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If your library is like others all over the country, you are seeing increasing numbers of new customers. These new customers are first time users or returning to the library after a long absence. With loss of jobs, revenue, or property as motivating factors, they may be coming into your library with a high level of anxiety and potentially unrealistic expectations. Add these ingredients to your existing base of customers--those attending storytimes, participating in book clubs, asking reference questions, placing and picking up holds, and needing assistance with circulation concerns--and you have a recipe for stress for staff and customers alike.

This workshop addresses the human side of libraries as resource centers in hard economic times. With more customers than ever using public access computers and needing assistance, empowering new library customers to become self sufficient is a win-win situation. Empowered customers are less likely to get defensive or frustrated which reduces stress and saves staff time in dealing with difficult situations. In addition, if customers learn to self serve around a task that happens multiple times a day, many hours of staff time per week can be saved.

Workshop Description: This all-day workshop will provide opportunities to look at ways that customers can self-serve and provide practice working with customers so they feel empowered. There will be time to develop customized responses to common customer requests and look at tools to support self service including handouts, audio, video and screencasts. The instructor will provide practical, useful tips that can be applied immediately to start saving time in a typical day.

Preliminary Course Outline

  • What Do We Mean By Self Service And Why It's A Win-Win
    • How much time can you save through self service
    • Does this match your customer service philosophy
    • Stress reduction through self-service
  • Welcoming New Library Customers
    • Customize responses for common customer types
    • Seniors, new parents, job seekers, non-English speakers, teens
  • Empowering New Library Customers
    • Make them feel special
    • Language to use so customers feel empowered
    • Simple, jargon free explanations
  • Teach Self-Sufficiency In The Use Of Library Resources
    • The catalog
    • Finding books on the shelves
    • When and why to ask a librarian
  • Use a "Here's What I Can Do For You" Approach
    • Manage unrealistic customer expectations.
    • Manage your own reactions to the increasing demands on your time and attention
    • Create an assistance triage with co-workers or volunteers.
  • Create Tools To Help New Customers Help Themselves.

Workshop Instructor: Cheryl Gould