Customer Service in Libraries: Meeting Evolving Needs

WebJunction and Delaware Division of Libraries /
Girl and adult receiving customer service at library desk

Customer service is one of the most consistently popular topics on WebJunction. From attendees at live webinars to users of the content in our Course Catalog, it is clear that customer service is on the minds of library staff. The interest extends beyond how to provide quality service to patrons, to experiencing societal changes and seeking to address new challenges that staff encounter when working. How we provide customer service includes not only how we interact with patrons verbally and respond to their requests, but also how we communicate non-verbally in our interactions, and even how we speak about patrons when they aren’t around.

There are also valuable examples of customer service in the types of programming and services that are offered. Are we opening our doors to everyone? And how effectively do we acknowledge that our patrons sometimes come with different life experiences and needs?

Working together, WebJunction and the Delaware Division of Libraries are going to explore this topic in more depth in the coming months. To kick things off, we wanted to share a few resources that can help frame thinking around what it means to serve our communities and patrons.

In addition to resources and webinars highlighted in our Customer Service topic area, here are some specific resources that bring the experiences and expertise of library staff to this issue:

  • Extreme Customer Service, Every Time. Based on a webinar by Gretchen Caserotti, director of the Meridian Library District in Idaho, this WebJunction course includes tips “to truly engage and communicate with patrons and to find ways to extend the experience above and beyond their expectations.”
  • Today I Bent a Rule. The Halifax Public Library uses a barrier identification survey to figure out how they can better serve their patrons.
  • Creating a Culture of Yes at Your Library and in Your Community. Staff at the Colorado State Library share the power of shifting the culture in your library that gets to “Yes, and!”
  • Get To Yes: Branding Library Customer Service. This Public Libraries Online article shares the experience of the Jacksonville Public Library in creating a staff toolkit on providing excellent customer service.

Many libraries address their customer service expectations through policies. Here are a few customer service policy examples available online (share your links in the comments below!):

The WebJunction Competency Index for the Library Field (page 9) also calls out the delivery of excellent customer service as a fundamental factor in effectiveness, which needs to be prioritized throughout the organization. Positive interactions with users require trust, respect, and focus on the needs of the individual. Skills are highlighted in the following categories:

  • Managing the library environment to enhance the user experience
  • Developing and evaluating standards and practices for the delivery of quality customer service
  • Applying customer service skills to enhance the level of user satisfaction
  • Applying effective techniques to address difficult situations with users

We’re looking forward to continuing to learn and grow together on this topic to meet the needs of communities around the country. If you have ideas to share on this topic, please reach out to us at [email protected].