Netflix shenanaigans: what libraries can learn

19 Sep

So.  Like most people, you’ve heard of Netflix.  I’m going to venture into uncertain territory, and say you knew about them raising their prices and changing their services.

The customer outcry was horrendous, and earlier this week on Sunday, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings had an apology for everyone.  The part I’m interested in is as follows:

In hindsight, I slid into arrogance based upon past success. We have done very well for a long time by steadily improving our service, without doing much CEO communication. Inside Netflix I say, “Actions speak louder than words,” and we should just keep improving our service.


I’m hoping I wasn’t the only one to see the similarity to libraries.  There is a lesson in there, that we’re learning slowly, and maybe getting at least a little bit right.

Librarians work hard to improve service, but aside from putting up some flyers, how much do we communicate those changes?  We want to believe that our changes matter to our patrons, matter for librarianship.  But do we overlook effective, user-centered communication in favor of change or action?

I think sometimes we do.  I know it’s happened where I work: we put together great programming, got caught up in taking action elsewhere, and expected that if we built it, they would come.  Guess what?  They didn’t come.  We should have been more outspoken about changes in scheduling, programming and subscriptions, because once people knew about the changes we’d made they were enthusiastic.

Is there anything you can think of that we could learn from this?


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