A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page can be a useful tool that patrons, and even library staff, can refer to to get helpful answers to frequent questions. However, FAQs can often become outdated, and lackluster FAQs will give a poor impression of your library and its customer service. A well thought out and maintained FAQ page can serve as a great resource and a good marketing tool for library services.
Make sure to discover what your patrons are really asking. Keep a log at the reference desk where librarians can note questions that are asked. Go through and group like questions together and decide which questions are appropriate for a FAQ. They should be questions that are not only frequently asked, but that are brief and easily answered to completion in an online document.
Keep your FAQ timely and up to date. It may be too much of a burden to continually track all questions posed to the reference desk, but you may want to have reference staff note when new repeat questions seem to pop up. You can also select certain time periods throughout the year to have questions logged.
Ensure that your answers are clear and answer the question completely. Inquiries that require a more in depth explanation, or have various nuances, may not be appropriate for an FAQ document.
Make your FAQ easy to find and easy to search. Place the link in an obvious place on your website. You may want to have the link in several locations. Group questions by subject and have a search function, so patrons can find the answers they are looking for without too much effort or any aggravation.
Consider letting patrons contribute ideas for the FAQ. Provide a form or a contact page for them to submit ideas. Obvious contact information is also necessary to make sure patrons know where to go next in case the FAQ doesn’t answer their question.
Remember that a great FAQ document can be a key element to successful customer service. Patrons can get quick satisfaction by finding their own answers to basic questions. Additionally, rather than repeatedly answering the same questions library staff can quickly and easily refer patrons directly to the FAQ, saving valuable time.
What attracts library customers to today’s libraries? The rise of mobile culture and the smart phone society brings a dynamic shift in expectations about how, when, and where to access information. Endless media streams, interactive news feeds, and autonomous research options provide numerous avenues for information-seeking customers. What factors draw their attention to the library, rather than a crowdsourced data channel, commercial service, or search engine?
1. Convenience. Mobile customers use text messaging constantly and carry on multiple conversations concurrently. Libraries offering SMS services to manage reference, information, or patron relationships fit seamlessly into to this information exchange and can interact directly with the customers at the point of need.
2. Community. Libraries serve an essential role as a leading provider of educational programs, local events, after school and family activities, and employment and business resource centers. Announcements, notifications, mailing lists, newsletters, and social media are effective options for community interaction, library marketing, and advocacy.
3. Immediacy. Libraries partner with other libraries around the city, county, state, and country, and make use of these established networks to connect readers and researchers with necessary information. From integrated request systems to on-site kiosks, libraries support patron self-service, both inside and outside of library buildings.
4. Accuracy. Librarians deliver experienced, trained, and intuitive support to readers and researchers seeking specific content. Rich collections are enhanced by a curator’s historical knowledge, detailed research questions are handled by subject specialists, and so on. Library services delivered via IM (instant messaging), allow librarians to handle complete questions while providing direct access to supporting documentation and online resources.
5. Customization. Once accurate content is identified, librarians provide expertise, synthesis, analysis, feedback, and references, without bias, in the context of the inquiry.
6. Privacy. Libraries’ privacy practices are published and non-negotiable: private records are not made public, sold to advertisers, or shared with other agencies.
7. Service. Regular library users recognize the value of direct support, local context, and personal attention. These strengths, built and enhanced through patron relationships, set outstanding libraries apart from the competition.
About the Author
Lisa Carlucci Thomas is the Director and Founder of Design Think Do, providing innovation and technology consulting to libraries, publishers, and information partners. Follow Lisa on Twitter @lisacarlucci
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In February we launched a “Post to Twitter” function within the Mosio mobile messaging platform and Mosio’s Text a Librarian. We wrote a blog post about why this was good for libraries: user generated marketing.
I’ve pasted the original blog post about why it was good for libraries below. It’s great for every business and now the post to Facebook function gives organizations the ability to post questions and answers to the world’s largest and most powerful social network. If you’re a librarian you can read the information below as is, but if you’re a marketing or customer service manager at a company, simply replace the word “patron” with “customer” and “library” with “company” and you’ll see that the feature holds the same great function for either.
A “Post to Twitter” button on websites isn’t a new functionality, but after giving it some thought, we decided to add it to Text a Librarian. The reason? It’s User Generated Content that engages patrons and markets your library services.
SEO + Social Marketing + Patron Engagement
People searching online often type out an entire question in the search box, rather than just a few keywords, to see what results come up. Tweets are indexed by search engines like Google, Bing and soon Yahoo and when an individual searches online by typing out a question, your reference Q&A can appear in search results (aka helpful service + free marketing).
Tweeting user generated content of funny, interesting and helpful questions and answers also engages Twitter-following patrons (and their followers through re-tweets) and informs them about your libraryâ€™s reference services. Weâ€™ve seen great uses of Twitter by libraries engaging patrons with reference trivia and daily fun facts.
Spreading Love for Your Library
Many libraries are using Text a Librarian beyond questions and answers as a virtual suggestion box and for patron ideas and opinions about library services (questions, comments and feedback). When a patron texts good ideas and positive feedback, you can use the post to Twitter button to spread the love.
How Do I Start Using It? (for existing Text a Librarian customers):
The Post to Twitter button is an optional function of your service, controlled by your library’s Admin. Please visit the New Features section of your Text a Librarian microboard for details on how to turn it on.