Chatterbox: What’s on your mind?
Principle # 6 "We Never Say No" Things We Say "No" to on a Regular Basis: Can I get on the
computer without my card? Do you have guest passes? Can I have change for the vending
machine? Do you guys have a scanner? Do you have a fax machine? Can you page someone on the
intercom? I'm a teacher, so can I check out more items or have them for a longer period? Will you
help me troubleshoot my laptop? Can I check out without my library card or ID? Can I pay a fine of
less than $5 with my credit card? Can you do double-sided printing? Can I see what my daughter has
checked out? I recognize that the idea behind "Never Say No" is to provide superior customer
service, but how does that fit in with our policies regarding computer use and checkouts? I
understand the idea of saying, "No, we can't do any faxing, but let me get you directions to Kinko's
and call them to figure out rates," but that is a "no" in disguise. Finally, though it's fun to make
exceptions like giving people extra computer time it is important to consider that these exceptions put
your coworkers in a rough situation when that same patron returns and is irritated that the rules are
flexible at some times and strict at others. Saying "no" is not poor customer service. If people want
more computer time, we should be purchasing more computers and increasing bandwidth. In other
words, not saying "no" isn't about the words that come out of mouths, it's about using our resources
to benefit our patrons rather than paying someone to come in and teach us how to create principles
that we don't have the resources to live up to.
Answer from Elena:
Ah yes, you have caught the exact challenge of Operating Principle #6. Honestly, this was the hardest
one to develop because it is so extreme. This could have (and might eventually) turn into “We
Why didn’t we do that?
How would you argue “We Seek Options?” The catch is that a good operating principle can be
challenged and we couldn’t think of a good way to challenge “We Seek Options.” Also, the extreme
language pulls a lot of attention and emotion. As we start on working with Operating Principles, we
agreed it would be worth having the loaded language to have people thinking and challenging the
That being said, do we really just say “no” to most of the examples you provided? If a person doesn’t
have their card, we offer them the option to buy a new one. Similarly, if we talk to the teacher, there
may be a few options – renewals, perhaps the option to get more books on the same topic as the
currently borrowed items become due, or the suggestion that items can be kept longer as long as
s/he is willing to pay a small daily fee for the extended checkout period. Your faxing example is a
perfect example of going beyond a simple “no.”
And, honestly, yes, there are times we are not going to agree to a request – buying more computers
or providing more bandwidth may require either more funding or cutting other services that others
may value – we can share that information because, eventually, we just may add more due to
changing priorities and needs of our communities.
That being said, I should note that an option that will allow people more computer time as long as
nobody is waiting for a machine has been found and will be considered for possible implementation
H I G H P L A I N S H I G H L I G H T S
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However, we are not going to add a swimming pool to any of the library buildings. We will not invite
people in crawl spaces for Halloween programs. Nor will we ignore our policies when a person is not
respecting the needs of others.
“We Never Say No” is a message that we assume there is a way to accommodate reasonable
“We Never Say No” is not (hah, you were waiting for that) being shared with the public because we
want it to be a staff consideration when we interact with the public and ourselves.
“We Never Say No” keeps us focused on trying to find answers even if it is after we weren’t able to
help the customer who initially asked the question.
Taken literally, “We Never Say No” can be considered a joke. Taken as a challenge, it might lead us
to new and better ideas.