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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: June 2018

2 - Keynote address: Involving the customer in library planning and decision making

Summary

Introduction

There are many papers in this collection that provide a wealth of information and accumulated wisdom from the authors on the theme of evaluating the distributed delivery of library services. The reasons for evaluating service delivery are selfevident to this audience, and so do not need detailed explanation here. This keynote paper focuses more on the cultural issues, and the systems and processes that need to be in place to make evaluation worthwhile, rather than considering the evaluation of individual services.

Public, academic and special libraries provide services because of customers. Therefore, it makes sense to involve them in planning and decision making, so that the services provided meet their true needs.

Since the start of the Libraries Without Walls series of conferences, the emphasis has moved from the physical delivery of services to remote users to the focus being almost entirely on electronic services. These services are of benefit to all library customers, regardless of their physical location. However, it is important to remember that the services are for customers who may never – or only rarely – come to the physical library. Therefore, it is vital to remember that we should be providing services and solving problems for the disadvantaged and, by clever mainstreaming of those services, providing an improved service for all customers. The challenge is to identify the market segment – i.e. the users of distributed library services – and ask them what they need to be successful in their endeavours because of their interactions with the library.

The organizational culture

To involve the customer in library planning and decision making requires an environment where the customer is regarded as being at the centre of the service. A tangible way of doing this is to have clearly stated service statements or standards regarding what the library service will do on behalf of the customer, and to also spell out the responsibilities of the customer towards the service, including their role in improving it. However, although it is relatively easy to write a set of standards, it is very important to involve the customer in defining what ought to be included in the statements in the first place.