we also had a prison librarian (@crdolby), a school librarian (@mariamernagh) and a polar librarian (@senorcthulhu)!

Even those coming from the same sector often had quite different answers  e.g.

Public library:

  • We are rural, right beside a river, mostly lower middle class, many seniors & job seekers @shelmick
  • I’d say our user group was not unique in a general way, but is diverse as would be expected for an urban area. We have large Asian and Polish populations as well as significant populations of Afro-Carribbean and Somali. @poetryghost

Academic library:

  • Our users are predominantly academic usually looking for something specific. Users are usually students, academics, support staff and we also get some traffic from the local community such as  local business people who want access to print materials and individuals who want to photocopy and browse stock @jackoliver40
  • High-fee paying students so high expectations @priestlib
  • Mostly foreign students and academics looking for foreign language material. @ludiprice
  • I work at an academic art college. Images are very important @donnagrundy
  • Students and academics, with very varied experiences of libraries and expectations of what we can deliver. @bookishkirsten

2. Have you undertaken any surveys or focus groups of your users? If so, did you change anything as a result?

Many librarians collected feedback via surveys, meetings, focus groups and suggestion boxes.

Discussion then turned to the actions taken as a result of the feedback:

  • National Student Survey and Course meeting result: – faculty specialised software available in library PCs, convenient for students after lab closed @uowkwani
  • We listen and action what we can, depending on what it is of course! an e.g. of change as a result of feedback through a user forum was to trial a brighter lighting in a specific study area@jackoliver40
  • We take the annual round of Public Library User Surveys. This year’s was on Children and Young People. The results do inform the manager’s plans and ideas, but I’m never sure quite how much. Especially when, as last year’s adult one, for one reason or another the results were not published to the public @poetryghost
  •  We do a nearly annual survey, and make some changes based on results e.g. more plug sockets for laptops. We ask in survey if there are any books the library should have and doesn’t, and generally buy them. but some suggestions from survey we will always ignore e.g. for coffee machine in the library! @bookishkirsten
    • Feedback is never same as “marching orders. ” We went to a 24/5 schedule after survey via easels of our undergraduate students about what they wanted. They wrote 24/7!!  @donnalanclos

Ways of dealing with low response and lack of enthusiasm in providing feedback were mentioned:

  • Both refreshments and feedback (actions taken post meet) vital to focus group success. @priestlib
  • We have tried but responses were quite low. We do a lot of informal surveying over tea and adjust services @senorcthulhu

3. Do you think staff customer service training is effective in improving things for users?

The main benefit of training given was ensuring a consistent approach. However, doubts were expressed as to how much could be achieved via training due to its blanket approach and the fact that some had inherently good customer service skills and some did not. More specific training (e.g. mental health awareness) was suggested to remedy this.

The book Success at the Enquiry Desk by Tim Buckley-Owen was suggested as a great training tool. (@donnagrundy)

4. In your experience, what are the barriers to putting the user first?

Common issues mentioned included budget; lack of strategic direction, lack of support from management;  staff shortages; lack of knowledge of users; resistance to change from staff; bureaucratic restrictions; laziness; poor communication and lack of creativity.

This question also sparked the following interesting points/discussions:

  • Sometimes we think we know what the users want and so design our services from that instead of the other way around @jackoliver40
  • Also mired in “we are a service” mindset but unwilling to reevaluate what “service” means @donnalanclos
    • Deftly put – & I find an unwilligness and/or inability for staff to put themselves in user shoes @priestlib
    • I find that less than just a sort of disconnect from the current crop of users. @donnalanclos
  • How is ‘user’ defined? Does it include non-users that are part of target population? i.e. are non-users surveyed? @lolinthelibrary
    • I always think it’s an odd Q. For me more interesting Q is “how do we *want* to define users?” @benymlee

5. What do you think are the good and bad bits of your library’s online UX?

Good points:

  • @donnalanclos said they had an in-house UX shop at her university. They constantly keep on juggling web pages, to make it quicker for find content
  • OPAC allows you to expand your search to our partner libraries. I also like that we are starting out in social media – meeting users where they are in the way they want.  @poetryghost
  • We’ve just moved to LibGuides, more flexible & options for social media  @databyatt

Bad points

  • Erm…not really having an online UX? We have a website that needs dramatic improvement! @senorcthulhu
  • Ours is very 1990’s. Current WIP is moving to open source Kuali OLE @ludiprice

6. What are the barriers to better online user experience?

  • Time to review. Resource, both financial and staff. Working with the technology that is available @jackoliver40
  • Lack of professional web design in libraries
  • A crippling reluctance to free libraries from straitjacket of parent org and let them create what users need @MyWeeklyBook
  • politics (small p) @ludiprice
  • Imagination @priestlib

7.What are the alternatives to surveys to find out user experiences? (avoiding survey fatigue)

  • Getting out and talking to users informally. Engaging with the user to listen to what the issues are @jackoliver40
  • Ethnography – and using already done studies as a springboard for policy, don’t need to reinvent wheel  @donnalanclos
    • I did ethnography of amateur web repository I am admin of, it was a fascinating insight into how users tick @ludiprice
  • Secret shoppers & focus groups perhaps, inaction on Facebook and Twitter  @databyatt
  • I try to chat informally to library users & non users in our organisation. It always elicits useful feedback @jothelibrarian
  • There is a lot of possibility with the web – pop up chat boxes on web pages, rate this page, blog post comments, etc . @libraryweb
  • I’ve looked at data and stats from wherever I could get them reliably to help target specialist services e.g. looking at age of population across area to target home library service (some call this housebound library service). I essentially compared and contrasted diff electoral wards on age percentages. Added in care homes and also sheltered accommodation, looked for day centres etc. to give a pic of where elderly stuck at home are @poetryghost

8. Have you tried an ethnographic approach to finding out more about your users?

  • Surely HE libraries could use anthropology students to help them with library studies? Could be a good dissertation project… @sarahcchilds
    • I employ MA students in Anthropology and other social sciences as my research assistants @donnalanclos

9. How do you deal with resistance from some staff to improve service?

  • Performance appraisals and performance management, one to one meetings, reminders, emails. Anything but losing your temper. @donnagrundy
  • I think you really need to massively sell the benefits and have a coherent co-ordinated message. you also have to be very clear about the aims and what you are trying to achieve not just “better customer service” + listen to people’s concerns @poetryghost
  • I’m not a manager, but I try to lead by example. Fortunately I work with fab super-motivated colleagues!  @jothelibrarian
  • Be persistent. Use evidence from user feedback. Keep repeating the message. Take action if needed @jackoliver40
  • The better the organisational culture, the more it supports people to develop and improve service.
    I write about my work/experiences on our intranet: makes good learning material & encourage others to share @jothelibrarian
  • Um… Be contagiously enthusiastic, bat your eyelids and smile a lot???? @ludiprice

One comment on “#uklibchat Summary – Putting the User First – 7th November 2013

  1. Pingback: How far does a librarian stretch? Supporting students and their wellbeing by @lemurph | #uklibchat

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


This entry was posted on January 7, 2014 by in Discussion Summaries and tagged , , , , .


%d bloggers like this: