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Monday, May 14, 2012

May I Vent?

If I go to one more library website that doesn't include the director's name, I'm going to SCREAM.

Wow, that felt good. So I'm going to keep going. Here are some things that are just not acceptable in my book:

1. No phone number or email for the director. A form that someone has to fill out that goes to, is not considered a way to contact a director. I prefer a phone number because if someone has a complaint they want to share, I'd much rather have them get the director in person then have to vent online. If you have have an amazing turn around time on for emails, then leave your email address. But frankly, if you have time to answer emails that quickly then you have time to take a phone call.

2.  No contact person, phone and/or email for media relations. Even if you don't  have a person in charge of your media, someone in your library should be designated to take calls. If the person is your director, then make sure a reporter can call you. No email here. Reporters are on deadlines, if they can reach a person, you get in the story. If not, you won't.

3. Marketing people who don't list their phone numbers and email addresses. I can't even imagine a reason why a public relations or marketing department would try to keep people away from contacting them. The game is to attract people, not avoid them.

It never fails to amaze me that there are still libraries that have overlooked the essentials needed to have the public reach them.


David Lee King said...

Boy, do I ever agree with that. Which is why at our site, you can find names, phone numbers, email addresses, and headshots of every single staff member.

How can we connect with our community if we hide from that community?

David Lee King said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
~Kathy Dempsey said...

Nancy, I couldn't agree more. When I'm working on my newsletters and articles, I often try to contact specific people at libraries to ask for interviews and to verify info. I'm always amazed (and disheartened) to see how many libraries don't have the right contact info prominently displayed on their websites.

When I give my "media relations" workshops, I always advise everyone to ensure that they're easy to contact, and that they respond quickly. Too many libraries have missed getting national coverage b/c it was too hard to get in touch with them.

Nancy Dowd said...

Glad to see others agree! David I love that you guys take it the step further and add head shots.

Michael Henry Starks said...

Another library that has done this right is Monroe County (IN) Public Library, which recently redesigned its website. See their Contact Us page here:

Michael Henry Starks

Nancy Dowd said...

Michael, you are so right. They tell people they want to hear from them and then give them the ways to do that. Very nice. Thanks for sharing. - Nancy

Susan Brown said...

We just rolled out a new site this week - Under Contact Us, we've got names and emails of staff. Our community can also email a librarian, chat with a librarian, or easily connect with us on social media. We've also got basic info in footer. Photo array will come next...

Susan Brown said...

My other pet peeve is not having hours of operation posted prominently on a site! For our new site, we have an automated "Open today from 9-9" area with an option to click and expand to see all hours. This is "above the fold" and easy to find.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree, even though I admit we are one of the libraries that doesn't do this. We have the contact form with a list of issues to choose from and appropriate e-mail addresses connected to them. The first thing on the list is the miscellaneous issues entry, which is connected to our "generic" e-mail account - which I manage. Most people just go with that, meaning I act as the clearing house, sending messages to the appropriate staff and departments. Sadly, some staff are so scared of our patrons having their names and contact info, we can't convince them to have that information on the website so we're staying with this for the foreseeable future.

~Kathy Dempsey said...

Thanks for commenting, Anon!

I've heard this before -- that staff are too scared or too upset about the prospect of having their names & emails listed. Since you sound as if you've spoken directly with such people, PLEASE explain -- Why??

Librarianship is a public service profession. Unless you're Tech Services, you are around people all the time. And it's their work email, not home. WHAT are they afraid of? (Understanding might help me suggest something...)


Nancy Dowd said...

Good point Susan. Anon, I have heard this from folks too. I feel your pain. Maybe you could slip this article under your director's door - anonymously of course :-)

Heather said...

Sometimes, having your name and contact info up there can be a security issue. As public service workers, we come in contact with a lot of people, and the occasional patron can be a creepster. What if you are being stalked by a patron? (It does happen.) Or what if you got out of a domestic abuse situation and you don't want your ex to be able to track you? Having your contact info/workplace public in those instances could create a safety/security issue.

Personally, I think that staff at managerial levels and marketing/public relations staff should make their contact information public unless there is a very good reason why they don't want it to be out there. But I don't think there's a need for every reference librarian to have his/her e-mail on the library's site.

And as a young woman who does encounter the occasional weird/overly "friendly" male patron, the idea of having a photo on my employer's website definitely makes me uncomfortable. I think we need to carefully consider the balance between accessibility/friendliness and safety.

~Kathy Dempsey said...

Thanks for sharing, Heather. I've heard that before, and I understand. I've been a little creeped out on occasion by patrons in libraries (and men at conferences too).

However, I still feel strongly about staff members making themselves available. At the VERY least, as you say, the director, top admins, and of course media contacts.

The creepster / stalker / abuser instances are few and far between (thank goodness). And ID-ing yourself at the workplace is a far cry from posting your personal / home info. We live in an incredibly digital world. Given all that people post on FaceBook, LinkedIn, blogs, Twitter, and other community sites, they make themselves easy to learn about unless they lock down all their profiles very tightly (and constantly update their privacy settings as tech and guidelines change).

So, to me, having your name & work email on a library website = a low-level privacy concern, compared to much of what we do in everyday life. Photos, OK, they're a bonus. If someone sends creepy emails, you can block them and / or change your work email.

The over-reaching idea, for me, is this: When someone wants to contact a librarian badly enough to go online & prepare to send a message (be it a thank-you, an important question, a complaint, or a media inquiry), if they can't find any contact info beyond a general "" it looks as if you're unhelpful, hiding, avoiding public contact. That will leave a bad impression for sure.