“People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing” – Dale Carnegie
Oftentimes we seem to have the misconception that teaching must always be thought of as a serious act of imparting education to the receiver of such knowledge. There’s very little that is taught in a serious manner that couldn’t be improved upon by adding some light humor or fun.
Rethink your instruction classes
Begin with rethinking how you deliver instruction or information to your patrons. One way of delivering customer support is through the instruction classes given by your library. Along with teaching your regular classes on Microsoft Word, keyboard skills, or Introduction to Twitter, consider adding classes that address one or more areas in which you receive the highest amount of questions from your patrons.
Instruction with customer support in mind could include “How to navigate our databases from your home,” “Use the online catalog without driving to the library,” or instruction on the use of your library’s “Ask-a-Librarian” type of service that your library features. Consider teaching some of your library classes online to encourage greater inclusion and participation from your homebound patrons.
At the college library where I currently work as an academic librarian, one of our former instructors used candy to motivate students in his classes during instruction. For the student chosen who then provided a correct response he would toss a roll of Smarties. If an incorrect answer was given, a Dumb Dumb sucker would soar their direction. This created an active and fun participation while at the same time, engaging the students in the subject content. It has been researched that when we engage in more than one of our senses at a time, this can reinforce the learning process.
Gamification represents the 21st century creation of adding game mechanics to make something more engaging to the users, similar to playing a game. Gamification is often used for the purpose of training. In the past we only had training programs like “Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing.” Although Mavis was a fictional character, she probably helped more individuals learn keyboard skills than many non-fictional instructors. Many of Mavis Beacon’s students probably forgot while participating in the training process they were learning a skill. That’s one of the goals of gamification. Gamification can lend itself to being used to create self-training programs for patrons to better acquaint them with using your existing library services and support programs.
Have you ever heard your colleagues or patrons express that they have received too many awards or certificates of recognition? Awards usually make us feel good. Including tutorials on your library’s site which allow the patron to print out a certificate following completion of learning a new skill such as “How to read a library e-Book from home” can motivate users to stay current in using all of the library’s programs, databases, and resources your library has to offer them. Consequently, this can reduce some of the time your library spends answering customer support questions while at the same time empowering your patrons.
The point system is another motivator especially if the points can then be traded in for something valuable to the holder of the accrued points. Offering points to patrons for completing online or physical feedback forms while at the same time offering points to staff who receive positive feedback, the library can then award items such as a coupon “Redeemable for 1 complimentary paperback from our bookstore.” This cannot help but motivate patrons to continue to improve your library services while continuing to strengthen the library staff’s ongoing customer support skills.