Library Touchpoints 

We all know the importance of first impressions.  First points of contact in libraries are important because they leave unforgettable first impressions.  There are several touchpoints that act as first points of contact which are important for giving a positive first impression to encourage library patrons to return to visit again and again.

First Point of Contact:  The Entrance (space, signage and staff)

Mosley (2007) suggests that some library users know exactly what they will do when entering a library, but not all do and it’s important that the library be prepared to offer a positive first impression and meet the needs of those who don’t.  While Mosley focuses on the desk nearest the front door, it also includes the experience the visitor has when approaching the library and entering the library on his/her senses:

  • Sight:  Well kept, tidy, neglected, litter, signage…?  Is it welcoming and obvious where to go?
  • Touch:  Soft carpet, wood flooring, concrete…?
  • Sounds:  Quiet, loud, echoing, talking…?
  • Smell:  Clean, mildew, body odor (big homeless issue), chemical…?
  • Taste:  Hopefully there is no taste, but strong smells, such as exhaust can be tasted.

These physical experiences send subtle messages to the library visitor that can be pleasant or unpleasant and add to their library experience.

Pleasant Signage

Signage as a point of contact is important because it often reflects a less formal communication that reflects more of the personality of the library.  A sign that is sloppily put together, posted or with a negative message is not a pleasant greeting for visitors.  Signage that communicates respect and consideration towards library patrons demonstrate empathy and value for them as fellow human beings.  A TTW article (2010), complete with photo and text from Leah White demonstrates how important these messages are:  “Many library users return to libraries because there is something special that keeps them coming back. However, if you welcome them at the entrance with insulting signage, people will think twice about patronizing such an institution.” (Leah White, 2010)

Trained Staff

Another important part of the entrance is the staff the visitor first encounters (Mosley, 2010).  Often workers at these front counters are paraprofessionals, volunteers, or student workers.  All staff should be trained to greet visitors and to communicate verbally and nonverbally they are available to help.  They should also be trained to provide accurate directions to common questions.  An ability to empathize with the visitor’s anxiety of visiting a new place or unanswered questions is important to make this effort natural and sincere.  Training should include how to address questions they don’t know the answers too and how to follow-up with those questions.  Regardless of their professional status, any staff at the front counter represents the library and should be equipped to answer questions (Mosley, 2010).

One More First Point of Contact:  The Library Website

The library had traditionally been a physical space that one visited, but with the rise in internet access, the library website is often the first point of contact.  Krug (2006) gave us a lot of tools to establish usable library websites that are self-evident, easy to scan and navigate.  Creating useful, usable and desirable library offerings should be an important part of decision making to provide excellent user experience (Schmidt, 2013).  In some cases the library website may be the only point of contact when potential patrons research a community they will move to, or should a person be homebound, or if they are only interested in the offerings available through the website, such as downloadable materials or databases.  Giving the library website users the information they seek and a means to obtain more information as needed is an extension of the library’s user experience, and there are no second chances to get it right.

Conclusion

The most important purpose of these touchpoints is that the patron successfully completes their mission.  If they don’t find what they need, it is unlikely they will return.  If they find what they need, this success will encourage them to return to fulfill another need, and repeated success will ensure loyalty and support.  One of the most valuable lessons in this class so far is that UX is a perpetual objective and a good library never assumes it has achieved ultimate usability…it constantly strives to adapt to and meet their community’s needs.  This sounds very subjective, but it would be worthy to assess and evaluate all library touchpoints on a regular basis.  Nicholson (2004) proposes several methods of evaluation of a library as a system rather than attempting to isolate these touchpoints and their impact on the library as a whole.

 

 

Krug, S. (2006). Don’t make me think!: A common sense approach to Web usability. Berkeley, CA: New Riders Pub.

Mosley, P. (2007). Assessing user interactions at the desk nearest the front door. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 47(2), 159-167.

Nicholson, S. (2004). A conceptual framework for the holistic measurement and cumulative evaluation of library services. Journal of Documentation, 60(2), 164-182. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.libaccess.sjlibrary.org/docview/217961349?accountid=10361

Schmidt, A. (2013). Is your library a sundial?: The user experience. The Library Journal. Retrieved from lj.libraryjournal.com/2013/03/opinion/aaron-schmidt/is-your-library-a-sundial-the-user-experience/

White, L. (2010). Leah White on library signage.  Tame the Web. Retrieved from http://tametheweb.com/2010/07/15/leah-white-on-library-signage/ Original article at http://www.americanlibrariesmagazine.org/article/signage-better-none-bad

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