Does your library user guide look like the Bible?
How do we better communicate with library patrons? Are we sharing information in an effective way? These issues had been nagging at the back of my mind for some time. After reading a few posts by David Lee King (Share the Right Info and Skimp on the Details), I started to reflect more seriously on the issue.
The Right Information
Does your library try to resolve problems and explain complexities with new signs?
Your patrons don’t understand how to register for programs. Do you print and post the procedure and dates on every programming brochure, on your website and at the registration desk? Or do you simplify the process?
Have you ever put up a sign for one patron who didn’t know how to be civil and behave respectfully?
I went to the public pool the other day and in the change rooms there was a Do Not Spit sign – in four languages no less! Do people really need to be told not to spit? Or was there one problem patron/one complaint that led to this sign?
The problem with having a biblical length user guide or a dozen signs on every wall or a website that goes into great detail on every issue is that it dilutes your message. Patrons don’t even notice the signs because there are so many. Signs become part of the decor. People don’t read past the headline on your Web page. They honestly don’t care why your story time program changed times 2 years ago, they simply want to know when it is.
What information do your patrons absolutely want to know? Is there a new service you think patrons would really benefit from… if only they knew about it? That’s what you should be talking, posting and printing about. Give your patrons the right information.
CAUTION! Don’t go changing all of your signs, printed documents and Web structure all at once. You’re likely to confuse your patrons and make decisions that aren’t in line with their needs. Talk to your patrons first. Ask them what information they need, as well as where and when they look for it.
Otherwise, you might find your patrons asking you Why can’t I find any information about when my books are due back? I used to get a receipt whenever I borrowed something from the library…