I had to go to the bank recently. Not the ATM. I needed to talk to a live person, and it was more challenging than I expected. The first branch was closed, and the second had a line out the door. Fortunately, there was a greeter who asked what service I needed, then immediately took me to her desk. She listened attentively and let me know this could be handled expeditiously. Even when my business was complete, she continued our conversation, not rushing me out the door. When I left the bank, I was feeling extremely positive about the bank and the person I spoke with. She saw me, not just my concern. That’s hospitality. She had invited me into her “house” and made me feel welcome.
The library is your place. How do you welcome people into it? Hospitality is the ultimate in reaching out to others and making them feel comfortable, safe, and welcomed. It’s hard to measure which can cause it to be overlooked as a factor. Surveys help, but don’t reveal all the emotions, which is what the best hospitality generates. As school librarians, we work at creating a safe, welcoming place. Incorporating hospitality skills will add to that atmosphere.
It’s a concern for business as well, and Disney, an expert at delivering it, offers training sessions. I have commented on Disney’s Four Keys to a Great Guest Experience, which is written with employees in mind, and offer examples relating to our environment. The second and fourth are particularly important.
- I practice safe behaviors in everything I do. By following safe behaviors for COVID and other school safety issues, we model it for others.
- I take action to always put safety first. We are often in a better position than classroom teachers to spot the bullying of students and make certain they feel safe in the library. We can also find ways to alert teachers and learn the needs of both students in a bullying dynamic.
- I speak up to ensure the safety of Others. We step in when students use hateful speech, teaching about diversity and inclusion.
- I project a positive image and energy. Consciously projecting a positive image, especially in difficult times, improves our mindset and resilience.
- I am courteous and respectful to Guests of all ages. We don’t cut off a conversation with a student when a teacher or administrator comes into the library. We practice active listening.
- I go above and beyond to exceed Guest expectations. We don’t just help kids find the answers they were searching for. We guide them to go deeper and find the best answer, teaching them new technologies and making them aware of additional resources.
- I stay in character and perform my role in the show. Remember, you bring a unique view to your students, teachers, and administrators. Your role plays an important part in their success.
- I ensure my area is show-ready at all times. This doesn’t mean neat and tidy. Libraries that are overly tidy tend to be libraries that aren’t used. It means that you have displays and materials that send their message of welcome and inclusion. Student work is present and celebrated.
- I perform my role efficiently so Guests get the most out of their visit. In addition to doing your job efficiently, you bring your passion for it and your “guests” in your interactions. This allows them to get the most out of their time in the library.
- I use my time and resources wisely. Plan, budget and develop programs with an eye to the future and a focus on your mission and vision. This brings the best of the library to those who have entered your “home”.
Not surprisingly, the hospitality industry was one of the hardest hit segments of the economy in the pandemic. It relies on us being face-to-face. Even as we fumble our way to a new normal, we haven’t come close to pre-COVID levels of personal interactions that were a part of our daily lives. By bringing hospitality into our libraries, we can improve everyone’s experience. The more welcoming we are, the more our students and teachers will enjoy being there and come to understand how we are there for them.