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The Aura of Cora

From Connecticut Libraries (December 2001)
Unlike a trip to the bank or the market, a trip to the library is not essential, and so we are always striving to provide something special for our customers. That something can be the greeting we give someone who walks up to the circulation desk or the little ways we treat someone so that he wants to return. At the Cora J. Belden Library, we spend much effort on getting the details right, so the “Aura of Cora” will convey a warm welcome to our customers. We feel that this is the key to being a library that specializes in customer service.

Our customers have proven to us that customer service is both what they want and a link to increased library usage. Connecticut Magazine recently ranked desirable towns and noted that library services in Rocky Hill are a significant reason that Rocky Hill rose from 36th place in 1992 to 6th place in 2000. Circulation statistics show that library use has grown dramatically during the last five years (over 44%) while the town’s population remains fairly stable. One of our favorite customer compliments recently was “I love this library because you make it so easy to use it. ” We are proud of the programs and other elements you can see and touch, and we are equally proud of the intangible “aura” that makes our library so special.

We want our customers to view their library visit as a highlight of their day. We wear nametags to encourage a personal relationship. We avoid signs that are negative in tone. We keep our rules simple and breakable; every staff member can use discretion as the occasion demands it. To pique the interest of customers, we display different items from our collection in the lobby, with different themes and props each month.

One of our key objectives is to find new ways to fulfill and exceed customer expectations. We evaluate our services continually, responding to the changing needs of the community. The library has surveyed users twice in the last five years, using touch screens in the lobby. We have used focus groups to obtain input from library users, and we place suggestion boxes in prominent locations throughout the library. We keep up with new customer demands by visiting other libraries. All staff, not just degreed librarians, are encouraged to take advantage of professional development opportunities, which often result in new ideas to serve our customers better.

We use an innovative scheduling process to allow all staff to participate in program planning. Each hour, staff members rotate from one department to the next. In one morning, a person may process materials, conduct a story time, and check out books. This variety of tasks allows all of us to understand the issues facing each department.

The library begins its relationship with town residents at birth. New babies and their parents are introduced to children’s services with a Baby Bundle. Story time programs are offered to even the youngest children. The library provides programs specifically aimed at each developmental stage of childhood, from Bonding with Baby, Fun with Ones, Toddler Time for preschoolers, and Family Time.

The library cooperates fully with town schools. New kindergarten students and their families are invited to the library each August for our Kindergarten Welcome. The children meet new classmates, tour a yellow school bus and sign up for their first library card. Each summer, the library and town schools create a summer reading program for grade school children. The library coordinates with middle and high schools to ensure that required books for the summer are available in the library.

The library also provides a venue for community events. High school students display their art work throughout the library, and we organize a dinner for Spanish exchange students. We hold a reception for non-profit groups who participate in our Friends’ Holiday Tree Festival. We organize teen and adult summer reading programs and also provide a large supply of paperbacks, “ Beach Books,” to be taken home on the honor system. Last year 1165 books were circulated this way.

The library’s customer service philosophy is constantly reinforced through staff communication. All-staff meetings are held every month. Each year the library closes for one morning for a training session or service workshop. We work as a team to discuss policies and make decisions. The cumulative effect of this attitude is a customer oriented and responsive library. The whole staff is proud of, and a part of, the aura of Cora.

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