The Best Service Is No Service


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Workshop on how to provide transformative public library experiences to the 90% of library visitors who do not ask for help from staff.

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  • I came across this on Pinterest. It’s fun, but I eventually decided that it misses the mark.Exercise (leave statement on the page): what are some of the issues in thinking of circ and reference as the public library system?There are more departments besides Circ and Reference: Cataloging, IT, Children’s Reference librarians don’t find most of the items. Self-service is a big part of the library system. The legal system, or at least “Law & Order,” deals with exceptions (offences and offenders), not our everyday lives. So does Reference. But Circ people are part of our everyday library experience.
  • There are more departments besides Circ and Reference: Cataloging, IT, Children’s Reference librarians don’t find most of the items. Self-service is a big part of the library system. The legal system, or at least “Law & Order,” deals with exceptions (offences and offenders), not our everyday lives. So does Reference. But Circ people are part of our everyday library experience.
  • Iowa (in millions)Circ 29.4Visits 19.7Contacts 1.7Burlington (in thousands)Circ 526 (36% self-checkout)Visits 258Contacts 21Most of the work that gets done in the Public Library System is done by Readers.
  • Before showing this slide, ask participants to estimate what percentage of their reader’s assistance/reference transactions are by phone or digital (email, web, etc.)Wikimedia commons: File:Iceberg.jpgcom/iceberg/ | Date 2005-07-03 | Author Created by UweKils (iceberg) and User:WiskaBodo (sky). | Permission | other_versions ...(573 × 833 (87 KB)) - 09:02, 24 August 2011
  • How we traditionally are told about customer service.What we may want to throw under the busAnother Pinterest find:Not your grandmother’s customer service workshopBell System 1940s telephone etiquette booklet
  • What we remember is our experience with readers who interact with us, not those who don’t.We worry to much about our own “presentation skills” in interacting with the reader, rather than thinking of ourselves as invisible interfaces.
  • Frances Frei and Anne Morriss Emphasize that staff aren’t the problem Design systems so that heroes aren’t required – great customer service can be provided as a matter of course Difficult to find and pay staff who have both technical and people skills
  • Catch phrase from Garrison Keillor’s monologues.Lake Wobegon effect: Lake Wobegon is a fictional Minnesota town, the subject of humorist Garrison Keillor’s weekly radio monologue News from Lake Wobegon. From Wikipedia: “Lake Wobegon is characterized as the town where "all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average." The Lake Wobegon effect, a natural human tendency to overestimate one's capabilities, is named after the town.” (
  • μ = Mu = Meanσ = Sigma = standard deviationSix sigma = ± six standard deviations from the mean within limitsNormal distribution: “A normal distribution is a very important statistical data distribution pattern occurring in many natural phenomena, such as height, blood pressure, lengths of objects produced by machines, etc. Certain data, when graphed as a histogram (data on the horizontal axis, amount of data on the vertical axis), creates a bell-shaped curve known as a normal curve, or normal distribution. Normal distributions are symmetrical with a single central peak at the mean (average) of the data [Mu, µ]. The shape of the curve is described as bell-shaped with the graph falling off evenly on either side of the mean. Fifty percent of the distribution lies to the left of the mean and fifty percent lies to the right of the mean. The spread of a normal distribution is controlled by the standard deviation [Sigma, σ]. The smaller the standard deviation, the more concentrated the data.” (Oswego City School District Regents Exam Prep Center,
  • So what do we do to provide uncommon service?
  • Weaver, Creating Great Visitor Experiences
  • Positive! Not negativeExample: Getting a call about Jerrie’s lost phone
  • Quote: From Awareness to Funding
  • Published online February 14, 2012Percentage of respondents listing each subject among top five circulators survey and invite for LJ’s 2012 budget and circulation study was distributed to a representative sample of 1,850 U.S. public library directors on October 27, 2011. The survey was hosted and completed online. The field closed on December 1, 2011 with 388 libraries responding. Tabulation was conducted in-house by Library Journal Research.The data was weighted by population served to even out fluctuations in respondent sample sizes and better reflect the public library universe. Weighted averages are used for total sample results only. Data appearing for specific population groups remains unweighted.
