Friday 8 June 2012

Floor Walking!

'Floor walking'
a.1. The act of walking across the floor. also known as roaming, rovering, putting one foot in front of the other etc
taken from 'Wylie's Dictionary of Annoying Retail Jargon used in Public Libraries'

With the introduction of self-service technology into the Public Library sector, senior managers are desperately looking at how to 're-brand' the library experience for users and staff! The argument is that self-service frees up staff time and removes the need for desks and other 'barriers', this in turn allows staff to move freely around the library 'engaging' and 'interacting' with the public! From a purely personal point of view the last thing i want when i'm walking around a shop or a library is someone coming up to me asking "do you need any help", "if i need help i will ask for it" is usually my reply! Now don't get me wrong there are times when library staff should and must approach users asking if help is needed, for example when someone looks genuinely lost or confused! Has anyone asked the public if they wan't this or if it really will, as management claim, 'improve the user experience" for them?
The concept comes from the retail sector along with calling library users 'customers', face on shelving, brightly coloured flooring and wall coverings, coffee shops etc. It's all part of the agenda to commercialise libraries and position them within the leisure and retail market and also to make them more attractive to private companies! The whole retail led experiment was pioneered by the 'Idea Stores' in Tower Hamlets which then influenced the 'Anythink' concept in the US but is slowly but surely being rolled out across the rest of the service!
I spotted this discussion on Lis Pub Libs the other day stating that Essex County Council offered a specific package of training and CILIP also offers courses.

I find it very worrying that my profession has embraced the neo-liberal model with very little resistance!


  1. My authority uses floor walking as a concept - the idea is not to ask everyone if they need help but rather be aware of the public and read their body language to see if they need help but are choosing not to ask for it.

    When a library goes self-service - as many have - the counter is simply not there for staff to be behind. The traditional library model of having staff behind counters can lead to barriers. Floor-walking gives staff a positive thing to do, and of course they can tidy the shelves etc as they do so, restocking displays etc. In my experience, if done properly, it means that the public are welcomed but not hassled and is positive.

    You're quite correct that this is in line with the retail experience. However, it differs on the crucial point that library staff are not after the customers' money. They are simply there to help and make the place be as attractive and suitable as possible.

  2. Thanks for your comment Ian! You know we disagree to some extent on this one, to me staff walking around tidying and helping users is part and parcel of the job, it comes with professionalism and a pride and belief in the ethos of working for a public service! Good management and leadership is also important, we don't to learn this from the retail/private sector, it's already there it just needs to be encouraged!