First Impressions and Rethinking Restroom Questions

From an editorial in RUSQ:

Put yourself on the other side of the desk and rethink why someone might be asking a particular question. In the case of questions such as “where’s the restroom?” most likely the person has never been in the building before. Yes, you’ve answered the question a bazillion times, but most people only ask the question on their first visit. Despite many efforts to the contrary, we are still fighting librarian stereotypes of cantankerous old ladies who shush people. Here is a golden opportunity to make a positive first impression, be welcoming, and influence a new person about the helpfulness of library staff. These interactions, in turn, affect the eagerness of visitors to return in the future.

Patrons frequently ask for directions even when the person they are asking is standing right next to a sign that gives the answer. Clearly, some people prefer to ask a human being rather than take the time to read building signs. Habits of people in a new environment often include asking directional questions first because they are less threatening. If they do okay, and feel comfortable, they work their way up to more complicated questions later on. Directional questions may seem mundane, but they can be the first step toward answering future needs and instilling confidence in the person asking the question.

It took some restraint to not copy and paste the entire thing. Go read First Impressions and Rethinking Restroom Questions by Lorraine J. Pellack.

Everything we do in libraries adds up to form the overall experience we give people. Pellack makes the case for treating even small interpersonal interactions with care not only for their own sake, but because of possible underlying importance.

via Stephen Francoeur


One Comment so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Thanks Aaron, I’m going to use this for a presentation I’m doing at PLA – Reinventing Circulation Jobs – as more people on the floor means more customer service, something sorely lacking in this day and age and so important for libraries, though sadly, due to budget constraints, diminishing there as we’re so busy it’s hard to give everyone the time they need.

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