  • Crowdsourcing a cemetery index
  • Frances Frei and Anne Morriss Emphasize that staff aren’t the problem Design systems so that heroes aren’t required – great customer service can be provided as a matter of course Difficult to find and pay staff who have both technical and people skills
  • Be on constant lookout for duck soup.
  • One: Random fluctuation in the quantum multiverse
  • Plan – Do – Check – Act
  • Big business oriented – customer service as a separate department, but still has many insightsDumb contacts:
  • Consider the checkout slip – physical evidence
  • We need to stay out of the way of the conversation the reader is having with the implied librarian.
  • Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching
  • The Best Service Is No Service

    1. 1. The Best Service Is No Service Roy Kenagy November 11, 2013 Council Bluffs Public Library
    2. 2. Should your library depend on heroes? Heroes: who needs them?
    3. 3. What are some of the issues in thinking of Circ & Reference as “the public library system”? • • • • • • • • Statement doesn’t cover that the library is the heart of the community Leaves out the patron completely We’re not separate; we’re intertwined Implies that everything happens at the library Implies that all we do is check out books and answer reference questions Tasks are not that narrowly defined Doesn’t mention other programs that are offered Doesn’t mention community services • • • • • • • don’t find items; we facilitate finding items Missing the story; an interaction between the library staff/each other/the public/give them an experience Items have to be bought, paid for, and processed before they can be checked out Implies that reference people are professional, circ “staff” are flunkies Other staff and functioned not mentioned; check out not confined to circ All departments are not equal in budgets or staffing Leaves out people who just come and don’t check anything out
    4. 4. “Reference” includes reader’s assistance. "A reference transaction is an information contact that involves the knowledge, use, recommendation, interpretation, or instruction in the use of one or more information sources by a member of the library staff. Information sources include printed and non-printed materials, Internet, FirstSearch, or EBSCOhost, machine-readable databases, catalogs, and other records. Also, count referrals to other libraries, institutions, and persons both inside and outside the library. The request may come in person, by phone, fax, mail, electronic mail, or through live or networked electronic reference service from an adult, young adult, or child. " "Do not count directional transactions or questions of rules or policies. Examples of directional transactions are "Where are the children's books?" and "I'm looking for a book with call number 612.3." An example of a question of rules or policies is 'Are you open until 9:00 tonight?'“ ~Scott Dermont, quoting the rules on IOWALIB, Oct 4, 2013
    5. 5. Who does the most work in the Public Library System? Transactions Visits per contact Checkouts per contact Internet sessions per contact Iowa 11 17 2 Council Bluffs 10 18 2 "Contact": reference or reader's assistance transaction From annual data for Fiscal Year 2011-2012
    6. 6. For FY 2012 In Iowa, the ratio of reference transactions to library visits was 1:11. Why might the reality be even higher?
    7. 7. Bell System: How to Make Friends by Telephone (1940s)
    8. 8. How do we communicate with the hidden 90%? Kathy Sierra. "Presentation Skills Considered Harmful." Serious Pony (October 4, 2013): [blog]; available at
    9. 9. “And if they’re my users, then this presentation is a user experience. And if it's a user experience, then what am I? Ah... now we’re at the place where stage fright starts to dissolve. Because if the presentation is a user experience, than I am just a UI [User Interface]. That’s it. I am a UI. Nothing more. And what’s a key attribute of a good UI? It disappears. It does not draw attention to itself. It enables the user experience, but is not itself the experience. And the moment I remember this is the moment I exhale and my pulse slows. Because I am not important. What is important is the experience they have. My job is to provide a context in which something happens for them.” Kathy Sierra, "Presentation Skills Considered Harmful."
    10. 10. Felicia A. Smith. "Helicopter Librarian: Expect the Unexpected | Backtalk." Library Journal Web site (August 28, 2012).
    11. 11. Building relationships with students is a crucial component of Helicopter Librarian instruction sessions. I make a strong first impression dressed either in a complete pirate costume or as a Wonder Woman avatar in Second Life. But even when I am not in disguise, students are extremely comfortable approaching me because they just sense that I am no ordinary librarian.
