Thursday, August 25, 2016

How our Walk-Around Log has Changed Desk Time

What is your job when you're working the public service desk?

That seems like an obvious question. Your job on the public service desk is to serve the public. But I know that it gets a little more complicated when you have a ton of tasks to get done and very little off-desk time to do it. Between customers, you'll often find your librarians completing other work.

I wanted something more for our desks. As a former Barnes & Noble bookseller, it was drilled into me to put the book in the customer's hand and I always walk customers back to the shelf. I always told my staff that they're not tied to the desk; I want them to be up and walking around.

Enter the walk-around log:

And yes, here's a link to a similar file I created for a walk around log. Feel free to download and edit to fit your needs.

Confession time: our walk-around log originated as a way to deal with some security issues we were having in our building. We exist in an old, sprawling building, and we cannot see everything in our Teen Room or our Children's Room from the desks.

So I created a log for each desk and made it a requirement of my staff to do a lap of the room at least hourly while they are on desk. I know how easy it is to get involved with a project you're doing on desk, particularly during those periods when we may go a few hours between patrons, and tune out to what is going on around you. That's not good customer service and that's not keeping the library secure.

When you take a few minutes to walk around your department:

  • You know who's in there. You know if there's someone back in the stacks. If you're paying attention, you become aware of any potential problems hopefully before they become actual problems. 
  • Patrons know you're there. They know that you see them. If it's a situation where they were thinking of doing something inappropriate, they may now rethink because they know you're not just zoned in on your computer screen. 
  • You can make sure your space is welcoming. You can make sure there are pencils, you can pick up the blocks, you can check the battery charge on the iPad stations, you can refill displays. You can take a few seconds to spruce up your room. 
  • (This is an important one!) You can offer help to folks who might not ask for it. Based on my years of customer service, I can tell you that there are some people who will not ask for help. But if you approach people proactively, often they do actually have a question. Or if they think of one they will be more likely to approach you or seek you out. It doesn't have to be pushy. When I do my laps, I try to approach everyone browsing in the department and say something like "Is there anything I can help you find today? No? Well, if you have any questions, you just let me know."
  • You're being healthy! It's healthy to get up and move periodically! Get that blood flowing! Get your steps in! 
Keeping up with our walk-around logs did help solve the security issues we were facing. It's also increased the number of reference questions we're answering. It also gives us a place to record any little notes we want to make, if there are any issues going on that I need to know about or future desk staff need to be aware of. 

I started out with consumable paper logs that I collected each morning to make sure my staff were remembering to do it. They did great and once I was confident that this was part of our new desk routine, I laminated a log for each desk and provided sharp point dry-erase markers to keep our logs. 

This is something that has worked well for us. What do you do to ensure your staff is providing good customer service at your public desks?