I went to a conference a while back for all of the libraries in the surrounding area. We have a unique organization where all of the libraries here strive to work together to provide the best service to patrons in our county. It’s called the ACLA (Allegan County Library Association).

The conference focused on team building, handling stress, and other operational classes. One of the sessions that I attended was a discussion titled “The Front Lines”. I signed up for this one because that’s essentially what my position is.

The discussion was led by an employee of another library. And portions of it were a tad awkward. She frequently had opinions that seemed to be fairly unpopular amongst the group. One of her points that she brought up was that the previous director of a library that she had worked under focused too much on visual details. “He was so picky about the way things looked, he would spend so much time just making things look to his standard of good.”

Everyone remained fairly silent as she made this remark. Then she goes on to say that his efforts were irritating to her as he should focus far more on operations. She said, “Shouldn’t we care more about providing great service rather than how things look?”

To that, my mind instantly thought: Well which would you rather patrons say, “the place looks hideous but at least it has good service”, or “the service is terrible but the place looks good.” You don’t want either. It’s about finding a balance in which both are achieved. The looks are what gets people in the door. It’s the efficient and helpful operations that keep them coming back.

Take a car for example. So much goes into its design from functionality to visuals. They put just as much emphasis on making a car beautiful as they do making its functioning effective. If it looks ugly, no one will be interested in even looking at it. But if it runs like crap, no one will want to buy from that car company again, at least that model. Then it becomes an entirely wasted investment for the company. Millions- squandered.

Create a brand and stick to it, making things look good and the way you handle service are both parts of that brand. Keep the building clean and handle customer concerns effectively. Make the website look professional and make the customers feel important. People like aesthetic as well as effectiveness, why should it be either/or?