The Customer-Focused Library: Re-Inventing the Library from the Outside-In

The Customer-Focused Library: Re-Inventing the Library from the Outside-In

The Customer-Focused Library: Re-Inventing the Library from the Outside-In

The Customer-Focused Library: Re-Inventing the Library from the Outside-In


What is the future of the public library? How can libraries embrace the forces of change and provide the resources- and the resource-gathering environment- today's patrons want? The Customer-Focused Library: Re-Inventing the Library From the Outside-In answers these questions by proposing a transformative alternative, a reimagined library in which the collections, the services- even the building itself- are designed and built from the customer's perspective.

Written by one of the country's foremost library consultants, The Customer-Focused Library shows how perceived threats to the traditional library model are in fact exciting opportunities for change. The book lays out the steps by which professionals and patrons together can help invent a new generation of libraries, with discussions of hiring guidelines, merchandizing, the library website, even the building plan itself. It is a proactive, consumer-based approach aimed at helping librarians focus on underexamined ideas, underexploited trends, underused assets, and the as-yet unvoiced needs of library consumers.


Stability and continuity are no longer characteristics that can be
used to describe the library profession. the profession is now best char
acterized by change, discontinuity, and opportunity

—Robert Stueart and Barbara Moran

People who cannot invent and reinvent themselves must be content with
borrowed postures, secondhand ideas, fitting in instead of standing out

—Warren C. Bennis

For a long time, libraries felt that they enjoyed something of a monopoly in providing access to information. Despite the “advance” of moving from closed stacks to open stacks, the perception of a library among the public was that it was a place staffed by librarians who shushed when things got too noisy. But the monopoly, if there ever was one, has clearly been broken, and the search engines on the Internet are clearly the preferred place where people go for information. Today, the vast majority of information searches begin not at a library reference desk or online at a library Web site, but rather at an Internet search engine—especially Google.

A large-scale survey conducted on behalf of the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) asked respondents to compare search engines and libraries in four areas: quality of information provided, quantity of information, speed of conducting research, and overall experience. the search engines beat libraries in every category—sometimes by wide margins.

In any profession, and certainly this is true for librarians, a fair amount of momentum is built up over time about how things “should” be done. Why is it that no matter what type of library it is, the same kind of library shelving is utilized? Why is it that no matter the type of material, many libraries simply use the shelving that was designed for the spine-out display and storage of books for CDs, DVDs, kits, and so forth? Why is it that libraries are reluctant to use a “new” (to the library) vendor?

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