Work Like a Patron Day

A few weeks ago, I happened upon a blog entry from Brian Herzog, the Swiss Army Librarian about how he had to work on a project on a public workstation, and what he learned from the experience. He suggests that every once in awhile we ought to “work like a patron” for a day, just to see the library operations from the other side.

I think that’s a brilliant idea.

How many times have we been faced with users who simply do not understand why we do certain things, or who can’t believe we really didn’t know that the automatic door openers have been broken for months, or that the Enter key sticks on computer 82.

Herzog suggests that library staff do the following things:

  • Enter and leave by the public entrances.
  • Use the public restrooms.
  • Use the public computers to do your daily work.
  • Reserve public meeting rooms for your meetings.
  • Follow all library policies.

Think you could do it? I spent a day this week doing just what he suggested and here is what I experienced:

Public entrances – Maintenance staff did a good job yesterday morning keeping the entrance walks clear of snow and ice. However, the landscaping and sidewalks in front of the Rundel Building are disgraceful. The gardener in me wants to get in those beds and rip all that ivy right out of there, trim the trees, and mulch. The sidewalks, well, there’s not much I can do about them right now. The city is well aware of the condition of the walks, but apparently nothing can be done until the infrastructure work is completed underneath the building and the terraces. My other pet peeve is that the Rundel Building looks so dirty — I really wish we could get the outer shell of the building cleaned, but I have been told the cleaning process necessary for the safety and integrity of the stone is very costly. On a brighter note, the new banners on the front of Rundel look fabulous! And walking into the Rundel lobby always makes me feel like I’m entering someplace really special. However, the condition of the brass relief on the elevator doors is desperately in need of preservation and cleaning.

Public Restrooms – only one word can describe this experience — Ewwwww! The BLB restrooms are getting new stalls this year, but really, the whole of the restroom needs an overhaul. I don’t even want to know what the men’s room looks like! Rundel restrooms are not so bad. In fact, the public restrooms in Rundel are actually a little nicer than the staff restroom on the 3rd floor.

I didn’t get past these two activities yesterday, but plan on trying the public computers on Friday. As for reserving the rooms and following policies, I do those two things anyway.

This exercise really gives you an idea of what our patrons experience every day. Try it, and tell me what you see.


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