“Some organizations are good at listening. Some are good at talking. A few are even good at both.
But having a dialogue is different. It's about engaging in (sometimes) uncomfortable conversations that enable both sides to grow and change.”
Rereading the last sentence a few times really made me think. Right now our library, like many all over the country, is in the process of doing yet another customer satisfaction survey. But this time instead of just paper and the website, we’re using a new nifty free standing touchpoll thing-a-jig.
Since balanced score card and performance measures seem to be the holy grail lately of validating our existence (and need for funding) with county government, our library (probably a lot like yours) is doing these type of “user feedback” assessments more and more often.
But polls and surveys only address the “listening” part of the equation. What we really should be doing more of is engaging our customer in day-to-day informal conversations about how our library can grow and change. This isn’t easy, I know, and it's even more difficult when we just try and have these conversations even among our own staff. For it never fears, ownership and emotions get in the way as soon as any new ideas for growth threaten our personal comfort zones.
Dialogue is truly what we really need to do more. Let’s stop worrying about “marketing” and “branding” our services to death (that’s the "talking" part) and taking poll after poll ("listening") to prove our existence. I don't disagree that these are still important to do, but do it in moderation. How about just talking to folks more (both customers and non-users) one-on-one about how they'd like to see libraries change? I'm guessing the scary part (if you perceive there is one) would dissipate pretty rapidly and we'd be amazed at the ideas created from this more meaningful exchange that would validate, not our existance... but rather our future.
(& we might just learn how to market ourselves better too!)
PS: Guess what just got moved to the top of my task list?