New Library Directors Handbook

Customer Service

Libraries must excel at customer service. The library needs to feel welcoming both in its design and in staff attitude. People are often uncomfortable when coming into a library, because of its unfamiliar environment. There are ways to deal with this problem.

Make the library inviting by keeping spaces open. Put chairs and tables in highly visible spaces. Have signs that guide the user and put attractive decorations on the walls. All of these will help, but the most important thing is staff attitude.

Smile and greet the public in a friendly way. This will go a long way toward making the patron feel welcome, even if your library doesn't look as nice as you would like. Here are some tips for good customer service:

  • Always greet a patron. It doesn't have to be elaborate or funny. A simple hello will work.
  • Be aware of your body language. Patrons can tell by the way you stand, etc. whether or not you really do want them in the library.
  • If you are working on something else when a patron approaches, put it aside. This lets the patron know that you are willing to give them your full attention.
  • Wearing name tags helps, but they can be uncomfortable for some staff members.
  • Approach the patron if it looks like s/he has a question. Sometimes patrons are afraid to ask, but will respond if you ask them first.
  • Use open-ended questions. This encourages the patron to talk.
  • Don't point patrons in the direction of the item. Lead them over to the item.
  • If patrons are working on something complicated or have to wait in line, give them something to get started.
  • Follow the golden rule, treat people as you would like to be treated.
  • Excellent customer service is important in every aspect of the library.