Are we really doing it for them, or for us?


Having been in my current post for a while and looking back at my previous positions, I have been wondering whether the things that my colleagues and I do to promote the resources and the way we go about doing it, is it for us or is it for our patrons? One particular area of concern is:

‘Are we fully understanding what it is the patrons want from us?’

I think that a lot of librarians and information professionals tend to assume that they know what is best for their patrons. But I don’t think that’s always case. For example, some patrons couldn’t care less about what each month represents, about using the various options (such as limiters, sharing and saving to folders) that are available (as most don’t even know that they’re there or how to use them), what the the discovery service is called or even what it is.  Most patrons just want the ability to find the information they need as quickly as possible and if the library is promoting something it has to be relevant to them and what they are studying/interested in.

In addition, is the way in which we promote information useful for our patrons? Do certain things need to be put in A4 guides, or could they be condensed to a sentence and a diagram? Are we utilising our online presence enough or are we using it too much by putting everything on there?

It has been proven that our attention span is a lot shorter and long paragraphs and essays don’t work. In order to grab a person’s attention, the information needs to be presented in a way that is eye-catching  and memorable.

I recently had to persuade my manager to make harvardguidehis guide more colourful instead of the normal black writing, white background with maybe a little grey for colour. It was good that I spoke up because the guide looks absolutely amazing (I hope they don’t mind that I’ve put it up :S).

Whether this is more helpful or not was shown by the amount of people who have picked up the guide. More copies have had to be produced, suggesting that the simplicity of this guide makes it easier to understand and does the job it is meant to do.

I have no right or wrong answer about how we should produce information, what format it should be in and where we put it as it should be considered on a case by case basis. The above example is good as a leaflet guide as it can just be handed out. But it could also do well if put onto one of the library pages as it could be easily accessed and copied and thus downloaded. But the reason it did well was because it was available to the patrons where they frequent everyday – the library.

Thus, I guess what I’m trying to say is that as long as the information is relevant, easy to understand and put in a place where patrons are most likely to take note of it, they will acknowledge it and use it.Having excessive amount of limiters, promoting a topic that is not relevant to the daily interests of the patrons and having information online that is hard to find (even if anyone knew it was there), amongst a whole host of other things, is not helpful or useful. Just because we understand, know how to use and/or find it, doesn’t mean that our patrons will.

Within this transition period where we as information professionals are taking more note of what our patrons want and how the online world can be extremely useful in sharing information (especially those libraries that are not traditional libraries which house print materials), we need to think more about how we do things and whether what we do is really for our own benefit or for them.

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