Computers in Libraries
Vol. 22, No. 1 • January 2002

Table of Contents Subscribe Now! Previous Issues ITI Home
Today, Customers Reign
by Kathy Dempsey 

Library service sure has changed over the past 10 or 20 years. Remember when it used to be all about books? Now it seems that books are in the background. Today, most of the services that librarians deal with are electronic.

Of course I shouldn't complain about the proliferation of computer-related services in today's libraries and information centers, because they're assuring me a job at a magazine called Computers in Libraries. Still, what started off as a few records going electronic has now completely taken over the library. The whole face of the industry has changed. Along the way, the whole face of the world has changed. What that means to us is that the public now expects everything to be computerized and simple. (They don't realize how hard it is to put those two things together—"computerized and simple.") People, especially young people, assume that the world will be at their fingertips, which are now always poised over their keyboards. If you're not online, you don't exist to them.

This brings us to this month's theme, Serving Web-Savvy Users. We chose this because we realize that the mind-set of today's information seekers has really changed the whole nature of the game. You used to be able to impress people when you found answers by searching mysterious unseen databases, didn't you? Then you could impress them by letting them see some of these expensive electronic collections on a few PCs in your library. Then you might have scared them by putting your whole card catalog behind a computer screen. Then the Internet got popular, and turned our world upside down. Then suddenly it seemed that everyone was Web-savvy. And when they began to seem more Web-savvy than us, things got really scary.

So where are we now? Some of you are still on the bleeding edge, leading the changes in electronic information creation, storage, and delivery. Many are status quo, having just enough electronic information and a good enough Web site that users still understand that you're a major info provider. Some are falling behind the Internet curve, either due to lack of training, lack of money, lack of time, or all three. This can be dangerous.

My point is that because many people are Web-savvy today, their expectations are higher. So you need higher levels of service than ever before. Customer service reigns. Today's information seekers are like newly minted royalty: They expect the best of everything to be served to them on a silver platter. If you can't give it to them, well, off with your head, and bring in someone who can deliver immediately! In order to survive, you've got to know how to serve these information-rich people in the manner to which they've become accustomed. This new breed of patron will accept nothing less. So check out this month's articles to find both quick tips and major strategies for keeping up with customers' demands.

Kathy Dempsey, Editor

Table of Contents Subscribe Now! Previous Issues ITI Home
© 2002