Should the library get real?

You may consider yourself a major borrower, but you won’t top library staffers.  We don’t confine ourselves to the New Fiction shelf or even the entire contents of the library.

We appropriate ideas from other libraries, government agencies, for-profit business, actually any venture whose success merits emulation.  Just as business owners observe the competition to learn about customer preferences and marketing strategies, we audition concepts we think will translate into enhanced service. 

That brings us to reality TV.   After proclaiming for years that I don’t watch that kind of television (well, not American Idol or Survivor) I admit to a semi-addiction for HGTV and TLC home improvement fare.  For me, they’re fitness programs;  I can only watch them on the television that sits directly opposite my elliptical machine.  When I exercise, I’m allowed to view Holmes on Homes, Curb Appeal, Designed to Sell, etc.

Should you frequent these televised transformations, you’ll notice some trends:  (1) Individual hosts are morphing into teams, mostly attractive twenty-somethings with occasional token Baby Boomers; each Team Specialist (TS) possesses a specific and useful expertise.  (2)  If the area in question contains a big-screen TV, that appliance will be downsized, attached to the wall, or banished altogether.

The library already employs concepts from the for-profit world:  face-out book displays, social networking, customer service training.  What if we answered reference questions in reality TV style?

  • Library Patron: I hope you can recommend a really great novel–something that’s on the literary radar screen. The New York Times bestsellers are all checked out.

  • TS: First, I need some information. What effect were you trying for when you selected the novel that I saw you check in? Surely you agree that it’s time for a style update…

  • TS #2: I hope you’re comfortable with giving us a free hand with this process. We’ll call you when it’s time for the “reveal”.

  • TS #3: Please look carefully at the objects in this display of colors. Which hue best represents the mood that you hope to achieve?

  • TS#4: You don’t own a big-screen TV, do you?

Perhaps our way is better, after all.  When I had this question a couple of days ago, I shared the printouts of staff picks we keep at the reference desk and directed the patron to Book Movement.

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