People Want to Feel Special

Image from svale on Flickr

Image from svale on Flickr

In a previous post I talked about creating a great experience for patrons. But how do we go about doing that? In addition to getting them great information, how do we make them want to keep coming back to the library for an experience they can’t get other places?

Thinking back on good experiences I’ve had lately, I’ve noticed a common thread: I was made to feel special.

Last week I was sitting at a bar watching the Twins.  The bartender remembered me from another night (when I was watching the Vikings), and he asked me if I wanted my usual. The fact that he remembered me made the experience stand out. It made it special. Sure it made my order slightly quicker, but  I was no longer just another customer. I was a real person who he remembered interacting with and wanted to help. It’s like walking into Cheers and everybody knowing your name.

Another good experience happened last Saturday morning. I went out to breakfast with a friend to Penny Cluse Cafe because others had highly recommended it. I waited for an hour to be seated (something I have never done for breakfast), and it was completely worth it.

When we were seated we felt special (it was OUR turn). After ordering, there were three different people who warmed up our coffee, smiling and bantering while doing so. In fact, everyone in the place was smiling. They had created an atmosphere that was completely positive and welcoming. The food was simple but very delicious. Much better than many breakfast places I’ve been.

It was a solid product (the actual food) combined with making the customer feel special (in this instance happy because of the positive environment) that made for a perfect dining experience.

How can we replicate this for libraries? How do we make our patrons feel good, smart, happy, special, etcetera? How do we make people wait in line for our services and tell all their friends about us?


Libraries: A Vision for the Future

Check out this amazing video from Microsoft giving us a vision of the future. This is a future I want to see happen.

What about libraries? We too often get caught up in making it through the day. Making an update to the website, answering an email, going to a meeting. We sometimes lose sight of where we’re headed. What is our vision for ten years from now? Why don’t we dream this big? What’s your vision for 2019?


Libraries Have Lost the Monopoly on Free Information

Photo by jisc_infonet on Flickr

Photo by jisc_infonet on Flickr

Libraries used to be the place to go for free information. We no longer have a monopoly on that. The web now allows people people to freely access information from nearly anywhere at anytime. So what do libraries do now? What’s the purpose of libraries?

In a recent blog post from In the Library With the Lead Pipe I came across this quote:

“The nature of libraries has changed enormously. The physical building is less important. Books are less important. Due to these changes libraries will become obsolete in today’s current market where information needs are created and fulfilled by (my favorite “frenemies”) Google and Facebook. People purchase books from Amazon, they read blogs, wikis and other online commercial (and non-commercial) information sources. But libraries have what they don’t and we need to let our users know this. We have the ability to be in our communities, to engage them and offer specific targeted services. Our engagement with our communities can be the defining aspect of what a library is to any given community…”

I like this. Being able to engage our community is what libraries are offering. Google doesn’t sit with you for 45 minutes to answer a difficult reference question, tailoring the information perfectly to your problem. Amazon doesn’t read to your children or “kindle” in them a lifelong love of learning. Libraries are a part of their communities, and as such, can create a customized experience for their users. And this is what I think libraries need to be focusing on: the experience.

The very perceptive Steven Bell recently wrote an article in American Libraries entitled From Gatekeepers to Gate-Openers. He argues that “our future lies in designing meaningful library user experiences.”

“Pre-Starbucks there was no coffee experience; most retailers sold nearly identical or indistinguishable coffee products at a similar price. Starbucks created an entirely different approach to selling coffee that focused on the quality of the beverage and the ambience of the location. Certainly offering new coffee drinks to the American public created some differentiation, but the crucial factor was the experience of the Starbucks store: It was about more than just buying coffee.”

The library is more than just access to free information. We no longer have a monopoly on that, but we still offer a certain way for users to experience and interact with information. We are in their communities and know their needs better than a web service does. We are perfectly positioned to create an experience that keeps patrons coming back for more and telling their friends.

I want people to say “yeah, I could go to Google, but I just love going to the library so much. It’s my favorite way to get information.”  This may be a bit “pie in the sky” thinking, but that’s what we’re looking for — creating a great information experience.

How do we do that? I’m not quite there yet. I’ve been thinking a lot about it though, and something’s brewing. When it percolates I’ll share.

What do you think? How can we make people love their experience at the library?