16 November 2011

Its Not Rocket Science

Recently I spent some time researching at a library in southern Ohio.  All in all a very nice library.  Although my experience in the newspaper realm was a positive one I do have to wonder about some other aspects of the "genealogy" room.

When I approached the librarian at the desk to ask about getting in the local history room she looked at me as if I were asking for the date the world was ending.  She seemed surprised that I even wanted in the room.  She offered no assistance. 

When I got into the room I had been told on the phone that the newspapers were in the room with the rest of the local history, they were not.  They were in fact in the middle of the library, right in the middle of all the internet computers. Screaming babies, teenagers with ipods so loud they didn't need ear buds to listen, some images on computer screens I'd rather not have seen. Not a good thing!

We were told they had an obituary index.  What they referred to as an obituary index was in fact many years of obituaries all in notebooks  folders, sorted by dates, some by years, some by months within the years.  The problem is no one ever takes the time to put them in the order that they should be in.  So I doubt they get much use.  They said they had the years that I was looking for but I never could find the ones I was looking for. With well over 50 or 60 notebooks err folders, with no room for spine titles, searching was very difficult.  I gave up.

I had about four hours to do the things I wanted to do, spending 2 hours of it rearranging their obituary folders wasn't on the list. 

I think the saddest part of the visit was the log book.  This book was in the room, supposedly so that visitors could log in when they visited, who they were researching and perhaps leave contact information.  Its obvious from looking at the book that no one ever checks up on the room.  The book had letters very obviously written by teens on some pages, one page had a note asking advice on how to hook up with a girl in his class at school.  There were scribbles, half torn pages...  really disappointing.

Its a good thing they have such a great newspaper collection, otherwise I doubt I'd make the effort to return there.  In this day and age a bit of effort from the library staff would have been most helpful.  Doesn't appear they have time.  Wonder how much time they will have when they get replaced with a computer that least asks "How can I help you?"

Customer service isn't rocket science.  When a person stops by to ask about access to a part of a library it would seem to me that is a clue they aren't local patrons.  Taking a few minutes to offer assistance, directions, or field questions would make a world difference.  With libaries suffering financially it would seem to me that stepping up the customer service end of the deal might just help make people want to come back.  What a concept... people using libraries. 

Off the soapbox and back to my genealogy. 
Happy Researching!


TennLady said...

I have to tell you with all the cut backs, the libraries are the first to lose resources. Unless they have great volunteers (if they even allow volunteers) nothing is going to get done because they are too busy getting new books on the shelves.

Valerie Craft said...

That's sad. I've always had good experiences with small town libraries. Often I find that they have better collections than some larger areas. I wonder if a local society would be interested in improving the situation there?

Karen Packard Rhodes said...

I wonder if these people were librarians or library clerks. I also wonder about the library administration, for if they are not seeing to it that all of their personnel -- librarians and clerks -- are providing the best in customer service, they are simply not doing their jobs.

Part of library science education is how best to help the library patron (that old term is falling into disuse, which disappoints me) find what he or she needs. We're taught that the whole point of the library is to provide service and information to the patrons.

At least, that is how it was when I went through, more than 40 years ago. And if that is not how it is, a few people need to be "re-educated."

Karen Rhodes
M.S., Library Science
Florida State University, 1970.

Karen said...

Thanks to all for your comments. I can understand all three views of this situation and to be honest I don't feel the "staff" was putting new books on the shelves. The desk where those ladies were working was visable from all sides and the website on one computer was facebook. The other had a different screen up not sure exactly what it was. I think its just a matter of the staff doesn't care. Its my job, I'll put in my time and be done with it. Sad, but that's the impression I got. But I don't think libraries are alone in that department. Alot of positions are being filled with people who don't care, its just a job.
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