We want library patrons to feel comfortable at our programs, right? Start with the right welcome announcements.
Studies show that 9 out of 10 people prefer feeling comfortable when they attend a library program.
OK, I just made that up — but honestly, common sense and our own experiences tell us most people like feeling welcome and comfortable no matter where they are, and library programs are no exception. Those few people who don’t are probably the subjects of some real scientific studies. That’s another blog post.
At Mid-Continent Public Library, it’s our goal to welcome patrons to every program — so much so that it’s written into our programming policy and procedures. That doesn’t mean our branch staff stands at the entrance of each programming space to shake customers' hands as they arrive. What it does mean is that before each program begins, we try to give our customers the greeting and information they need to feel welcome, comfortable and safe while they’re with us.
Here’s a checklist of what MCPL program facilitators are asked to include in their welcome to customers before each program:
- Welcome the audience to the Mid-Continent Public Library. This is part politeness and part public relations. Since MCPL is located in the Kansas City metro area, we’re not the only library system where our customers attend programs, and sometimes they get us confused with our neighbors.
- Introduce yourself to the audience. It’s also nice to put a face to the library. By introducing themselves to the audience, our facilitators give customers a go-to person in case they have questions or need assistance during the program.
- Point out restroom locations. We never assume customers are familiar with our library buildings. Knowing where the restrooms are located is always welcome information.
- Ask that cell phones be silenced. We’ve all been somewhere — movies, meetings, plays, concerts — where someone’s cellphone starts ringing in the middle of everything. It’s always a good idea to throw in a reminder to head off potentially annoying and awkward situations.
- Point out the emergency exits. Just as if they were passengers on an airliner, our customers need to know where the emergency exits can be found. While our seats don’t double as flotation devices, our facilitators spend a moment pointing out the best routes to get out of the building while everyone is still calm and attentive.
- Encourage the audience to fill out an evaluation form or visit the computer kiosk. As programmers, we all live for those program evaluations. Even if our customers found evaluation forms on their seats or tripped over the evaluation kiosk on their way in the door, that’s no guarantee they’ll fill one out. A friendly reminder often yields a few extra opinions.
- Mention upcoming programs. Since we’ve got everyone’s attention, it’s a great time to toot our own horn and advertise other cool stuff going on around the system.
- Introduce the presenter to the audience. Whether the presenter is a children’s musical act or an expert in retirement planning, our facilitators’ introductions create a nice transition for the audience and the presenter to get things started.
Now some of our programming facilitators — myself included — quip that delivering MCPL's welcome address can make you feel a bit like a flight attendant before takeoff. (Some staff members take a more Delta Airlines approach to their welcome, while others are a bit more Southwest.) But, honestly, the intent of our welcome is the same as the airlines' in many ways: we want our customers to feel comfortable, safe and valued.
Once the programs start, that‘s where the airline analogies end, because at library programs there’s always plenty of legroom, few delays and no need to store anything in the overhead bins.