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[GUEST POST] Can you see me now? (Or, how transparent are you?)

Today’s guest post is by Bobbi Galvin, Customer Relations and Support at OPLIN.

The Global Language Monitor  has released its list of Top Words 2009.  Coming in at #10 is TRANSPARENCY.

Transparency in this instance means putting all you do (at least all of the interesting stuff) out for users to see…then welcoming the comments, and the criticisms, and the advice from people who think they know how to run your library.

But THEN come the comments that you’ve been waiting for…the ones that tell you what your customers want from you.  Comments from regular users that start something like, “I wish the library…” and comments from people who wouldn’t feel comfortable offering suggestions in person.  (Perhaps Mommyof3, now under the shadow of anonymity, may be able to tell you why story time doesn’t work for her at 7 PM.)

Why are public agencies, including libraries, afraid to let their guard down in public? We’re not hiding anything.  We’re one of the good guys. Let’s prove it!

Providing a free-flowing, transparent view into your library by providing real-time information allows your patrons to be involved. But how do you do it?

  • Make things simple and seamless, so much so that the end-user doesn’t even notice that the technology itself doesn’t get in the way.  This way, they are more able to adapt to and use the service and get the answers they need.  For example, give your website an easy to use interface and don’t require special software (ie: .pdf) to retrieve results.
  • Use the social media services regularly such as wikis, podcasts, blogs, mashups, online videos, and social media sites.
  • Listen and respond. Post meaningful responses to all questions to let people know you’re hearing them.  For those users who don’t use the social media sites, post the conversations near your suggestion box.
  • Use Wordle (or other visuals) to  show your website users at a glance what you and other users are talking about.  Link it to your Twitter or Facebook account.
  • Don’t just advertise, tell people what you are doing. Make it personal to them.  Say things like, “Cutting out cute things for story time.  Want to come and help?” or “Reference question of the day…” or even, “WOW! 22 people signed up for our quilting class so far!  Join us!”

What does this mean to me, Bobbi?
Transparency answers questions that people don’t even know to ask.  Reducing confusion and creating an open channel of two-way communication increases trust and removes all doubt about your intentions and your services.  It lets people know you are listening and are willing to respond to their needs.  Happy patrons = a well-supported library.