Whenever I’m on my information desk shift I always keep an eye for movement near the door. Most students, staff and faculty breeze on in without making eye contact and that’s fine. A few do then I turn my friendly gaze into a genuine smile. Smiling is important to being a librarian like that, but (seriously) keep it real or you’ll get even more cranky.
Then there are the ones I make a focused effort to lure inside in a non-freaky-stalker librarian way.
You know the type – hesitant, bewildered, a slow unsteady pace, body language all but screaming that they really should turn tail and run instead of come inside The Library of all places. I had one recently that I coaxed inside with my full attention, a sincere smile, and a warmly authentic ‘Hi!’ when she was within earshot. Initially she had the I am lost in this awfully designed building look, perhaps trying to find a meeting room on one of the floors that’s accessible by the stairs & elevator over here but not the ones over there.
Instead, she began her story with a tone I recognized well from my own 2003-05 Bachelors re-entry: certain this was a totally ridiculous question to ask but… she was a new Masters student, had not studied in a university since the 1980s, and was trying to figure out how to write the paper her professor had just assigned with online resources other than Google and Wikipedia.
After ten minutes of talking with me about electronic databases, subject guides and our writing center she literally beamed, placed her hands in an anjali mudra gesture, then shook my hand and said I had totally made her day. I think she might have hugged me if there wasn’t a large desk and university professionalism in the way.
I doubt she knew these are the moments librarians live for.
The majority of my time at work does not involve face to face assistance though. Lately I’ve been thinking of how to authentically welcome connections online and figure out the non-verbal nuances of such a heavily text-based communication channel. How do I convey friendly eye contact and a sincere smile 140 characters at a time on Twitter? “:-)” does not cut it. Am I truly getting the message when one of my distance learning students is totally confused by the course platform, the material, or me? Can I look beyond the data of a website usability study or Google Analytics report to measure real connection?
I’m not certain, but I know information professionals need to stay on top of this especially where online health communities and health information is concerned. If you think that’s not our realm, think again after reading this quote:
There is a real opportunity for marketers to help patients connect with each other to learn and share information as well as give them essential sources of good credible information.
Did it startle you to think of marketers doing your job? It should. That is our opportunity that we can do without trying to sell patients anything. Read the rest at KevinMD and think about what you can do to better connect.