Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Technical Service is Customer Service

Last week was the Mass. Library Association's annual conference in Hyannis. All of the Tech. Services programs were held on Thursday; that is the day I was there.

The MLA/TSS Executive Board organized 4 programs. All were very different and all were full of really good information. I hope to blog about the other programs (especially about the eXtensible Catalog), but my favorite program was Improving Communication Between Technical and Public Services.

Sara Simpson is the Technical Services Manager for the Tulsa City-County Library. Tulsa is one of those large systems where the library in a town is a branch of the county library. The Tech Services functions (Acquisitions, Cataloging, Processing) are centralized in the main facility. The traditional Public Services occur in every branch. The communication project began about 8 years ago and the situation has finally gotten to the point where TS people no longer consider every PS request an interruption and PS people no longer view TS staff as people who say "no" to every request.

Lots of things happened during those 8 years including TSers working with PSers and vice versa to see what it was like to be one of "them" and PS staff being able to make some of the changes they once forwarded on to TS (and didn't get returned for a long time). Something that really struck me was the revised attitude that the staff in Public Services are the customers of Technical Services. When someone in Public Services has a request, it is not an interruption for Tech Services staff, but part of the job. That alone makes a difference.

If you have a less than wonderful relationship with the Public Services staff in your library, perhaps you should evaluate your view of PS. Do you consider the people in Public Services your customers?


Julie said...

I am a solo cataloger, and I hadn't really thought about Public Services as being my 'customers'. Instead, I consider my job to be the primary public service of the library, even though it is not done in a public area of the building. My aim is to provide service in the most efficient way to our users, and that is often facilitated through our users' interactions with public services librarians. So, if a public service librarian contacts me with a request, I drop everything and attend to it, because that is the priority. My own 'schedule' and preferences for workflow are not important, compared to the needs of our public service librarians. Also, I rarely like to say 'no' to a librarian's request. Instead, I try to say, "I can't do that because of [x], but maybe [y] would work just as well. Let's try that." I follow this philosophy not just because it makes good sense for meeting our users' needs, but also because the person who last had this job was not easy to work with and liked to say 'no' a lot, so I am trying to show the public service librarians that things no longer work that way here.

Anonymous said...

I'd agree that when someone in public services has a request, that it's not an interruption but part of job duties. However, I'm not sure I agree that public services staff are the customers of tech services staff. I actually think tech services *is* a public service--just becuase it may deal with computers or metadata or technology doesn't mean it's not serving the public (and by public I mean patrons, in addition to and (more importantly) on top of other library staff).

I think the divide between public and tech services might be better broached by doing away with it all together, and discontiuing the use of such categories. In this day an age, it's ridiculous to expect librarian not be qualified to do duties on both sides of the traditional coin. I'm a cataloger who also does reference and I know I would never be able to do a good job at either of those dutites without the other.

Amy said...

Thank you for this refreshing attitude. I have spent a lot of my time at my current job repairing damage and distrust between the Cataloging Dept and the rest of the librarians. I deal with a lot of barriers in my own department based on the idea that the job of the cataloger is to enforce sacred rules. It's a paradigm shift for some folks to realize that while we work within a framework, nothing should be static or immovable. We are here to support our end users, and if that means bending some rules, then so be it. It's time to see the bigger picture and realize that we can either evolve and be a relevant profession, or we can cling to old ideas and die on the vine.