---- — When I hear the word “gift,” an image pops into my mind. I see an elabor-ately wrapped present, made festive with ribbons and at least one bow. Truth be told, however, I think the best gifts are seldom tangible.
In the context of your local public library, one of the most valuable gifts the library receives is thoughtful feedback from community members.
The word “feedback” covers a lot of territory. Sometimes it is a simple compliment that tells us how much someone enjoyed a particular event or how the degree to which an individual or family appreciates a service we offer. Other times, it’s equally positive but goes farther and provides us with ideas for the future or just lets us know that they can’t wait to see what we’ll come up with next.
When we get comments of this sort, they are a gift because they help us to fine-tune our future lineup of programs and activities, especially if others have “voted with their feet.” When an event draws a good attendance and that coincides with compliments, we know that a core group of people have likely had a positive experience.
Other comments we get are less positive. They often start with the statement, “I don’t usually complain, but …” The tone can be apologetic, angry or hurt, but rarely does the individual understand that the comment is a gift.
If you think we have made a misstep, telling us about it allows us to see the library through your eyes. Because of your comments we have discovered areas of focus for staff training, targeted areas of improvement for individual employees, noted ways in which we can enhance our communication with you, and at times shifted our priorities to achieve particular results. If you’ve never thought of complaints this way, you might want to stretch your thinking by reading the book by Janelle Barlow, “A Complaint Is a Gift.”
Recently, the library invited members of our community to participate in focus groups. The people who attended gave us not only their time, which was valuable, but also gave us thoughtful and honest feedback.
Most of our questions were community-oriented, such as, “If you had one wish for Kokomo, what would it be?” That didn’t stop attendees from giving us provocative feedback. Some of the ideas represented a vision for the role the library could play in the community and how the library could provide more value through partnering with community organizations.
Those ideas are influencing what your library will become because individuals from our community gave us the gift of thoughtful feedback.
If you are willing to take the time to share your own feedback, ask for a comment form at any of our service desks, stop by the administration area of the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library main branch, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I will treat it with the respect it deserves because I will see it for what it truly is. It is a gift.
Faith Brautigam is director of the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library.