Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Re: your suggestion

Meredith Farkas has a column in the August (2007) American Libraries about libraries using blogs to register feedback from patrons.

I remember our old DRA system which opened a suggestion box whenever a patron typed "sugg" at the prompt (we had the suggestion box removed from the main menu for what should soon be the most obvious reason).

Several times a day, I could go into the suggestion box to learn that one of our patrons desired for the recipient of the suggestion to, as the message clearly said, "eat my ass."

Not every suggestion was the eat-my-ass message. Some were the you-suck message. Once or twice we got the F-you message, but rarely. I think the problem with the F-you message is that the F is the high point. Once you write F, you've basically shot your load. The you is just pointless after that. Besides, if you were a kid, you might get caught writing F and that could mean trouble. Write "eat my" on the OPAC screen and you could always say you're searching for a book the library doesn't have: Eat My Birthday Cake, or something like that. Then check around to make sure nobody's looking and type that a-s-s. Oh, jocularity.

The suggestion box was beautiful in its anonymity. Sure, I could check the log to see from which OPAC the suggestion came and what time, and then rush out front to catch some little gray-haired grandmother giggling to herself, but why? Let her be. The suggestion box freed me from doing anything about the suggestion. The anonymity of the sender meant the library was accountable to no one.

But then came email. Now the patron sends her message to the Reference Desk or the Webmaster, and she expects a response. So now I spend 22% of my day writing back, "During this time of fiscal difficulty, and due to financial cut-backs, the library regrets that it is unable to eat your ass."

But now blogging let's everyone join the fun. Patrons log onto your library site and let everyone know exactly how they feel. And other patrons let them know how they feel. And then the first patrons let the other patrons know how they feel. And the patrons are both suggesting and responding, freeing me to go back to doing nothing (or my job: with retirement so close, does it really matter?). If asked, I would support adding a blog to our library's website. Let the patrons fight our public relations battles for us.

I could have written back to American Libraries and had, I don't know, 2,500 people see my letter, but posting here, for you nine people; I know it makes you feel special. But boy, it would be cool to have them print the word "ass."