Tag Archives: Expert Q&A

Library Thought Leaders Q&A: Trent Garcia (San Francisco Public Library)

Today’s library thought leader is Trent Garcia, eResources Specialist at the San Francisco Public Library.

Hello Trent, let’s jump right into it. What does the idea of Patron Relationship Management (PRM) in libraries mean to you?
It makes me think of the parallels between Libraries and private industry, such as, building relationships with patrons/customers by providing quality information in an efficient manner and by any channel to patron/customer wants, i.e., text, email, phone, etc.

You just defined exactly what we’re going for with this: the application of powerful tools and technologies in the private sector within libraries. Who comes to mind at SFPL when you think about how this is being done effectively?
I immediately think of our Information Services team. They handle the tremendous flow of questions we receive by email, phone and in-person every day. They’ve done an amazing job of developing their own system using only the software/hardware provided to them. They’ve also been incredibly adaptable in getting up to speed on new services.

What role does/can technology play in PRM?
PRM can provide information management tools to help staff and patrons stay organized and streamline the process to achieve the end goal of directing patrons to the information they need.

Obviously we’re pretty technology focused here and love learning about what people find interesting. What is an innovative new technology you’ve seen or heard about? Is there a way libraries can and should utilize it?
It’s not so new but I’m still in love with mobile apps. I think it allows endless possibilities for enriching our social and working lives. I’d love to see innovations in scanning and digitizing of physical materials. Libraries have such a wealth of materials that could benefit from being digitized but the process is complicated and time consuming.

What tips or resources do you have for libraries looking to improve patron experiences and service?
Experiment with process, and get it right. Anything you implement is only as good as the process it was built upon.

Great advice, for libraries, companies or any type of organization. Anything else you’d like to mention about PRM, patron relationships to the library, customer service in general, etc?
As our patrons increasingly move to accessing and communicating with us online, there is a lot of pressure on libraries to adapt services to meet their needs.

Thanks for your time!
My pleasure.

About Trent
Trent’s first job out of library school (SJSU) was as Research Editor for Wired Digital’s LiveWired. He worked on several interesting projects with this company, such as the transfer of Wired Magazine content to digital form using elaborate indexing, custom subject terms and other descriptors. A few years later, he moved to New York City and worked for Deja.com as a Producer and Information Specialist. He managed content and worked with IT, design and business development, in creating online tools to search and evaluate consumer goods based on user reviews. After the dot com bust, he came back to San Francisco to work as the Knowledge and Information Specialist for a commodities consulting company. He was given the task of organizing the Institution’s content, streamlining their publications process, using technology where applicable, and project managing the development of a database to improve customer relations management.

Trent is currently employed as the eResources Specialist, working for the San Francisco Public Library. Many of his responsibilities revolve around the evaluation, selection and maintenance of SFPL’s online databases. Other duties include managing the OverDrive eBook/eMedia collection, participating on committees, and educating staff and patrons about digital resources and technology issues.

Library Thought Leaders Q&A: Alison Miller

Today’s Library Thought Leader is Alison Miller, Manager of the ipl2 Reference Services at Drexel University and the WISE Coordinator for Syracuse University.

As you know, the theme of this Q&A series is “Patron Relationship Management” or PRM. What areas of PRM are you seeing where libraries can benefit the most?
There is no one specific area, but rather several areas where libraries can benefit.   The relationship between libraries and users should include many things.  It should include responses and follow-up to questions, updates on new services or collections, information on events and programs, and more.  Users should be continuously engaged with the library and the idea of PRM is just that – a way for the library and users to form and continue a mutually beneficial relationship.

What is an example, technology-oriented or not, of how a library has done a great job with “customer/patron service” recently?
Makerspaces/hackerspaces!  Think of the possibilities of these spaces in libraries!  These spaces can really drive innovation in libraries.  The space is created based on common interests, whether it is technology, art, science, etc., with labs incorporating elements of studio or workshop type spaces and people can share resources and knowledge.  It is essentially limitless – ideas and creations from these spaces can lead to collection enhancements, new services and programs and new or renewed interest in libraries!

What roles can mobile technologies play in PRM?
Mobile technologies can and will increasingly play a very important role in cultivating relationships between libraries and users.  This technology is essential in all library environments:  public, academic, school and special.  We know that mobile use is huge, and this technology is used by the general public, college students, high school students and professionals.  People may not always have easy or quick access to a computer, but they always have their mobile device.  Those people that use text services are typically people that are texters – it makes perfect sense to add and enhance this service in libraries to increase communication and outreach with users.

What is the most innovative new technology you’ve seen or heard about? Is there a way libraries can and should utilize it?
I really like the hackerspaces that have been implemented in libraries.

Example:  The Fayetteville Free Library is installing a hackerspace/fablab with 3D printers, CNC routers and other equipment, available free to the public as a community space for making. The project is led by librarian Lauren Smedley, who is basically MADE OF AWESOME. Info: http://boingboing.net/2011/11/12/library-to-get-a-hackerspace.html

Many fear that libraries may become “techshops,” but I see this as an exciting way to not only provide users and the community with an area that meets many of their needs, but allows the users to shape part of their library.  I have worked in libraries where technology and services are essentially “locked down,” and the atmosphere in these libraries is not friendly or inviting.  Ideas and community involvement, like the fablab included above, are what will keep us growing – physically, intellectually and technologically!

What tips or resources do you have for libraries looking to improve patron experiences and service?
I think that libraries should use resources that best fit with user needs.  This may include a specific service, only applicable to a certain community (for instance, a law library), or a variety of services, including a mix that fits with the groups within the community (the public library – kids, teens, adults, older adults).  These services don’t have to be expensive or time consuming types of things. But they do have to be user-driven.   I think what is most important is continued communication, two way, that involves methods to share and gather information.  Users like to feel that they contribute to libraries, that their voices are heard.  The greatest way to do this is to build and continue relationships with our users.  We do not define our libraries, our users do.

Anything else you’d like to mention about PRM, patron relationships to the library, etc?
PRM is something that should be considered in every library.  The economy affects our libraries, environmental factors affect our libraries – a lot of things affect our libraries.  The biggest affect should come from our users, and this is most beneficial when users feel that they have good relationships with their libraries.

Thanks Alison, we appreciate your time and ideas!

About Alison:
Alison is the Manager of the ipl2 Reference Services at Drexel University and the WISE Coordinator for Syracuse University.  She is also an adjunct instructor for Drexel and Syracuse, teaching courses including Digital Reference Services, Reference and Information Literacy Services, Innovation in Public Libraries and Social Networking in Libraries.  Alison was named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker for innovation in 2010.  She has worked in public, academic and special libraries for over 10 years.  She is passionate about librarianship and is always looking to improve practice, change misconceptions about libraries and librarians and spark innovation.  She is active in associations and is currently on the Board for the Association for Rural and Small Libraries.

Linkedin:  http://www.linkedin.com/in/millerlibrarian
Twitter: @millerlibrarian