Analyzing Public Library Service Interactions to Improve Public Library Customer Service and Technology Systems

Holly Kristin Arnason, Louise Reimer

Abstract


Abstract

Objective – To explore the types and nature of assistance library customers are asking library staff for in a large Canadian urban public library system.
Methods – A qualitative study employing transaction logging combined with embedded observation occurred for three-day sample periods at a selection of nine branches over the course of eight months. Staff recorded questions and interactions at service desks (in person, by phone, and electronically), as well as questions received during scheduled and non-scheduled provision of mobile reference service. In addition to recording interaction details and interaction medium, staff members were also asked to indicate briefly the process or resources used to resolve the interaction. Survey data were entered and coded through thematic analysis.

Results – The survey collected 6,099 interactions between staff and library customers. Of those 6,099 interactions, 1,920 (31.48%) were coded as pertaining to technology help. Further analysis revealed significant library customer need for help with Internet workstations and printing.

Conclusions – Technology help is a core customer need for Edmonton Public Library, with requests varying in complexity and sometimes resolved with instruction. The library’s Internet workstations and printing system presented critical usability challenges that drove technology help requests.

Keywords


public libraries; customer service; transaction study; technology help

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