Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Responses, Giving canned

Hot sweaty Ball jars So you work in a library. Each day 100's of librarians go to work, wondering what the day will hold for them. No one can ever be sure of what they will end up doing, or if they will want to do it. In my position, I am faced with multiple issues - ones that have ended up on my plate because a) no one else will deal with them b)they are awful situations or c)fairly delicate issues that need to be handled with all the finesse and care they know I provide to each problem I am given.

Somehow, probably because I've said I enjoy dealing with it to many times outloud, I am given the geriatric crowd to deal with. It seems that old people have an amazing amount of time and energy when it comes to writing letters to the library.

I admit, I love it when a letter shows up at home in my cute little brass mailbox attached to my understated townhouse from a dear old Great relative. Somehow, the ones that show up for me to deal with aren't so sweet, even given their provenance.

Who knew that a)bathrooms b)books with provocative photos c)sidewalks could inspire such excitement. I know my own Grandmother can talk about her health for hours, or about the price of recycling in New York - but I had no idea that other elderly people would take an equal amount of joy in the mundane.

Canned food products were all the rage during the war. For several good reasons. They lasted, and didn't spoil. They traveled well. Finally, canned products are easy to store. Where is this man going with all this? You wonder. Some more than others.

Additionally, housewives and gardeners across the country have perfected the art of Ball Jar canning. It's practical, leaves little waste, and provides a deep sense of satisfaction.

Canned replies are just as good. In the past I wrote a light hearted letter of complaint, that offered multiple choices - as people only complain about a few things. This sentiment was not far from the truth - canned answers a.k.a. form letters are really the way to go!

This idea allows the writer to be consistent in replies, fair, and stay on track with library policy.

This also allows me from overkill. So often, I find myself thinking about what I'd like to write, when really all I need to do is dip into the vast wealth that already exists on my G drive - ready to fill in and print.

We are sorry (we = staff, cleaning crew, librarians, directors, etc) about ....then just fill in the blank. Additional blanks are left for citing policy, procedure, and/or plans to reflect on a serious concern. Imagine my surprise when a serious concern shows up. Its like a breath of fresh air.

I have strayed from using canned responses when it comes to thanking people. Somehow, it shows up in the text of the letter that you didn't really write every word. People saying nice things deserve original responses - or at least I think so.
I usually let a "person in charge" sign the letter, whereas I sign all the letters that deal with patron customer complaints.

A few weeks ago, an item was called into question by a patron who believed it mislead the public. I informed him, during our conversation, that he would need to submit a form letter to me, that would allow him to provide me with copious details. I even offered to print it off and mail it to him. He actually mailed it back.

I guess the part of that boring situation above that frustrated me was this: one of the questions asks if they have read any other reviews of the item. His answer "NO". How can you complain about something that has been reviewed, and with much applause? At least lie and say you did. I'll know you are telling a fib, but will give you points for saying "YES".

I also keep an electronic file of all the responses I send. Its terrible, but sometimes all you need to do is change the name, and you have one hell of a presto bango response!

When putting the response into the envelope, I do encourage librarians to use a damp sponge, and not lick the envelope. a)it tastes gross b)you could paper cut your lip/tongue and c)you do not want to provide the customer with any traces of your physical being. G-d knows what they could do with it once they have it in their hands. Think outside the box.

See, its gross, right?

I also have my signature scanned into a .jpg. I can insert that into the document rather than sign it. It's blue, so it looks terrific once I've printed it on our deluxe printer (that can also collate, staple, duplex, and give a manicure).

Moral of this blog: Can it.

No comments: