Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Difficult users

"I cannot imagine life without libraries, the librarians are real friends and so helpful."

This quote (taken from the Voices for the Library website) is typical of the views of many thousands of library users who have nothing but respect and even affection for library staff. But it is not always the full story.

As in any public facing service, library staff will also have to deal with people who are unfriendly, grumpy, annoyed, angry and even aggressive. Libraries are freely open to their clients and our doors are open to anyone. It's not something that most library staff spend much time worrying about, but the fact is that any member of staff might find themselves dealing with a difficult customer.

In the past the usual response of front-line staff was to call for "the librarian" to deal with problems, but changing staffing patterns mean that front-line staff are more likely to have to deal with problems without the immediate support of senior staff.

The aim of Dealing with Difficult Users is to recognise factors which may influence the negative attitudes and behaviours of the user and to understand the different methods of dealing with these attitudes and behaviours. During this one day session learners will discover their own natural style when dealing with a difficult user. In an interactive format learners will discuss techniques and practice applying them in a ‘scenario’ session.

The goal is to defuse difficult situations so that staff and user can work towards a solution. However the course also recognises that sometimes, through no fault of the staff, a difficult customer can become aggressive and even violent. Staff will be shown how to recognise the warning signs and how to use distance to when dealing with a difficult customer. Finally the use of "reasonable force" will be explained.

Libraries have a duty of care to their staff and other users. Although such situations are thankfully very rare library staff must be given the confidence and skills to manage difficult customers. This course, delivered by staff from the West Yorkshire Police Training Centre, is essential training for all staff dealing with the public.

Further information is available here.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Developing and managing e-book collections

Developing and managing e-book collections on a budget 8th July 2011

A recent report in The Guardian on the popularity of e-books points out that both Waterstone’s and Amazon in the UK say that sales of e-books outstrips the sale of hardback books while in the USA Amazon sells 105 e-books for every 100 print books.

In April The Guardian looked at the growth of e-book lending by UK public libraries. Phil Bradley, vice president of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (Cilip), was reported as saying: "It's a 24/7 service; you don't have to physically look after the books; you're able to get books to people who can't get to the library, such as shift workers and those who live in rural areas; the readers can choose the size of the font, which helps the visually impaired; it's flexible and it helps to outreach library service."

As part of our Preparing for the Future programme, SINTO is offering an course to help your library service prepare for the impact of e-books.

Developing and managing e-book collections on a budget: an introduction is designed to support libraries in any sector that are beginning to set up e-book collections. The course will also facilitate consideration of the new opportunities e-books offer for libraries and users in academic, public and special library and information services, and will explore some of the significant collection management and promotional issues which challenge information and library staff.

Further information here.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

The future of the library

Seth Godin is an author, speaker and marketing guru with an interest in libraries.

Seth Godin's blog The future of the Library: what is a public library for? explores the changing role of libraries. According to Seth the role has changed from "The library as warehouse for books worth sharing" to "The library is a house for the librarian". The future according to Seth is built around e-books and electronic information. He concludes

"There are one thousand things that could be done in a place like this [the library], all built around one mission: take the world of data, combine it with the people in this community and create value".

He also suggests that "Librarians that are arguing and lobbying for clever ebook lending solutions are completely missing the point. They are defending library as warehouse as opposed to fighting for the future, which is librarian as producer, concierge, connector, teacher and impresario".

This resonates with the new SINTO training programme Preparing for the future. We have identified two linked themes. The first "Impact" looks at the fundamental question "What is the library for?" The SINTO Members' Day will look at one aspect of this. The second theme is technology and how that will affect libraries. We are running a course on e-book collections. Incidentally, this course may well look at "clever e-book lending solutions"! I am not convinced that we are missing the point here but it is an interesting issue for debate.

But how concerned are librarians with "The Future"? Inevitably many librarians are focused on the present. The financial year end is the future that we are most concerned with. But we all know in our hearts that there are times when we have to get out of the office and take the longer term view. The SINTO training programme is designed to help you achieve that.

Monday, 16 May 2011

SINTO Training Programme

I have just circulated the SINTO Summer Training programme to members of SINTO. As I mentioned in my previous post I have been trying to put together an integrated programme of workforce development events under the heading Preparing for the Future. At the same time I am exploring several different themes so there is something for everyone.

The first theme is progress through technology. OK, I pinched that from the Audi adverts; it translate into German as Vorsprung durch Technik. I have invited Chris Armstrong and Ray Lonsdale to deliver their workshop on Developing and managing e-book collections. Chris recently published The 2011 Guide to Free or Nearly-Free E-books and copies are available to delegates at a reduced price. I plan to follow that up with a workshop on mobile technology and access to information.

The next theme is developing the skills of staff. We are running a workshop  Dealing with difficult users. Most of our users are anything but difficult but with any public facing service there will always be times when staff have to deal with difficult and possibly agressive users. The aim is to defuse these situations and turn them into something positive but staff have to know what to do if things start going wrong. I suspect that with decreased staffing levels, front-line staff are more likely to have to resolve such issues without immediate support from senior staff. Libraries have a duty of care to ensure that their staff have the confidence and skills to deal with such situations.

The final theme is Impact of library services. This has several strands; how to measure impact; why we need to measure impact; and what that impact should be? We will beging with the keynote speaker at the SINTO Members' Day. Ronan O'Beirne will be talking about his book From Lending to Learning. If libraries are about lending then impact can be measured with issue figures. However, if libraries are about something else (or something else as well), then we need different ways to measure impact.

I hope to follow up this theme with events about community engagement, advocacy, and measuring impact.

Details of the current programme can be found on our website.