How do you find out if your patrons think your library is doing a good job? Just ask “How Are We Doing?” and give them a chance to tell you. Eisenhower Public Library District started up two new ways for our patrons to do that in 2014.
In March of 2014, the Library began soliciting and tracking patron comments on the service we provide to them. The Library conducts surveys as needed and program evaluations on a regular basis, but we wanted to give patrons an easy way to write down their thoughts to pass along to us. The Marketing Department created comment cards to give patrons a way to let us know how we are doing. Comment cards are available at every service desk, and they can be returned at any service desk or in the comment box located in our main lobby. Staff are encouraged to hand the cards to patrons who come to them with a comment or fill one out with a comment that was verbally expressed to them.
Since we started using these comment cards in March of 2013, we have received about 100 comments. While some of these patrons may have taken the time to make sure their voice was heard, the majority of these comments would not have reached us. Both positive and negative comments come to us this way, and they are looked at weekly during our management team meetings. They are also shared each month with our Board of Trustees.
Patrons comment on all aspects of library service, but most of the comments are about our staff, and they have been overwhelmingly positive. Our staff have been called knowledgeable, patient, joyful, understanding, fast, polite, nice, courteous, friendly, intelligent, professional, “amazingly helpful” and “completely awesome!” When a staff person is mentioned by name, the manager of that department is encouraged to share that comment with them. Teachers have also taken the time to let us know that they “had never seen a library so dedicated to serving school” and that our children’s staff “will make me a better teacher tomorrow”.
Other comments included “My tax money is being spent wisely!” (always nice to hear); “I don’t like that there is no desk to put your books down when you are scanning/checking out” (immediately remedied by placing a small table near the self-check station); a couple of comments on the need for blinds or shades on the west windows to cut down the glare on that side of computer row (which was done); “fax number is not easily found on the website” (it was added to the footer), and many comments about the various programs we offer or suggestions for new programs to try.
We asked for contact information to follow up as necessary, and added check boxes for email newsletter sign up and permission to use comments in library promotions. This has given us a resource to look through when we need a patron quote for a news article or grant proposal.
The second way we made it easy for patrons to offer feedback was to institute a monthly “Coffee with the Director” where our Director, Stacy Wittmann, is available for two hours each month for patrons to drop in and have a cup of coffee or tea and sit and talk with her. While it only attracts a few participants each month, it gives each of them a chance to express their opinions directly to someone in charge. It also gave patrons a chance to meet Stacy, who was new to the position in 2014.
During these sessions, Stacy has heard many compliments, and the occasional complaint, from those attending. Many comments are about the programs our patrons enjoy or ones they would like the library to consider; our new investment club got started from one of these suggestions. Others ask questions about what we offer and it gives us a chance to promote the library and its programs.
Both Coffee with the Director and the “How Are We Doing?” comment cards give patrons a chance to feel their voice is being heard by the Library. Letting patrons know that their concerns matter gives them a sense of ownership and belonging. This gives us a chance to build a group of supporters who truly care about what happens to their library.
Julie Stam is the Marketing Specialist for Eisenhower Public Library District.