Last night I got an IM question from a student while staffing our IM reference service. She was in the stacks, but “was totally overwhelmed” with how many books we had and was very confused about how to actually find a book. Since four floors separated us, I decided to send her my video on how to find a book in our library. It’s a rather cheesy video that I made last summer with my Flip video camera. As is typical, after sending the student the link to the video, I never heard back.
This morning, I taught a library session for a freshman English class. About 45 minutes into the class, two girls mentioned how they had watched my video last night and found it really useful. It turns out that the girls were the same patron that I sent the video to last night. It was a very cool “small world” experience, and I was able to use the experience as a way to promote our Ask A Librarian service to the other students in the class.
I’m glad that the students found our IM transaction to be helpful, and that got me to thinking. What if I had given them bad service last night? What impact might that have had on their experience during this morning’s class? How would it have impacted future library experiences? What if they told their classmates that they were treated poorly? We almost never get to meet or see the patrons that we help via IM, chat, or email. With IM and chat, there is almost never a real name tied to the patron on the other end, so it can be easy to be less personal with the patron. If you’re having a bad day, it can also be easier to be rude or short to a person who you cannot see, or whose name you do not know. The girls this morning were extremely engaged, and worked very hard during the session. They asked a lot of questions, and I think their overall impression of our library is very positive. I wonder if we assumed we would meet each virtual patron the next day in person, how might that affect our interractions with our virtual patrons? Likewise, how might our patrons’ perceptions of the library change? It’s a small world, after all, and it’s only getting smaller.