Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Becoming an Active Listener

As librarians, our job is to provide excellent customer service to our patrons.  Part of this customer service involves really listening to our patrons in order to find out exactly what they want so we can locate the resources that they need. For children and young adult services librarians, this can be difficult because our patrons sometimes might not know what they need, so we have to work extra hard when listening to their sometimes rambling monologues!

In the article "How to listen to the user and hear the experience" by Demetrius Madrigal and Bryan McClain explain the best tactics for becoming an active listener. Some of the points that they address are maintaining eye contact and paraphrasing what the other person is saying. I know that as childrens and youth services librarians we can get super busy, but it is always good to stop what we are doing for a moment to listen to a patron and actually look at them while they are talking. And paraphrasing ensures that we understand what they said and what exactly their needs are. Sometimes children do not understand what exactly they need, and hearing us say it might help them organize their thoughts better.

Another interesting point that they mention is body language.  It is important to act like you are interested and that you care.  Usually, I find myself tilting my head to one side when I am listening intently, or leaning forward to make sure that I hear someone properly.  Finally, one great suggestion that they make is to express empathy with the person.  Usually when kids are searching for something and they cannot find it they become frustrated.  You should address this frustration, and teach children in a way that empowers them and does not belittle them for not knowing something. One excellent library experience can create a life-long love of libraries!

So check out the article, learn some new techniques, and help your patrons have a GREAT library experience!!