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Part Four: Client Engagement in Special Libraries—Simple Tactics to Build On

Posted by Stephen Abram on 12/5/2017
Stephen Abram
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client-engagement-hs.jpgOur first three posts defined customer engagement and focused on our clients/colleagues. We suggested a strategy for identifying and connecting with the colleagues we serve. We looked into gaining a better understanding of ourselves as people, and we reviewed the core skills for listening. In this post we design a roadmap for engaging colleagues in the various specialized settings of information professionals.

Being social

You already know this, but it can never hurt to remind ourselves that our desk/office is NOT where our best relationships and engagement activities happen. Your colleagues’ environment is where they live. You live mainly in the world of libraries; they rarely do. So, get out there!

  • Schedule daily walks around the office and greet clients and fellow employees.
  • Be visible. Ensure your signage brands your services and either explains them or generates a conversation (it shouldn’t be just a door name label).
  • Brand yourself. What do you want your personal brand to say? Approachable? Confident? Helpful? Knowledgeable? Smart? Talented?
  • Attend organizational events and just be social—not pushy—these are great places to be seen, and Cialdini reminds us that you have to meet folks up to seven times before trust and a deeper business relationship develops.

Being digitally social

  • Be aware of your brand and presence on your internal digital media.
  • This can be as minor (and important) as your email signature and what it says about you and your approachability.
  • This can be about email marketing and targeting messaging at folks that is news-they-can-use or focused messages they can take action on for their success (not yours).
  • If you have an internal social media channel like Yammer then be present there. Offering help, engaging with the questions that arise, and positioning yourself as part of the team all pay off. Have courage.

Share yourself

  • What does your personal profile say about you on the intranet/website? Does it match your colleagues’ profiles? Does it speak to your experience and depth? Does it have a picture?
  • Don’t be a wallflower (while not being annoying). Walk that line but look them in the eye and hold your head high and confidently. Share the good stories and testimonials—in person and online. Even better—have others share them in your blog, newsletter, social media. Don’t wait for testimonials—ask for them or even draft them yourself! Use them as sparks for conversations and engagement.

Hold Events

  • Events create opportunities.
  • Do seminars or webinars on issues critical to your market colleagues. We have knowledge and skills to endow and share.
  • Blog and attach it to social media (internal or external as appropriate).
  • Do a newsletter. This can be boring unless you reflect key colleagues and opinion leader interviews in it. These interviews give you the opportunity to connect with, well, key colleagues and opinion leaders!
  • An event doesn’t have to be huge—offer your space (or use the lobby, lunch room, meeting rooms, etc.) for simple events. Doughnut day, United Way charity events, Muffin breakfasts, etc.
  • Some libraries have been successful in gaining opportunistic traffic just by installing a water cooler, fridge with pop, or coffee station. Even a candy bowl on your desk doesn’t hurt to generate conversations and opportunities.

Meeting behaviour

We know that a lot of the work in organizations happen in meetings. People love to complain about meetings but that’s complaining to brag. They’re wanted enough to be in the meeting. If you’re not at the lunch meeting, you’re the dinner!

Social Skills

I live in the world of libraries and know that our personalities are great and that people love to connect with us. In my survey work with organizations and communities of practice, I find that most organizations would kill for the great customer satisfaction scores and ‘love’ librarians get. That said, librarians can’t live on love alone. We need resources, staffing, and funding.


We need champions. You know you’re getting there when you can count on one of your champions to defend and support you. You know your client engagement work is succeeding when you have more than one champion. Of course, cultivating champions is never-ending. You have to work through promotions, retirements, and colleagues leaving the organization.

How many champions do you have now? Whom would you like as your champion?

Simply put, customer engagement is built on a foundation of being present. Be visible, be liked, be where your colleagues are, listen first and tell everyone your stories aligned with their needs.

Follow Up

Again, customer engagement isn’t just social. It’s social with a purpose—to meet your clients’ and colleagues’ needs personally and in the organization’s strategic context.

It’s always wonderful to see a major organizational initiative succeed and to be able to tell a story of your contribution to its success.

So, there’s the series. Comments are always welcome, and ideas for future posts (such as the comment that generated this series) are great!

By the way, check back on my post from June, “Elevator Speeches: No Magic Beans” for a process to engage with individual target colleagues in your organization. It’s a simple method to build relationships, engage with your colleagues and build trust and more business and opportunities for you.


Stephen Abram is a popular Lucidea Webinars presenter and consultant. He is the past president of SLA, and the Canadian and Ontario Library Associations. He is the CEO of Lighthouse Consulting and the executive director of the Federation of Ontario Public Libraries. He blogs personally at Stephen’s Lighthouse. Watch for a new book from Lucidea Press on management tips for librarians in autumn 2017!



Topics: Library Management, Management, Special Libraries, User Engagement