The problem is people are trying to use the catalog the wrong way. Instead of a keyword search like on the internet and online databases, the catalog offers something unique– direct access to exactly what you want through a browse or exact search using subject headings, authors, titles. An old idea but it still works–give it a try!
“The problem is people are trying to use the catalog the wrong way.” Wow. Really. Are we really still blaming the patrons for the archaic, non-intuitive functionality of our catalogs? Wake up and smell the musty old books people! If libraries were a business and we were selling books using our catalog we’d have gone bankrupt ages ago. Frankly, if this is the attitude we’re spouting off we are damn lucky if we don’t go out of business tomorrow.
The right way IS the way your customers are using your services. Continuing to insist they use them the way you want them too will only lead to your failure.
Your product is what your customer says it is. If they continually use the catalog the “wrong” way, the problem isn’t them it’s you.
There is a great essay, Somethings Just Don’t Translate, in The Big Moo that illustrates this point from a non-library perspective. A very successful Italian businessman who sells handcrafted housewares decided to expand his business to Washington D.C. Many people came into the store to browse but no one was buying. When he finally approached a woman and asked how she was finding things, she replies that she didn’t understand why he was selling the bud vases in packs of 6 and the water glasses were sold individually. What this customer saw as a bud vase was a drinking glass for people all over Italy. What she saw as a water glass were flower vases in Italy. He changed his definition of the items to meet customers definitions.
If this man had insisted that Americans learn the correct (Italian) uses for these items, do you think he would have been successful? No. It doesn’t matter how beautiful or functional the items are, if customers can’t find what they are looking for, even if it’s right in front of their face, the business will fail.
It doesn’t matter how well organized your collection is, how extensive your services are, if your patrons can’t use them, if they can’t find what they are looking for, you have failed.
Insisting you are right wont make people to search the catalog the *correct* way it, will make them stop coming to the library.
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