    12. 12. Frei & Morriss: Uncommon Service
    13. 13. • Staff aren’t the problem • Treat your customers as part of your staff • Design systems so that heroes aren’t required Frances Frei and Anne Morriss. Uncommon Service: How to Win by Putting Customers at the Core of Your Business. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2012.
    14. 14. “Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the work force.” (p.24)
    15. 15. “All the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average."
    16. 16. The Normal Curve
    17. 17. “There's a simple and compelling economic argument in favor of design over training: design is a one-time investment; training is an ongoing investment over the life the product.” Gene Smith. "Training vs. Design." nForm. (April 10, 2013):
    18. 18. Oldenburg: The Great Good Place
    19. 19. Cafes  Coffee Shops  Community Centers  Beauty Parlors General Stores  Bars  Hangouts & How They Get You Through The Day
    20. 20. The Servicescape Ambience; setting; physical and symbolic environment.
    21. 21. Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, Services Marketing: Integrating Customer Focus Across the Firm
    22. 22. Weaver: Creating Great Visitor Experiences
    23. 23. Creating Great Visitor Experiences 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. Invitation Welcome Orientation Comfort Communication Sensation Common Sense Finale
    24. 24. Service Rules that Don’t Suck Practices • Free, good coffee • Service without asking – expired reservation • Home depot: Taking you to the shelf • Target: just to be there • Creating repeat customers: gluten free at restaurant • Getting away from the desk Policies • Perks & reward cards • Recognizing repeat customers (personal) • Service desks without phones • Empowering employees to correct customer service issues • Taking expired coupons • Exceptions to the rules
    25. 25. Who do you want your readers to become? The value of transformation
    26. 26. Pine & Gilmore: The Experience Economy
    27. 27. OCLC: From Awareness to Funding
    28. 28. Readers are makers. Narratives of making one’s life are at the core of the public library reading experience.
    29. 29. Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi explore the vibrant cuisine of their home city—with its diverse Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities. Both men were born in Jerusalem in the same year—Tamimi on the Arab east side and Ottolenghi in the Jewish west. This stunning cookbook offers 120 recipes from their unique cross-cultural perspective, from inventive vegetable dishes to sweet, rich desserts. Ottolenghi and Tamimi have collaborated to produce their most personal cookbook yet.
    30. 30. Source: Library Journal Book Buying Survey 2012
    31. 31. Steps Toward Transformation Self-service; coproduction; the Ask.
    32. 32. Create engaging self service.
    33. 33. The original Piggly-Wiggly store, Memphis. 1917 photo by Clarence Saunders (Library of Congress).
    34. 34. Honebein & Cammarano: Creating Do-ItYourself Customers
    35. 35. Co-Production • • • • Vision Access Incentives Expertise
    36. 36. Schrage: Who do you want your customers to become?
    37. 37. The “Ask” Who do we ask our customers to become?
    38. 38. Librarians are masters of the circular “Ask” • Information Literacy • Others?
    39. 39. What is the “Ask” in these Service Responses? • Connect to the online world • Satisfy curiosity • Know how to find, evaluate, and use information • Create young readers • Build successful enterprises
    40. 40. Connect to the Online World Residents will have high-speed access to the digital world with no unnecessary restrictions or fees to ensure that everyone can take advantage of the ever-growing resources and services available through the Internet.
    41. 41. Connect to the Online World • Leveling the playing field for those who don’t have internet; look outside of themselves and be aware of the world; globally aware. • So they can become gainfully employed. • Find answers instantly. • Self-sufficient, competitive, and informed and productive citizens. • Able to function in our changing world. • Information 24/7.
    42. 42. Satisfy Curiosity Residents will have the resources they need to explore topics of personal interest and continue to learn throughout their lives.
    43. 43. • Enrichment to their lives; asking them to continue learning throughout their lives; develop their individuality – not just a product. • So they won’t be bored or boring. • Explorers. • Problem-solvers. Getting beyond the commodity level. • Self-motivated. • Allowing them to learn at their own rate of understanding.
