United States

  • English


JUL 10

OCLC Symposium at ALA Annual Conference 2009


This event has passed.

Leadership Beyond the Recession

Over the last year, countless news stories have featured the library as an important source for job-seeking assistance, Internet access, research and entertainment—and for staying connected during uncertain times. While public and academic library use is surging, budget pressures also continue to escalate. How does a library deliver a great customer experience, keep the lights on—and keep users coming back during better economic times?

Keynote speaker Joseph A. Michelli, PhD, will engage the audience in a conversation that explores ways to bring unique customer service to the library. We’ll learn about how a positive, effective customer experience can provide an anchor during tough economic times and protect a brand from attrition. Leaders who consider the entire customer life cycle as part of a long-term strategy will be better able to help their organizations thrive than those who focus exclusively on “what we must do to survive today.”

Dr. Michelli is an international speaker, author and organizational consultant who has been described as “catching what is right in the world and playfully sparking people and businesses to grow toward the extraordinary.” His best-selling books about enduring business principles are applicable to any organization seeking to understand and improve the customer experience.

Dr. Michelli’s book, The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary, published by McGraw-Hill, achieved best-seller status on the Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek Magazine and USA Today lists. He has been featured on television programs such as The Glenn Beck Show and CNBC’s On the Money, and has conducted hundreds of radio and print interviews.

Dr. Michelli’s other books include The New Gold Standard about service excellence at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and When Fish Fly: Lessons for Creating a Vital and Energized Workplace, which was co-authored with the owner of the “World Famous” Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle. 

Dr. Michelli believes his greatest accomplishment is his ability to learn from the laughter and humor of his children, Andrew and Fiona.   

Stories and discussion

After Dr. Michelli's presentation, stories and discussion from a panel of library leaders were moderated by Cathy De Rosa.  The panel members are:

  • Steven Bell, Associate University Librarian at Temple University
  • Charles Brown, Director of Libraries, Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County 
  • Ed Rivenburgh, Director of College Libraries at the State University of New York at Geneseo

Cathy De Rosa is Vice President for the Americas and Global Vice President of Marketing for OCLC. Cathy joined OCLC in 2001. Prior to joining OCLC, she served on the faculty of the Fisher College of Business, Ohio State University. From 1994 to 2000, she was a vice president at Symix Systems, an enterprise technology company serving manufacturing and service companies. Cathy has authored several OCLC membership reports, including From Awareness to Funding: A study of library support

in America (2008), and Sharing, Privacy and Trust in Our Networked World (2007). The research findings in From Awareness to Funding, based on a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, have now been transformed into the pilot campaign, Geek The Library, which seeks to spread the word about the role of public libraries and raise awareness about critical funding issues many U.S. public libraries face.

Steven Bell, EdD is Associate University Librarian for Research and Instructional Services at Temple University. Prior to that he was the Director of the Library at Philadelphia University and the Assistant Director of the Lippincott Library of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He obtained his EdD in education in 1997 from the University of Pennsylvania, and his MSLS from Drexel University in 1977. An adjunct professor at the Drexel University College of Information Science and Technology, he teaches, writes and speaks frequently on topics such as online searching, academic librarianship and business information resources. He is co-author of the book, Academic Librarianship by Design and lead blogger for Designing Better Libraries ( http://dbl.lishost.org), a blog about design thinking and user experience.


Charles Brown has served as the Director of Libraries for the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County since 2004. A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Charles received his MLS from Columbia University in New York City. He has extensive experience in library leadership from across the country, having worked at public libraries in California, New Jersey, Ohio, Virginia, Minnesota and Washington DC. He has served as president of the Public Library Association (1991); member of the Executive Board of the American Library Association (1995–1999); and member of the Board of Directors of SOLINET (now Lyrasis) until earlier this year. Charles received the 2005 Newcomer of the Year award from Leadership Charlotte, given to those who have sought opportunities to improve the quality of life in the community.

Ed Rivenburgh has been an academic library director within the State University of New York (SUNY) system for over 30 years. He was Director of the Library and Instructional Services at Finger Lakes Community College from 1978 to 1995. For the past 12 years he has served as Director of Milne Library at SUNY Geneseo. Ed has given numerous presentations on library technology, information literacy programs, staff development, and the required dramatic transformation of academic libraries. Another frequent presentation topic, and one of Ed’s passionate interests, is “Critical Issues Surrounding Library As Place.” He was a featured speaker on this topic on the College of DuPage’s national satellite teleconference series, Library Challenges & Opportunities. In 2004, Ed initiated, and has since directed, the Information Delivery Services (IDS) Project, (IDSProject.org), an innovative resource sharing system for New York State academic and research libraries.


Prior to the symposium, we asked Dr. Michelli for some thoughts on leadership, customer experience and the recession.

Question: What are the most important links between leadership and customer experience? 


Dr. Michelli: Unless leadership is invested, “customer experience” ultimately turns into a trendy, failed, positive-sounding initiative. Real user experience is the result of a culture that has accepted the long-term value of exceeding expectations. To achieve this, the leadership must weave the “voice of all stakeholders” into the way things get done throughout the organization. Customer-centric organizations understand that “service serves them.” By offering service excellence in an evolving and relevant way they guarantee their own sustainability. Leaders of these organizations leave a legacy for future generations and elevate the communities they serve.


Question: Do the rules for good customer service change during a recession (or other period of widespread hardship)?


Dr. Michelli: Yes, the rules become more important!  Recent studies show customers have changed dramatically in the recent past. But three things have not changed:


While increasingly frugal, most people still don’t want the cheapest product. Instead, they want the best value. Great service is a critical component in value perception and it is often the easiest, most cost-effective way to differentiate your organization. 


Customers also continue to acknowledge that the main reason for abandoning a business or organization is the failed service they receive. This presents a strategic advantage and opportunity to serve those who have been dissatisfied with other options during recessionary times. 


Finally, customers whose needs are fulfilled and who feel cared about are four times more likely to return and engage with that organization again. 


For retail businesses, concentrating on existing customers is more effective than trying to attract absolute strangers. For libraries, exceptional customer service may be essential  to developing long term support.


Question: What tools (authors? blogs?) do you suggest leaders use to help improve customer experience?


Dr. Michelli: I am a big fan of the Web site  www.customerexperienceboard.org. I am on their advisory board and believe they have assembled great contributors like professor Adrian Payne, Chip Bell and Shaun Smith. I continue to work on blogs for both corporate and small business audiences. While Stephanie Weaver of www.experienceology.com primarily focuses on the museum experience, she works a lot with other nonprofit organizations. As such, she is a strong resource for experiential design services.  

Question: What one thing can a leader do today to make a positive difference for its customers?


Dr. Michelli: Heed the words of Peter Drucker: “Businesses exist to create a customer.” All benefits come through your users. Organizations are sustainable when we secure value for people through people. Take a moment today to ask and listen to your team and your users. Ask, “How can we make this transaction, this moment more meaningful for you?” Ask, “What needs could we meet that we have not yet met for you?” Look for cost-efficient ways to meet and exceed the stated and unstated wants, needs and desires of your staff and users.


Question: Do you have any broad-stroke suggestions for library leaders?


Dr. Michelli: I would consistently communicate my vision of what user service looks like. When I think I have communicated that message enough, I would communicate it more. The message should be simple something on the order of “knowledge delivered with care to make life easy for the user.” That message then must become the way things are done at your library. Ultimately turning your staff, users and community partners into experience designers to assure that in reality your library continues to offer “knowledge delivered with care to make life easier for users.”


Start Date

10 July 2009

End Date

10 July 2009