Life Lessons from the Library: Know Your Audience

Actually this life lesson more accurately comes from my dentist. I was there this morning to have six (!) teeth worked on. Now my former dentist has retired and the new ones have another office in a nearby city where they are “dentists to the stars.” The elite of country music can be seen there.

So they have added some frills to their services at mine. Halfway through the session today, I was asked if I wanted a smoothie when it was all over. Then a little later, I was told I could relax my tense muscles by sitting in the massage chair when the procedure was done.

Now this probably works with people more used to pampering. But I have only one thought in mind while in the dentist’s chair: when I will be out and back home. I do not want a smoothie dribbling down my numb chin. And I don’t want a massage. I want to go home. And that’s what I did.

But that’s something we librarians need to remember as well. We can be too pushy or too aloof. Experienced researchers want to use our books or databases, and if they have a question, they want us to be there to answer it. Otherwise, they want to be left alone.

Others, on the other hand, need some hand holding. They are afraid of asking questions or unsure of what questions to ask. In that case, we need to get out there and be available to them–letting them know we exist and are more than willing to help.

But it’s important to know the difference between the groups. And in order to do that, nothing beats spending some time listening to what patrons actually want, not what we just assume they do. And then we actually have to follow through on what they tell us.

And as an always-recovering know-it-all, believe me when I say, that can be the truly hard part!

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