Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Up, Close and Personal

Andy Priestner, co-organiser with me for the symposium on Personalised services in HE makes a very good comment when challenging us in his recent blog post to think about just how personalised is 'personalised'.

Having spent some time at work these last two weeks talking about how we can improve our customer service - and talking incessantly at home about it - my husband quietly presented me with an article called 'Shopping with a smile? I'm not buying it'. Strapline comment - 'What works for Mary Portas does not necessarily work in a Poundshop in Preston.'

Hmmm - up, close and personal doesn't always work. So how do we work out what is helpful and beneficial and what isn't? In a week where I have been receiving detailed evaluation emails on the impact of our skills programme in the Library, I am realising that, from the students perspectives, there is merit in personalising our teaching, but that some generic teaching is useful if part of a package where both styles feature. It's getting the balance right that's important. In an HE environment where students clearly feel that they have a lot of choice about what they go to, the package has to appeal to them!

What interests me in the whole personalisation thing is the subliminal messages that we give that seem to have the most impact. I just received an email from a student who was clearly impressed that a member of staff had painted a picture for the library in order to brighten a particularly dull spot. This level of commitment by the staff to improving the environment in a very quiet unobtrusive way demonstrates the sort of subliminal 'personalisation' that I am sure exists in many libraries around the world.

I'm not saying that a welcome smile and good eye contact for our users at the issue desk isn't important, but perhaps we underestimate that what we instinctively do already is providing a personlised service?

Friday, 7 January 2011

Conferenced out....

Too much information (is that possible?)

Cleared the desk on Tuesday and cleared the brain, but the libraries@cambridge conference filled it up again.

Echo chamber - thought the idea very relevant but was fascinated by all the echo chamber activity around me as I listened. Ned made that point really when pointing out the conference was full of librarians but to make matters worse - Cambridge librarians!

Thinking about the echo chamber I wonder about taking it a step further. Perhaps we should wake up to the fact that there are smaller echo chambers that are embedded within the wider institutional library environment or the big echo chamber of which all librarians are a part. Perhaps the 'wheels within wheels' picture says something of what I mean.

I'm not entirely sure that we always realise that they are there but a bit of meerkat action soon detects possibilities!

For example take the 'Thing' that I had to give up using - my head just wanted to explode from all the information contained there! My brain can divide itself up into approximately 6 compartments at any one time, and the 'Thing' doubles that number in one screens-worth of information! You take my point?

But I digress......
I can see the point of breaking out of my own mini echo chamber into the big wide world, but I wonder if there are just as many issues and perhaps damage caused by the lack of movement between our little microcosms, our mini echo chambers. Do we have a responsibility to engage with others in different parts of the same library environment as well as with the big wide world ? Whose responsibility is it? Your echo chamber - or mine?