Have you googled your library recently?
If you haven’t, what you find may surprise you. That man you saw earlier today picking up his holds may be thinking about writing a review that mentions how much he likes dropping by the library to grab his books and go. The fact is our patrons, both the satisfied and dissatisfied, are talking about us in their blogs on review sites like Yelp. These sites enable our customers to reach larger audiences than ever before, and to share what they like and dislike about the service provided. This is something libraries should be thinking about and preparing for.
Once you’re aware of these review sites the library has some questions to answer. Should the library join these sites and add reviews or other content? Should the library respond to negative reviews, correct inaccurate information, and so on? Who’ll be responsible for periodically checking these sites and what guidelines should they be working with.
I’d encourage libraries to consider adding content to review sites, especially in cases where the library hasn’t yet been reviewed. These first reviews represent an opportunity to share services the library offers such as Wi-Fi, and virtual reference service. Be up front about identifying yourself as the library and keep it brief. Be factual and focus on services, let your customers be the ones to offer praise.
Libraries should consider carefully how or if they’ll respond to reviews. My advice would be to let the community police itself and to have faith that the good service you provide will balance out the occasional poor review. Yelp offers some good advice for business owners that also applies to libraries.
“Don’t review your own business anonymously or get your friends to do the same.
Don’t overestimate the impact of a single negative review. It happens to even the best businesses. That said if you see a trend of negative reviews, you may want to take this feedback and determine if there is a way to improve your business.
Do add photos to your business page and make sure the business information is correct.
Do review your own business, clearly stating that you are the business owner. Full disclosure is important here, and will be critical in earning the respect of the Yelp community.”
Review sites like these are expanding rapidly, building off people’s inherent desire to create and share information. Libraries that embrace these web 2.0 tools have an opportunity to open a dialog with their customers which may lead to beneficial relationships for both.
A customer, who wrote a positive review about the library, may be the person you think of when you’re looking for a person to offer a patron perspective on the library’s blog. And even a negative review offers the chance to get feedback about ways we might improve our services, practices, or policies. Our customers are talking about us. It’s time for libraries to join the conversation.
This post originally appeared in Foreword Magazine’s Shelf Space blog June 2008.