Back in July I posted an article titled Naked Librarianship. The article got such positive feedback, I thought I would repost it here. For your reading enjoyment:
I recently read Patrick Lencioni’s Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding the Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty. Lencioni is the author of numerous books. Many of those books rely on a fictionalized story or fable to make business, management and leadership models or concept clearer.
Getting Naked, is a fable about two different strategies in the consulting industry. It is really a great book, and I suggest you read it. But I want to briefly discuss the Naked model. The Naked model is really about offering exception client (patron) services. At its core, Naked service boils down to the ability of a service provider to be vulnerable–to embrace uncommon levels of humility, selflessness, and transparency for the good of a client. Client loyalty and trust are achieved by overcoming the following three fears:
- Fear of losing the business
- Fear of being embarrassed
- Fear of feeling inferior
This model is totally applicable to libraries. So let’s see what Naked Librarianship might look like (note I am taking a very abridged approach to this model)
Fear of losing the business has a few remedies.
The first solution is to consult instead of sell. Libraries have been striving for this for some time. But I think it’s interesting when we see ourselves as a research, book, information, or life consultant.
The second solution entails giving away the business. In this solution we are called to always err on the side of the client when it comes to fees. How many times do arguments erupt at the circulation desk over a $1 or $2 fine? What is the impact of this fight on the patron? How are other patrons in the library impacted? Is this really necessary?
Fear of being embarrassed
Ask dumb questions is one way of overcoming the fear of being embarrassed. How many times do we engage in a reference transaction when someone refers to or asks about something we have never heard of? What do we do? I, for one, will quickly jump on the Internet to just figure out what ever the topic is. Why don’t I just ask the patron instead? I know that I have certainly made myself look smart by quickly researching and talking about a concept a patron asks about and in the process I make them feel stupid. If a patron asks me how to adjust an onboard serial port in bios, I might ask them what bios is?
Celebrate your mistakes is one of my favorite embarrassment solutions. I believe that every library should throw a failure party to celebrate the risks and lessons learned through mistakes. It is a way for a library to acknowledge the giant elephant in the room, and to insist that perfection and innovation are simply mutually exclusive.
Fear of feeling inferior
Make everything about the client (patron) is a simple and obvious tactic. Naked librarianship focuses attention on the person we are serving. This means no multitasking while helping someone. Moreover, you always defer the credit to the person you are helping. For example, if you two are looking for the next Fifty Shades of Grey and you both find it together you give the credit to the patron.
Do the dirty work is another remedy to the fear of feeling inferior. This might be difficult for naked librarians. When helping a patron, there is virtually nothing beneath you. Demonstrate your dedication to the patron by doing whatever it takes to make them happy (yes, of course there are limitations). If a patron wants you to print something for them, just do it. It will save the time of both of you if you argue and try to teach them how to use your crappy computer reservation and print release station.
In the preceding paragraphs, I boiled a complex model down to a quick couple of bullet points. If any of this interests you, I suggest you read the book. More importantly, I hope that you see how some of these fears affect you and limit the service that you provide. Getting naked really deals with being vulnerable, but in most cases, your patron demonstrated vulnerability first by asking you for help.
May you realize that it’s ok to be vulnerable. May you embrace uncommon levels of humility, selflessness, and transparency for the good of your patron, and may you strip off the layers separating you from providing exceptional service. May you offer naked library services.