Rearranging the deck chairs
A longtime friend -- not a librarian but a person who uses the library regularly -- asked me this yesterday:
"I have always wondered why, at my library, they are constantly rearranging things. Just when I get used to the checkout desk being in one place, they move it to another. Ditto the New Books Display. What's the deal with this? It's damn annoying. I always end up having to ask where the heck something is now."
My answer was that in library school we were specifically trained to be on the lookout for when patrons are getting too comfortable with things. When we detect that, we spring into action and institute a rearrangement. Complacency is not a good thing.
Recent research shows that having to learn new patterns preserves brain cells (Tracey J. Shors, "Saving New Brain Cells," Scientific American, Vol. 300, No. 3, March 2009, pp. 47-54).
If librarians determine that a community is afflicted with high comfort levels and a lack of challenge, we respond accordingly.
But I told my friend he wouldn’t just have to take my word for it. Therefore, I enlisted the help of the folks at SurveyArmadillo.com and polled library directors across the nation. And now, I can tell you that we rearrange things just when our patrons have gotten comfortable with an existing arrangement because:
1. Paco Underhill said to do it.
2. Rearranging the furniture beats real work every time.
3. Library directors, in addition to being leaders and mentors, are interior-design geniuses.
4. The previous director had it that way, and it was wrong.
5. It's part of "excellent customer service," and, by God, the customers are going to get it whether they like it or not.
6. The old arrangement wasn’t consistent with the library’s brand. They should stop whining and just be grateful the library’s brand still includes books. For now.
Lessons Learned from the First Semester
1 month ago