Incredible Customer Service

I just read this set of slides for a marketing course I’m starting for my Library Science program. I’m stunned and gladdened to see such devotion to customers. I’m going to start shopping with

Do you know of other companies with exemplary service? What do they do that’s a cut above the norm?

Rare Books Class

The second week of July I took a wonderful course, my first course in Rare Books about reference books for them. It met Monday through Friday from 9 to noon and 1 to 4 pm. We just had 8 students and a very knowledgeable, yet approachable teacher who welcomed questions. There was no PowerPoint, which weren’t missed. It just goes to show that as long as the topic’s interesting and the teacher knows what he or she’s doing, there’s no need for bells and whistles.

We learned about 350 the bibliographies and reference books that help collectors, scholars and readers learn about rare books. A couple days after class I managed to visit the university rare book collection.

The two assignments had parts that were the most challenging work I’ve had to do, i.e. find out the price of a 3rd edition of John Wolridge’s Systema Horticulturea when it first came out and find what the first book printed in Swedish was and what library currently has it.

I wound up going to rare book collections at Northwestern University, Harold Washington Library, Newberry Library, Loyola University Chicago, Clark University and the Chicago History Museum. It took me 8 trips and I had to throw in the town with the Systema Horticulturae question. I will say the staff at Harold Washington and the Chicago History Museum topped the list for approachability and helpfulness. Northwestern has a lovely gothic rare books room, but most of the books aren’t there. Believe it or not they’re housed in the engineering library, which is a 15 minute. (I understand running out of space but dividing the rare books collection up like this doesn’t make sense.) The Newberry has some helpful staff and others were rather clueless. I needed a book for a bibliography and their catalog showed they owned three copies but no one could find any of them. None of their books can be checked out.

Loyola was the worst of the bunch. You must make an appointment a day in advance. There’s no special room for rare books, just a messy windowless office where two women were working. Their office smelled like old books, which isn’t necessary. I was there in the morning without an appointment and when I asked if I could just make one, the librarian (clerk?) told me I’d have to call, which seemed absurd.

Yet at both the CHM and Harold Washington, I was treated well and while no one would (or could) do my homework for me they seemed invested in my success and were happy to help.

I’m so glad I took this class. While I think it takes a lifetime to really become an expert in this field, I loved being introduced to the wild world of rare books.

Kudos to the teacher for challenging us, not making us do a group project, and for being so approachable when brought up questions. You’d be surprised how often that’s not the case.

Journey Map Assignment


Here’s this week’s homework for my Library UX course. We had to go to a library and write a step by step map including a shorthand method of showing how patrons, i.e. me in this case, felt during each part of the experience.

I was inspired by some of Rachel’s choices for previous assignments so I decided to visit the Newberry Library, an independent private library with a collection featuring lots of rare materials on American Indian (sic)  culture, the Renaissance, local history, genealogy and maps.  Since I’d never done research here, I was a bit nervous but also excited. I expected many of the procedures to be different and I knew that patrons did not have access to the books and materials, but didn’t know how that experience would feel, which is why I chose this library.

Journey Map



You can view the full size document here. While it was a bit more intimidating to research at the Newberry than at the Chicago History Museum, the Newberry has primary documents the Chicago History Museum lacks (and vice versa). The Newberry librarians were cordial, but not as helpful as at the Chicago History Museum. Both have rare materials, which are irreplaceable, but the Newberry’s security was tighter.

I think the Newberry should offer more help and show more interest in patron’s research, particularly first time visitors. Since patron’s must state their research area on the request forms, it’s not as though research privacy is a reason why librarians don’t interview patrons more thoroughly.

When a librarian or page delivers a book, she should be warmer and more cordial. Getting a reader’s card form on one floor and having to go to another to submit it seemed inconvenient. After examining the rationale for that arrangement and the functions of each floor, the library should streamline this procedure.