|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