Stop Blaming the User

[This blog post by Jenica Rogers]( “Stop blaming the user at Attempting Elegance”) is a perfect example of the way more libraries ought to be thinking.

Money quote (emphasis mine):

> The user is not broken in that **our job is to fulfill the user’s needs**, and the user’s needs are, while not always well-defined, possible to meet, or understood by either side, valid — so accusing the user of Doing It Wrong is counterproductive to our goals and needs, and should be avoided. This applies to space usage, reference inquiries, customer service, and use of our online tools.

I couldn’t have put it better myself. Libraries need to pay a lot more attention to how our patrons behave and start adapting our systems to [the way our patrons *expect* search to behave]( “The Smart Firehose: a blog post at Bits and Books”). Our seemingly in-built desire to force patrons to search for things our way is counterproductive and ultimately damaging to our credibility and our profession.

If there’s one point that I’d like to add to hers, it’s that a big part of the problem is that very few libraries actually take real responsibility for the software that’s used to build their site. By [relying on external vendors]( “Libraries Need More Coders: a blog post at Bits and Books”) and not having *in-house* coders who can improve the system, many libraries pretend that any deficiencies in it are minor and/or not their responsibility. But *everything* that happens under your logo — whether it’s on your website, at the Reference Desk or how you organize your stacks — is ultimately *your* responsibility. That means that, like it or not, it’s your job to make things as easy and intuitive for your patrons as you can. As Jenica so wonderfully puts it:

> We can sit back, all of us, in libraries and outside of them, and with smug self-satisfaction explain why our tools, websites, spaces, and services are just brilliantly perfect… or we can thoughtfully observe our environment, acknowledge that the user has needs and is showing us what they are, and adapt.