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Dissatisfied patron posts chat transcripts


Daniel writes "Recently I learned of a blogger who posts her unhappy chat reference transcripts online. Most of these posts can be found in her LIS category. This serves as a good reminder that people in the age of blogging won't take what they consider bad service lying down. Librarianship is hardly the first profession to experience this phenomenon. Blogging about perceived bad customer service has been done about Land Rovers and computers. Was there bad service? Without viewing the entire transcript, I'm not in a position to judge. But clearly the patron felt wronged. So remember, be unfailingly polite in your chat reference sessions. Anything you say might be posted somewhere. And it probably wouldn't hurt to set up a Google Alert with the name of your library to see what bloggers are saying about your institution."
Be sure to check out DanielThe Alaskan Librarian Blog for other good links!

Update: 12/08 02:17 GMT by B :Link no longer works, more info in comments.


I do not think this blog reads what you think it reads...

Even if it is not, it is what the actual person shared online with the world. If they modified it to support their position that they received poor customer service, they did not do a great job. It makes them look like an unreasonable (or maybe immature) library user, rather than someone that received poor service.

There is a big difference between disclosing information attained in a one-on-one library reference desk interaction, and participating in a blog discussion. There is an expectation of privacy in library interactions.

It may have been "ethically" wrong for a librarian to get involved in an attack on a person that for whatever reason was not happy with their library services. But they did not "professionally" disclose any information that was attained from a library interaction.

In 30 seconds, I was able to find a cached version of the blog, get the person's name, address, place of employment, and graduate school program. I have never made met the person. It has nothing to do with me being a librarian Could I use this information in a discussion setting - yes. Wwould I - probably not. There is a difference between how interactions are professionally, legally, and ethically judged.

So you're saying it's okay to reveal someone's personal information if it's discovered by accident, but not if it's discovered intentionally?

I'm not sure I get your distinction between "professionally wrong" and "ethically wrong". It's a fascinating question.

For one, you have the fact that nothing we do online is really private, and the point you make that we are each responsible for being aware of that.

The information is public and it's easy for anyone to get, why blind ourselves to it, what's wrong with being a voyeur? I have my own answers to that, but I admit to being guilty of it anyway.

But for two, if we are going to act as librarians, on or off-line (and I think that includes admitting we are librarians in a blog comment and discussing patrons over e-mail), we have a responsibility to act ethically.

Maybe that responsibility should include initiating a discussion of online privacy.

It's not, reportedly.

It is pretty easy to determine the name of the blogger and where he/she goes to school. All the clues were available openly in the blog. If he/she was expecting privacy, I hope she learns about domain registration, creating a name for a website, and posting personal family information on the web.

If a librarian discovered the posting on the web, they were not professionally wrong in posting the information as I have discovered the same information in 30 seconds. Would I do it, NO. It does not add anything to the discussion, and may be ethically wrong. If they discovered the information directly from an one-on-one library interaction and posted it on the web, whatever happened to privacy of patron information.

If this is the the full transcript, I can see why he/she was turned away.

Wow, that's just appalling. If I posted a patron's information anywhere I'd be is SO much trouble. If I was someone's boss and they did something like that, discipline would be swift and harsh. I guess it goes to show you, the web is really good at distoring the truth and fiction becomes fact with the right amount of attention.I'm ashamed to hear librarians would behave in such an unethical fashion.

This blog posting might have been discovered anyway. Given its transcript-like posting it could have come up in a web search for best practices or for examples of what to avoid.It could have come up in a Google alert on the word "library", by a library news site.I completely agree that providing someone's home address and phone number on a discussion list is beyond the pale. It is completely unacceptable and a bad breach of ethics. If that second librarian worked for me, we would have some sharp words.But I think it is fair to say that someone loses some of their privacy when they post to their blog. By definition blogs go to a global audience. The patron is the one who chose to post part of her transcript. If she hadn't gone public with her transcript OR if she had used a different e-mail from her blog e-mail when writing the library, there would be no discussion.As simple as that. No public posting = no discussion. Publish to the world = expect commentary.Having said that, I'm sorry to hear that she got nasty comments. We're not going to win any friends that way. Even when people treat us badly, that's no excuse to return in kind.

What was really upsetting about this blog post was how it was discovered.A different librarian had a bad interaction with a patron and wrote to a publicly-archived list, "She had an unusual email address, so I checked it out..." and posted the person's e-mail address and website address.Another librarian tracked down the WHOIS information for the domain and posted the patron's name, address and phone number. I'm sure both of these people had the best of intentions, but something is terribly wrong with both of these actions.Keeping patron information confidential is fundamental to any library service, and the internet-ness of virtual reference just makes it that much more volatile.Meanwhile, dozens of people posted comments on her blog, some nasty, some supportive, and now the patron's blog is not online anymore.

I love Princess Bride quotes. :)

"...we except questions from anyone..."

Except? Really?

Okay, I looked at the cached version of this chat on Google and based on the previous comment I can see why this is confusing. I find it more intriguing that the blogger felt the need to pull her blog after people started talking about it, at least, that's how it seems.

I work chat reference for my University and we except questions from anyone who has a legitimate need. If someone said, "No shit? Really?" the way her blog seems to indicate, I'd cut her off too, and if she came back mad I'd let her know why. Considering the number of patrons who need help and are willing to be polite, no one should have to waste their time on a patron who is caddy and rude.

The librarian involved in one of the chats posted to the Questionpoint listserv to let us know that was was on the blog was only a selection of the transcript, and that some parts of it were wholly fabricated. Also, the blogger in question mentions grad school a few times--and some things that she's said make me think she is in an LIS program and is perhaps testing out her future profession a bit. That said, it's important for us as librarians providing a chat service to remember that these typed transactions lack a lot of the meaning we derive from the face to face interactions at the reference desk. Patience is definitely a virtue when dealing with online patrons!

Meanwhile, dozens of people posted comments on her blog, some nasty, some supportive, and now the patron's blog is not online anymore.

Well, then, she should have been prepared to play if she was gonna post PUBLICLY on a blog that is searchable via Google. You can't put crap like that on a site and not expect people to find it. (I'll admit the method was unorthodox, but since it was easily found via google, it might've been found anyway and I think it's a seperate topic).

A little bit of criticism and she packs up her toys and runs away? If you're going to criticise someone publicly, then you should expect it in return. Besides, I read those comments and really...they weren't that bad. *shrug* I've been involved in worse...

The blogger needs to grow up and take responsibility for her actions. She reminds me of fanfic writers who complain when someone gives the concrit for a story, or makes fun of a poorly written one. It's posted on the internet, the very nature of which is PUBLIC. If you don't want to be criticised, then don't post it on the net. Anywhere. And if you do post it? (Bad fanfic or critical blog posts) Then be an adult and accept the lumps along with the kudos. Act like an adult, not a spoiled child.