    44. 44. Know How to Find, Evaluate and Use Information Residents will know when they need information to resolve an issue or answer a question and will have the skills to search for, locate, evaluate, and effectively use information to meet their needs.
    45. 45. Know How to Find, Evaluate and Use Information • Create repeat customers; know that the library will help them. Informed individuals; critically analyze, think for themselves. • So they can make informed decisions. • Part of life-long learning; take what they want to do and go on with it. • So they won’t be duped and misinformed; helps bullshit detectors; build their personal narratives. • Being able to experience the joy of discovery. • Realize their potential as an individual; helps them redefine their lives.
    46. 46. Create Young Readers Preschool children will have programs and services designed to ensure that they will enter school ready to learn to read, write, and listen.
    47. 47. Create Young Readers • Have to learn the basics; have social skills; find the joy in learning, reading, discovery. Asking them to start on the path toward maturity, encouraging them to learn about the world they live in. Asking them to love books/reading. • Literacy-based programming, help fill the gap for the haves & have-nots. • Enjoy the experience of reading; successful in future endeavors. • Be curious so they can be successful in school. • Ready to learn; our future depends upon it. • Meet challenges; develop confidence. Asking them to think.
    48. 48. Build Successful Enterprises Business owners and non-profit organization directors and their managers will have the tools they need to develop and maintain strong, viable organizations.
    49. 49. Build Successful Enterprises • Benefits community, encouraging growth on individual and collective levels. Encourages people to follow their passions and meet community needs. • Builds stronger community. • Start; improve; change to be a successful business. • Individuals benefit from a strong community; communities benefit from strong individuals. Empowering individuals. Builds rapport/buy in between business community and library. • Collaborate and share resources; people as resources. • Improves the city image. Attracting businesses and young people; and not be boring.
    50. 50. What to do next Inoculate | Innovate
    51. 51. Inoculate against calcification.
    52. 52. Gawande: The Checklist Manifesto
    53. 53. Hertz: Eyes Wide Open: How to Make Smart Decisions in a Confusing World
    54. 54. “Become aware that we have to make over 10,000 decisions a day.” We decide how to frame our attention, and thus what we pay attention to.
    55. 55. Eyes Wide Open • Where possible, don’t make big decisions way before you actually need to. • Where you have the ability to “dress the environment,” create as blank a backdrop as you can. • Get second and third opinions, at least. • Push yourself to tap into the lay experts in your immediate environment who you are not sufficiently valuing. • Start thinking about how you might use listening-in techniques. • Online, beware sock puppets. • Whenever you’re given data to consider, think about what you might not be being shown, and why. • If you know you’re stressed, watch out that you’re not falling back on innate and probably unconscious stereotypes and prejudices.
    56. 56. (1) Random fluctuation in the quantum multiverse.
    57. 57. An Amusing Coincidence: The Mirror Scene
    58. 58. (2) Amusing coincidence.
    59. 59. (3) Duck Soup.
    60. 60. As a rule, the third time it happens, you have Duck Soup. • Your thoughts on monitoring the production of Duck Soup in your library’s system.
    61. 61. Diagram by Karn G. Bulsuk (
    62. 62. • Eliminate dumb contacts • Create engaging self service • Be proactive • Make yourself easy to contact • Own your actions across the library • Listen and act • Deliver great “customer” service experiences
    63. 63. Eliminate dumb contacts.
    64. 64. A B Hot water Coffee
    65. 65. Create engaging self service.
    66. 66. Be proactive.
    67. 67. Make yourself easy to contact.
    68. 68. Own your actions across the library.
    69. 69. Listen and act.
    70. 70. Deliver great “customer” service experiences.
    71. 71. The Implied Author Wayne C. Booth. The Rhetoric of Fiction. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983.
    72. 72. The Implied Librarian
    73. 73. Lao Tzu, trans. Mitchell: Tao Te Ching
    74. 74. "When the Master governs, the people are hardly aware that he exists. Next best is a leader who is loved. Next, one who is feared. The worst is one who is despised. If you don't trust the people, you make them untrustworthy. The Master doesn't talk, he acts. When his work is done, the people say, Amazing: we did it, all by ourselves!" Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 17, trans. Stephen Mitchell