Marriott Hotels and “Yes”

September 25, 2008

I have been thinking a lot about how to say “yes” instead of “no in library policy interpretation. Certainly we have great reasons for many of the policies we have in libraries but is there not a way to say “yes” in some cases? In the age of Google we really want the ability to find and do what we want as users. In some local unofficial library conversations I have had, I’ve heard the phrase “no dead ends.” We don’t want a patron to get to the point where the librarian or the system says, “I’m sorry, there is nothing else we can do.” Whether that is in research, or it is “no hits” in an OPAC search, or the item is not found on the shelf even though it is checked in.

While I am writing this my wife has IMed me about how she forgot her library card so she wasn’t able to check anything out this morning at our local public library. Was there no way to answer “yes” instead of “no”? She is a regular at this library and the people recognize her. She came home with two disappointed children, empty handed.

A more positive real-life example of this comes from Jenny at The Shifted Librarian. Jenny has a great post about how she was impressed by the Marriott Metaire in New Orleans. Apparently, the hotel not only provides power and internet access but A/V plugs which are fully-functional. Commenting her positive experience, she writes:

This whole concept is a great example of saying “yes” and making things easier for customers, as opposed to saying “no,” which is what most hotels do by disabling the ports on the back of the TV in the room. It’s a good lesson for libraries how easy it is to make the user experience better.

Check out her post for some great screen shots and discussion.

What are we doing in our libraries that send a negative message to our patrons? How do we answer some of the following questions?

  • Will you let me check out media and take it out of the library?
  • Will you let me bring food into the library?
  • Will you let me use my cell phone in the library?
  • Will you let me use social networking sites in the library?
  • Will you let me talk with peers or research partners in the library?
  • Will you let me check out items if I forget my library card?
  • Will you let me check out items if I am not a student at this college?

I am sure this list is incomplete, but you get the idea. If some of these are not answered “yes” regularly, is there a way to be accommodating?