We must be counter intuitive

You’ve heard that caution about never asking a question to which you don’t know the answer;  it’s generally referenced in legal contexts but could be dicey for public services, too.

Ever since Michelle, our director, announced that a consulting firm would conduct focus groups and surveys for the Library Master Plan process, we’ve felt awfully curious about what our patrons would rate Good or Not So Good (actual tag names).   We’re still accepting survey responses and will need to await the final accounting, but we’ve seen a sampling already.

Rather than many repetitions of a few themes, our patrons conveyed opinions on a wide array of topics, from the scarcity of transit options to an impression that we focus too much on children.

One we haven’t heard in a while: in the “Not So Good” column, one customer commented “Miss people behind the counters.”

We understand.  The first time I ventured into the library as a new resident in 2005, I was amazed to find many library staffers visible on first floor, at and behind the counter, shelving and checking in books; there was no behind-the-scenes circulation workroom.   The library’s renovation carved out a check-in room and gallery display/seating area in the square footage formerly carpeted with book carts.  Along with our Children’s area, the grownups’ part of first floor is now a destination, not just a path to checkout.

The downstairs Public Services Desk was reconfigured for compactness but still accommodates a live staffer and our self-check machines; those allow the deployment of other humans for tasks machines can’t do.  Thus, we manage to serve an ever-growing population.

You’ll still find friendly faces behind the counters.  At the reference desk, we often hear stories that inspire a big “Great question!” smile.  Recent examples…

The customer who requested “recipes in a jar” cookbooks: Ours had disappeared or were worn out. Theresa, our collection development manager, is on the case: 100 Easy Recipes in Jars and Mason Jar Soup to Nuts Cookbook are now on order. Here’s the best part: the customer shared, as she departed, that she recently won a Ghirardelli baking contest and promised to bring in her winning recipe next time.

The couple with the unidentified painting: We figured out a strategy: send photos of the painting (reckoned by their conservator to be German and created 1850s-70s) to a museum in the region of origin. Asked who referred them to such a knowledgeable expert, they replied, “Itzhak Perlman.” They’d lived in an area of New York favored by such notables as Perlman, Henry Kissinger, Jane Alexander (with whom they’d once Christmas caroled).

The ladies who brought in “Flat Sarah” and asked for Sam Bass information: Sarah was a substitute for the original Flat Stanley who’d sadly disappeared on his return trip from Europe. Being photographed with Sarah and Sam Bass (via computer screen), I observed that Sarah must be tired; her color looked a little washed out. “Oh, that”, one of her escorts responded, “No, it’s because we were taking her picture on the Round Rock and she fell into Brushy Creek!”

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