Saturday, February 16, 2008

Who is the Gordon Ramsay of Libraries?

I'm not a big fan of reality shows - but I love some of the stuff on BBC America. Today I'm watching Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares. One of the episodes on today finds him trying to help save a giant purple-ish restaurant next to a golf course. Besides the problems in the kitchen - nasty fried food with no taste or appearance - the dining room wait staff had no skills. Not only were the wait staff unable to make the connections with the customers, but they also didn't know their menu or had even tried most of the items on the menu. So Gordon swoops in with his tussled two-toned hair to straighten out the wait and kitchen staff, as well as the owners.

Gordon's approach to critiquing restaurant service from the kitchen all the way to the street perception is something every library should do for technical services processes, to the reference desk, administrative workflow, to the library web presence and all the way to the patron's impression on the street.

Does your kitchen staff (a.k.a. technical services) know how to prepare your materials so that they appeal to your customers? Do they know how to adjust their workflow to get the materials out as quickly as possible? After all if it takes 5 weeks for that hot book to hit the shelf - it may be too cold for the patrons.

Does your house wait staff (a.k.a public services) know how to properly sell your menu items -- err...materials? Are they familiar enough with them to be able to describe how that book or database will appeal to the research palette of the patron? Better yet - are they able to keep the house looking the way it should to get the patrons to come back? You can have the most brilliant material on the shelf but if the appearance of the library is lacking - people won't want to step through the door (virtual or otherwise).

Does your administrative staff understand what is going on in the kitchen and the front house? Have they visited recently -- better yet can they fill in - in a pinch - should their help be needed? If not can they accept the expertise of the full-time staff in that kitchen and house positions and take their input when making policy decisions?

The reality is most libraries aren't able to experience such a strict evaluation - either because they are limited by funds to hire consultants or if the evaluations are conducted by an in house team it is viewed with animosity by those not willing to admit there may be room for improvement. And so many libraries are left with grumblings of dissatisfaction by a few (or perhaps many) but no means of pinpointing the things that need help or even where to begin.

So what I propose is we find and crown individuals in the field who could be the Gordon Ramsays, Dr. Gillian McKeiths, Kim Woodburns and Aggie MacKenzies for the profession. Individuals who have a strong critical eye but understand the big scheme and can help libraries identify their goals, determine what they are doing to sabotage those goals, and then give suggestions on how to adjust our collective professional behaviors to better meet our goals. But these can't be people who will sit on the side lines -- they should be individuals who can swoop in and spread the ugly reality out on the table -- and ride our collective backsides until we realize change is necessary.

OK enough typing from me -- I have to watch Gordon convince this guy to change the name of his snooty restaurant - and I leave you with these words from Gordon
...maybe he was able to get away with that in the 1990s but in [the 2000s] his days are numbered...


Anonymous said...

This is well stated. I like the simple way you've described some very important issues. Do you mind if I share this story with others?

Adri said...

Simple - that's me! Oh, and thanks and share away. ;-)