Ms. Information is bringing me down.
I think the mark of a great library, in an ideal world, is when you can not tell the difference between a library professional and a para-professional. By this I mean, a patron should to be able to receive the same high level customer service whether they are on the phone, online, in the stacks or in the various departments like Circulation, Reference/Information and Childrens. Having said this, my strength in the library is everything except Childrens but still I can still do a decent job. With someone else, it could be a weakness in Reference but even with these gaps, as a whole, the branch staff should be a complete vision of customer service. However, sometimes it takes just one person to bring it all down.
The library is a destination for various reasons but the majority is to find out not just information but the right information. Having said this, today’s incident highlights a simple problem – misinformation. A patron came to me looking for information on bus tours from Miami to New Orleans. After I search online for a bit, I was able to find some information for the patron to follow up on her end. She thanked me and then proceeded to ask me a question. She had asked me which state New Orleans was in? I remarked with Louisiana. The patron told me that someone at the Circulation desk said Mississippi. The patron agreed with what I said and added a comment about the quality of people did we hired at the branch. I didn’t have an answer other than to apologize for the error.
I will be the first to say that if I don’t know something, I know how to go about finding the correct information. This source could be as easy as using the Internet or calling up one of my co-workers. Everyone needs to have a sense of intellectual humility. However, there is an expectation at the library that we are resourceful. There was an incident where I visited a PBS store called The Knowledge Shop and asked the clerk what time the store closed. He didn’t know and had to ask another clerk; so much for the knowledge part of the store. But going back to today’s incident, this appears to be a pattern and not just a one time occurrence. The person I suspect is new to our library system. On several occasions, I have overheard from other staff members complain that wrong information is being given out to the patrons about various library services. In fairness, there is a lot information to easily overwhelm newbies but the Mississippi answer just added a nail to the coffin. So much for that ideal world.