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Your tax dollars at work: another customer service story.
Old 08-13-2006, 02:02 PM   #1
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Your tax dollars at work: another customer service story.

The head librarian of our local branch has become a good friend. The "Hawaii State Librarian of the Year", she does a tough job with an insufficient budget and a staff of people who are trained by her branch and then sent to other libraries. Unfortunately I'm not sure that I want to jeopardize our friendship by telling her about this conversation I had with her staff:

Me: "Can you take a look at this book on my request list? It's been #1 for about three months now and it hasn't come in yet."
Librarian #1: "Well, someone must still have it out then."
Me: "I understand what you're saying, but it's been too long for that. They could have waited a couple weeks to pick it up, then had it for three weeks, then renewed it for three weeks-- that's only eight weeks and I've waited longer than that."
L1: "Well, you have to wait at least two months."
Me: "Yup, it's been almost three months now."
L1: "Then it must be in transit here."
Me: "I think the computer would show that. Could you take a look?"
L1: (Sigh.) "OK. Oh, look, it's lost."
Me: "But it's right there on your screen. How can it be lost?"
L1: "I mean it's been reported as lost. Will there be anything else today?"
Me: "Well, yeah, let's find it. I want to read the book."
L1: "I'm sorry, you have to request it."
Me: "Yup, it says right there on your screen that I did that six months ago. So when can I expect to get the book?"
L1: "No, you have to request that we buy a book to replace the one that was lost."
Me: "When the book was reported as lost, didn't you make the person who lost it buy a new book?"
L1: "When it says 'lost', that means the person who lost it has already paid their fine and their record has been cleared. The book just hasn't been replaced."
Me: "Well, when will it be replaced?" (People are starting to stare but I'm thinking to myself: "Folks, I'm retired now and I can do this all day!")
L1: "It won't. You have to order it."
Me: "So, lemme get this straight. The book is lost but it's been paid for, and although I've requested the book it won't be 'found' until I order it instead of just requesting it? Is that right?"
L1: "That's right! Who's next please?"
Me: "Wait a minute, let's order the book."
L1: "I'm sorry, I can't do that here. You have to see the Reference Librarian."
Me: "Well, before I get into that line, can you tell me what they'll do over there that can't be done at this computer?"
L1: "Oh, I can order the book, but all orders have to be initiated by the reference librarian. I can only do book orders when I'm at that desk."
Me: "OK, I'll wait right here while you go over to that desk and initiate the order."
L1: "No, sir, I can't do that. But here's a printout of the screen that you can take over to the reference librarian."
Me: "So, you can't order the book from this computer right here? Never mind."

A few minutes later:
Reference librarian: "This gentleman is first, but do you have a short question?"
Me: "No."
RL: "Ha-ha, I'll be with you in a few minutes."
(A few minutes later I explain the problem and hand over the printout.)
RL: "Oh, I see, you need to order a book."
Me: "Well, I'd prefer that you order it, since I requested it and it was lost by another borrower."
RL: "OK sir, I need you to fill out this form with the information that's on this piece of paper."
Me: "Can you order the book from your computer?"
RL: "No, sir, our technician does that from the information on the form you're going to fill out."
Me: "Lemme get this straight. The book I reserved on the computer system is lost and it won't be found unless it's ordered, so the first librarian printed out the information for me, which you want me to fill out on a second form, so that someone else can enter it into a second computer to order the book. Is that right?"
RL: "Yes, sir."
Me: "Can the first computer pass the information to the second computer?"
RL: (Here I'm going to summarize a long technical description of library computer systems "No, sir."
Me: "Well, all I want to do is borrow a book that the library used to have in the system and now it can't be found. Yet you want me to do all the extra paperwork to get the book that the library should already have ordered to fill my reservation request, and the only reason I'm being told to do this work is because I asked why the computer system isn't giving me the book I ordered that the library should have in the system or be re-ordering after it's lost. Is that right?"
RL: "Sir, how about you just write your card number on this form and I'll staple it to your paper?"

I'm not going to go into the gory details of "What happens next?", "How long will it take?" and "When will I be notified that the book is here?" Let's just say that we were more or less polite yet heartily tired of each other by the time we were finished.

