Do you give out information about how to sign up for a library card to people who are already library members? The information is a little too late…
Do you set up book displays about gardening and barbecuing in February?
If you want library patrons to care about the information you’re communicating, be sure to share it with an interested and captive audience. Give information at the right time, otherwise you can be sure your message will fall on deaf ears.
The Right Time
Do you try to tell patrons absolutely everything about the library right when they first sign up?
The person in front of you will start to tune out. You know what I mean because it’s happened to you. A distant relative babbles on about her cats. A clerk at the electronics store is talking to you about the latest video game, but all you care about is the iPad. How do you respond? You tune out information that doesn’t interest to you.
Are you so focused on promoting your online resources that you tell everyone about them all the time, including the library patron in front of you who really just wants to know about story time?
If someone asks you about story time that’s what they want to know. Start by communicating the information they care about. From there you might be able to segue to other related information, such as programming activities for kids.
Desperately want to tell people about your library’s online resources? Consider sharing this information with people who are searching through old newspapers or who are doing research for a school project.
An example of communicating information at the right time: A library patron is looking for a book that isn’t on the shelf? Use this opportunity to teach them how to reserve a book! Consider posting this information in your catalogue as well. Be careful not to use library jargon though. Place a Hold doesn’t mean much to the average person. Try something like… Reserve the next copy of this book.
Think about when library patrons will need or want to know a certain bit of information. When you share information at the right time, people are more likely to listen, to be interested and to act upon what they’ve learned. Take time to think about when you communicate information, and make a conscious effort to share your message at the most opportune moment.
Put all this together by sharing the right information and using the right media, and you’ll be on track to communicating effectively with your library patrons.
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 why they can’t find the address of the new library branch on your website. They were just about to head over for a visit…
Although I’ve shared a number of library related examples of good and bad communication, the concepts of the right information, the right media and the right time apply to all organizations and settings. You can even apply these concepts with your spouse and your kids!