I just made a very pleasant trip to Ten Thousand Villages, a fair trade store in Evanston, and came away smiling like I always do. It occurs to me that any place that enjoyable to visit probably has something to teach me in serving customers at the library.
It looks pretty. It smells pretty. It’s carefully organized so the customer can find things. We may not think so much about smelling pretty in the library world, but we certainly think about appearance and organization. However, the two best things about Ten Thousand Villages are: It has things I want, and it has really excellent staffing.
Since their staff is made up of volunteers for the most part, they are there to serve. If they aren’t actively helping a customer, they are perfecting the displays or bringing out new inventory. They will step right up if you look even mildly puzzled, and they’ll demonstrate how something is used and explain a little about where it comes from. Since they are volunteers, they feel a remarkable sense of responsibility for making the store a success, and because they believe in the store and what it’s doing, they will actively advocate for it with the customer. It doesn’t come off as pushy, though. It comes off as people who love what they’re doing and believe in it.
So I’m going to try to remember that tomorrow when I’m working. I’m going to stay alert for ways to be helpful, and I’m not going to have my head down trying to finish my always-growing pile of work. I’m going to try to make sure that people walk out of my children’s department knowing that we have wonderful material and that the staff really believes in the work they do. I’m not going to wait for people to ask me for help–I’m going to walk around and see if it looks like someone could use a hand.
Today at Ten Thousand Villages, I got a great Mother’s Day present but I also got a really strong picture of how to serve customers with heart and energy.