Yeah, I know-- it'll probably be easier to buy the damn book, read it, and donate it to the library. However I'm afraid that I'll crash their computer system!

Hmmm... maybe that's not such a bad idea after all.

And now that I see what I've typed, it's probably better to e-mail it to her so that she can decide for herself what to do with it. I guess that if I were in her shoes I'd want to get the same information.

Both of the librarians are younger than me. I wonder if one of them will be a state librarian of the year someday...
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Re: Your tax dollars at work: another customer service story.
Old 08-13-2006, 02:47 PM   #2
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Re: Your tax dollars at work: another customer service story.

Two takeaways from your story-----
1.* You are lucky HPD didn't have a SWAT team stationed nearby.
2.* This must be why haoles have it so rough on the Islands
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Re: Your tax dollars at work: another customer service story.
Old 08-13-2006, 02:51 PM   #3
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Re: Your tax dollars at work: another customer service story.

Book him, Dano!
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Re: Your tax dollars at work: another customer service story.
Old 08-13-2006, 02:58 PM   #4
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Re: Your tax dollars at work: another customer service story.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eagle43
Book him, Dano!
JG? Is that you?

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Re: Your tax dollars at work: another customer service story.
Old 08-13-2006, 03:01 PM   #5
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Re: Your tax dollars at work: another customer service story.

Hmmm. And I guess an out-of-state interlibrary loan might be a little tougher in Hawaii.

I bought a pre-hung door from Lowes last week, it was a special order to fit an odd-size opening. After I got the thing installed, I took out the retaining pin that keeps the door from opening while it is being shipped, and I noticed that the holes drilled in the frame to accept the deadbolt and the handset latch are not lined up with the corresponding holes in the door. The holes in the frame are about an inch higher than those in the door. So, I took digital pictures of everything and I brought them to Lowes. There, the guy working in millwork looks at the pictures and tells me that I must have installed the frame crooked. "It is out of plumb, so the door isn't sitting right in the frame. It is an installation problem." Well, I showed him the picture I took of the even gap between the top and the frame--exactly 1/4" all the way across, and that the gap is even along the sides as well. Then I tried to explain that if the frame is installed crooked then the door slab must be whacko, too, since the gap is even. Then I asked him how, regardless of plumb and square issues, it was ever going to be possible to raise the door slab 1" to line up the holes when the gap at the top was only 1/4." At this point he decided that maybe the frame was twisted--or something. Next I'm expecting to hear something about the space-time continuum . . .

-- The factory rep is coming to my house to see this in person. I can't wait to hear what he says.
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Re: Your tax dollars at work: another customer service story.
Old 08-13-2006, 03:18 PM   #6
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Re: Your tax dollars at work: another customer service story.

Maybe they just chopped down a regular door and didn't think about the latches?
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Re: Your tax dollars at work: another customer service story.
Old 08-13-2006, 03:33 PM   #7
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Re: Your tax dollars at work: another customer service story.

So that's what they're spending my money on! My mother is a retired librarian and now works part time at the local county library. She has this job because she loves books, reading, and helping others enjoy the same. You'd never get that service from her. I wonder how the librarians that helped you got their jobs -- nepotism perhaps?
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Re: Your tax dollars at work: another customer service story.
Old 08-13-2006, 05:32 PM   #8
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Re: Your tax dollars at work: another customer service story.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
Me:* "Lemme get this straight.* The book I reserved on the computer system is lost and it won't be found unless it's ordered, so the first librarian printed out the information for me, which you want me to fill out on a second form, so that someone else can enter it into a second computer to order the book.* Is that right?"
RL:* "Yes, sir."
Me:* "Can the first computer pass the information to the second computer?"
RL:* (Here I'm going to summarize a long technical description of library computer systems* "No, sir."
It sounds like your library needs to have its computer system upgraded! I am sure there is more than one computer consultant here who could be convinced to come out of retirement to go live in Haiwaii for a few months (all expenses paid, of course) and do the job right. All out of the goodness of his heart, naturally!*
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Re: Your tax dollars at work: another customer service story.
Old 08-13-2006, 09:28 PM   #9
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Re: Your tax dollars at work: another customer service story.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JPatrick
Two takeaways from your story-----
1. You are lucky HPD didn't have a SWAT team stationed nearby.
2. This must be why haoles have it so rough on the Islands
The security guard was starting to drift over my way. But there's no race card to be played here-- all participants were as haole as me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JB
I wonder how the librarians that helped you got their jobs -- nepotism perhaps?
Hopefully they were new trainees.

