iGenius Initiative Implemented at Kent State East Liverpool Library
To better serve library patrons, the Blair Memorial Library at Kent State University at East Liverpool has implemented the iGenius initiative that takes customer service to another level. Susan Weaver, library director; Wendy Adkins, library associate, and three student employees, referred to as iGeniuses, help to personalize services offered to patrons, offering one-on-one assistance to help them achieve their objectives.
Weaver explains that this new initiative is as a result of several trends that sparked a review of how services are being provided by the library. Statistics revealed a decrease in the number of classes scheduled for library instruction and, at the same time, a steady increase in the number of students coming into the library.
“The reason for the drop in instruction was obvious,” Weaver says. “Many of the courses that traditionally included library instruction were taught by faculty who have since retired. Other classes have gone online.”
Weaver is working with new faculty members to ensure that they know of the instruction service. She also is creating tutorials and library guides for online classes.
The increase in attendance prompted her to consider how students and other users were being serviced.
“Although we have always prided ourselves on good service, I felt we had become a bit complacent,” Weaver says. “Student employees staffed the information desk (now the iBar) where they spent a great deal of time doing their own homework. Wendy and I kept busy in our offices until called upon for a reference question or research assistance.”
After studying a number of customer service models, the iGenius initiative was created. It is a conglomeration of best practices from customer service giants such as Disney, Southwest and Nordstrom’s, but especially from Apple Inc.
“I was very impressed with the Apple genius concept,” Weaver says. “I went into an Apple store and a concierge inquired about my problem and referred me to an Apple genius who solved my problem in about five minutes. The Apple geniuses are techies, they are not salesmen. Their sole purpose is training. They are skilled in Apple technology, but they are also trained in customer service techniques. Apple consistently ranks high in surveys for good customer service. Their model is being replicated by others; BMW for one, so why not an academic library? Their model is about educating the customer and it seemed a good match.”
When patrons walk into the library, a library staff member at the iBar, the information/reference desk, will greet them and offer them assistance. The staff member wears an identifiable polo-like shirt with the Kent State logo and “iGenius” written on it. Library visitors can expect help, not only with their research needs, but with other academic technologies, such as Blackboard, FlashLine or the Microsoft Office Suite. Library staff keep a log of all the students that they assist and learn the students’ names so they can personally greet them on their next visit. Every library user will leave with the information that they sought or, if that is not possible for some reason, an iGenius will follow up later via email or phone.
The library holds an hourlong training session every week to ensure that student workers have the necessary research, technology and customer service skills.
Although it is too early to determine the success of the new program, positive reactions among library staff have been noted. Adkins observed that the training has made the student employees more confident. Student workers have commented on how rewarding and fun it is to help someone find an article or a book, format a citation or solve a Blackboard problem and then get rewarded with thank you's and smiles. And of course, no one minds being labeled a genius.