Wednesday, August 05, 2009
Are we holding our customers captive?
Andy created this drawing and it got me thinking about the whole idea of "information captivity" and that led me to thinking about other things we hold captive in libraries - like our customers.
When I was growing up the Post WWII values were all about borrowing. Our country was still adjusting from rationing, factories were trying to churn out goods and neighbors didn't have the money to buy everything they needed so they borrowed. My Uncle Cal had the only freezer in the village with room for ice and everyone was always borrowing a bag of ice. It was normal. Neighbors borrowed wheel barrows and shovels and whatever else was needed. We lived in a world where everyone borrowed. But as our world changed into one of ownership, borrowing began to take on another connotation. People who borrowed were different than those who could afford to own. Perhaps even considered lower on the economic ladder. In some social circles borrowers were considered "cheap" and for some people it no longer felt comfortable to be a lender.
Did we in the library field subconsciously make that shift as well? Does it show up in our customer service policies and attitudes? Do we hold our borrowers captive behind the bars of a deep seated belief that since we are providing services and resources our customers can't afford, we are more important to them, then they are to us?
I was imagining what we might look like if saw our customers in another light. If we considered developing "Borrowing Plans".
Imagine if someone returned overdue books and instead of being charged a fine, that person was offered different borrowing options that matched their lifestyle. For those who liked to borrow a certain amount of books without time limits they could choose a Netflix plan, for those who tended to borrow books before buying they could have a different plan. The idea would be instead of having an inflexible, fine based system that uses fines as the negative motivation to make people fit into our borrowing models, we work to create a system that fits the needs of our customers. Our job would be to look at those borrowing trends and find solutions that work for our customers.
Valuing our customers requires us to go deeper than finding the right resources for them, it demands that we recognize what they want, need and desire and begin creating solutions that work for them and stop holding them captive to systems that meet our needs.
Posted by Nancy Dowd at 6:50 AM