by Jan Ison LTLS Executive Director
ALA 2009 is history. This was a great conference in one of the best conference cities, Chicago. I had a great time between programs, meetings, the exhibit hall, talking with colleagues and enjoying a Chicago that had unnaturally comfortable temperatures in the middle of July.
Because I am President of the OCLC Global Council I focused some of my time on meetings and programs presented by OCLC. The first of those was the OCLC Symposium. This was the 5th year that OCLC supported a free program on the afternoon prior to the opening of conference. The topic this year was “Leadership Beyond the Recession.” The keynote speaker was Joseph A. Michelli. Dr. Michelli is an author and organizational consultant who works primarily with corporations. He did an excellent job of translating “corporate talk” to “library talk.” Probably the most graphic picture he painted was that corporations are trying to get more dollars (using a dollar sign) and libraries are trying to get more dollars also but he used a graphic of a ballot with yes or no. He said that libraries have a challenge to be sure that our customers have such a great experience that they vote yes at the ballot box or yes in the school board meeting or yes in the Chancellor's office. He challenged us to use Experiential Brand Statements (EBS) to engage the customers. For example Ritz Carlton has an EBS to “Create the home of a loving parent.” Libraries need to create an experience for the customer and you need to know what that is. He thinks that libraries are transformational and we need to help individuals transform their lives. According to recent research people will pay more for a better experience and 50% of customers leave business because of bad experiences. Michelli suggested that what we had to have was a flawless product, delivered exactly as the customer wants it in an environment of caring. This is a challenge but one that libraries can meet if we focus on the customer and not the library.
Andrew Pace, Executive Director of Networked Library Services for OCLC, presented another OCLC program that I attended. Andrew discussed the Web based platform for all library management functionality that OCLC is developing. The pilot sites for testing the functionality include the Idaho Library Commission, the Orbis Cascade Alliance and Pepperdine University. The pilot for circulation functionality will begin this summer moving through the various management functions. I have accepted an appointment as a member of the Advisory Committee for this project and look forward to working with other committee members as this new Web Scale platform is developed.
In other meetings, I participated in a discussion of the Library Support Staff Certification Program Advisory Committee, an OCLC Regional Council discussion, a committee discussing Regional Cooperatives and how to assist libraries in deploying BroadBand as well as a discussion on the Open Source Pilot program that LTLS is a partner in with several other states. Finally, I had two discussions with OCLC staff regarding the World Cat Local pilot. ALA is a good place to meet face-to-face with librarians and vendors rather than schedule other events.
The last program I want to talk about was titled “Revitalizing the Library Experience.” The presenters were George Needham and Joan Frye Williams. George is the Vice-President of Global and Regional Councils with OCLC and Joan is a consultant. On July 1st they launched a joint business venture call George and Joan. Check out the web site http://georgeandjoan.com. As with all presentations by these two entertaining and thoughtful librarians, this was energetic and full of great content. The prime message was to always, always, always think about the customer. It is important that they are at the forefront of everything we as librarians do. Make sure that when someone walks into the library it is professional (not cluttered), that things are easy to find (not hidden) and that they are greeted by a friendly and welcoming staff. Librarians need to remember that it is not the job of the customer to understand the library – it is the job of the librarian to understand the customer. Offer relationship-based service as opposed to rules-based service. Fulfillment is about the user’s success not about the library’s success or what we think they should have. If they want something old to use, our job is to get it not to criticize it. It is about the user. Finally get out from behind the desk. Research shows that “hip to hip” conversations as better than face-to-face and far better than face-desk-face.