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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Articulating Appeal With Coworkers at the Service Desk

Often, during slower times at the BPL, the staff engages in impromptu book talking across departments while we are working at our service desks.  We do it for passive marketing purposes. It's our way of saying to every visitor,  "Hey, we all talk about what we read and watch and why we like it, so why don't you join us."  Now, we do get the occasional complaint that we are talking too much, but we have administrative support behind us because we are talking about books, movies, and TV shows that we can get for others.

We also do this book talking as professional development.  We are encouraging all staff to practice sharing what they have been reading and enjoying and to tell us why in a nonthreatening, casual environment.  We do this both to help the speaker work on honing their skills AND to help the listener work on using what someone says to draw connections to other things.

Over time, these impromptu book talks have also had the added bonus of making us all more aware of the tastes and leisure reading/watching preferences of each other.  I now know what a huge percentage of the staff likes to read and I can point patrons in a kindred spirit's direction if I am having trouble helping him or her.  We have been able to identify local "experts" on genres and can use their skills in various ways throughout the library too.

Another issue that has emerged over the years, which, again, is an excellent training tool because it happens with patrons all the time too, is when we share certain LOVES with a co-worker and then find out we have a favorite author whom this same co-worker HATES.  Here's my example.

I love Chris Ware, you can click here for details, but let me just say anything the man draws and writes, I read.  Jose in Circulation, with whom I share a love of many of the same graphic novels, finds Ware overly complicated.  He gets the point, likes what his overall message is, but feels that Ware goes out of his way to be "interesting," and that annoys him.

This Chris Ware debate has been going on for over a year.  Just today I brought this 2 page Chris Ware Strip from the April 10th New York Times Book Review over to Jose as he sat at the Circulation Desk.  All I said was, "This strip encapsulates everything I love about Chris Ware."  Jose read it.  And said, "Yes it is cute and clever, but again, too busy for me." He liked it in that short spurt, but an entire book...yuck to him.    
Overtime, Jose and I have felt each other out. I have shared why I like something, and he, why he does not.  By listening to each other, we are both getting a broader view of how personal our work in RA truly is. We have taken the time to articulate appeal in very specific terms with each other, and this allows us to improve in honing down the essence of appeal in our less in depth interactions with patrons.  It also allows us to understand that liking one thing the same does not mean all of our likes will overlap.  We have been able to navigate the murky waters where disagreements occur and have found a way around them. This distinction is also key when working with patrons. 

So the point of today's post is--- practice with each other.  Book talk and focus on articulating the appeal, the WHY, you liked or didn't like a particular book.  You will not only get good practice, but you will be role playing situations that actually come up with patrons. By doing it in public spaces, you will also be advertising your services, commitment and expertise to your patrons while you are learning.  I can promise you from experience, you will be surprised by how much you learn.  And, if nothing else, you get to spend your day talking to your co-workers about your last great read or this week's Game of Thrones.

Back tomorrow with my recap of how things went on World Book Night.

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