I guess that's one reason I'm reluctant to tell my friend-- I think the computer systems are a bigger problem than the people and I don't want her to feel that she has to yell at them. They'll eventually get weeded out by their behavior, but the computer systems will never change without customer complaints.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scrooge
It sounds like your library needs to have its computer system upgraded! I am sure there is more than one computer consultant here who could be convinced to come out of retirement to go live in Haiwaii for a few months (all expenses paid, of course) and do the job right. All out of the goodness of his heart, naturally!*
Shhhh... it's all a website application. No need to be here.
Free surfing lessons, too-- bring it on!

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Re: Your tax dollars at work: another customer service story.
Old 08-14-2006, 10:28 AM   #10
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Re: Your tax dollars at work: another customer service story.

Quote:
I'm not sure that I want to jeopardize our friendship by telling her about this conversation I had with her staff:
Nords,

Perhaps the folks that you spoke to we not career "librarians" but just employees.* There is a difference. My DW is a librarian and generally would probably not bounce you around like these folks did.* Anyway, I would definately bring this up with the librarian that you are friiends with. After all, it is her job to resolve these issues with the general public (her customers, if you will).

A true professional in any line of work would recognize your frustration and understand that the issue that you have so clearly discribed, should not be allowed to exist. As a taxpayor, the public library employees work for you, not visa-versa.
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Re: Your tax dollars at work: another customer service story.
Old 08-14-2006, 11:05 AM   #11
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Re: Your tax dollars at work: another customer service story.

Not to mention all you had to do was fill out a form and turn it back in. Other than government funded inefficiency, I don't see why the first librarian couldn't have taken the printout, filled in the form herself and turned it in to the correct person.
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Re: Your tax dollars at work: another customer service story.
Old 08-14-2006, 03:47 PM   #12
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Re: Your tax dollars at work: another customer service story.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mickeyd
There is a difference. My DW is a librarian and generally would probably not bounce you around like these folks did. Anyway, I would definately bring this up with the librarian that you are friiends with. After all, it is her job to resolve these issues with the general public (her customers, if you will).
Quote:
Originally Posted by lets-retire
Not to mention all you had to do was fill out a form and turn it back in.* Other than government funded inefficiency,* I don't see why the first librarian couldn't have taken the printout, filled in the form herself and turned it in to the correct person.
Well, y'uns talked me into it:

Dear (),

I've hesitated to jeopardize our friendship with what you might be tempted to regard as a customer service complaint. However I've spent a lifetime learning that bosses can only fix the problems if they're told about them. Besides your staff has probably already told you about the ponytailed surfer dude who wouldn't stop asking questions and who wouldn't fill out the forms last Saturday, so here's my explanation.

By now the book "Conquering Your Quarterlife Crisis" by Alexandra Robbins is probably working its way to the order desk. When it's bought & cataloged, hopefully the computer system will still recognize my request for it.

I don't have any complaints about the service-- the staff did the best they could with the tools they have. I can understand why they'd be unhappy having to explain it to a customer. However the Horizon catalog system doesn't appear to prompt a human being to order a book that's been reported as "lost" yet still has an unfilled request. Even if the catalog system could do that, the human being has to copy the screen information onto a different paper form for manual re-entry into a separate computer system.

I eventually was made to understand that even if I've already requested the book, I was supposed to request it again. Even if I'd already filled out the request, I had to fill it out again in a different format. Even if it was already in a computer system, it had to go into a different computer system. Even though I'd already requested the book, I had to make sure that the library was made aware of that request (on another form) so that my request could be fulfilled when the book finally arrived and was put into circulation. No wonder everyone was so unhappy.

I remember that you've said the state responds better to customer feedback than to unsolicited suggestions from the Librarian of the Year. I'm sorry that the system works like that, but please let me know where I should start my e-mail/letter campaign to get this fixed. It's the least I can do for you after making everyone explain everything to me last weekend. Thanks,

-- ()
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