Celebrating 10 years of our Answer Center
Librarians are wonderful resources, especially for finding information, offering book recommendations, and assisting with important services. But, what about when you have a more basic question about the library like, “Can you help me renew my book?” or “How do I register for that class?”
For help with those questions – and so much more – you contact the Answer Center. This month, we’re happy to highlight 10 years of excellent customer service by the Answer Center!
In November 2011, Poudre River Public Library District created the Answer Center to help customers with questions or issues related to their library experience and to be a resource for you when you’re not physically in one of the library locations. The team manages calls on behalf of all three libraries and the administration center and can help with a variety of questions and concerns.
The Answer Center is not a call center but is a team of trained library staff with a combined 60+ years of experience assisting customers. When you call (or email) the library, you’ll talk with friendly, knowledgeable library staff. And if they don’t know the answer, they’ll find someone who can help you.
“Library users are often surprised by the friendly voice on the other end of the phone who is actively working to help them or to resolve an issue or complaint,” says Chris Cortez, Answer Center manager. “Our team offers a personal touch and tries to connect with each individual caller. We are genuinely interested and care about our customers.”
Staff in the Answer Center often serve as the “lobby” of the Poudre Library District and may be a person’s first or only encounter with the library. They are an indispensable part of the Library, responsible for everything from processing online library card registrations, booking meeting rooms, and registering the public for library events and classes to finding and placing holds, renewing library items, answering questions about our downloadable materials, and assisting callers in using the library website.
“The Answer Center has always played a key role in the District’s commitment to excellent customer service, but their value to the community was most evident when we had to close our buildings last year due to the pandemic,” says David Slivken, executive director. “The team transitioned quickly to work from home and continued to work 7 days a week to check messages and respond to emails, help customers get temporary library cards and access our digital materials, and assist customers. Just because our buildings were closed didn’t mean that the Answer Center closed. The entire team is such an important asset to the library community.”
Recalling a Decade of Answers
The team works hard to find solutions for each caller (or email sender as the case may be) and is known to go above and beyond to assist customers.
One of the more memorable calls Cortez has taken came from a customer who was brand new to Fort Collins and who also was blind. She called the Answer Center to get directions to help her get to Old Town Library. The staff member stayed on the phone with her while she got off the bus a few blocks away and walked to the library, giving her very detailed, step-by-step directions to walk her to the front doors and inside the library to talk with a staff member.
Answer Center Technician, Amanda Bristol, also thought of some of her most memorable conversations for the anniversary. Bristol has worked at the Answer Center since it began. Below she recalls some of the most impactful calls she has received over the last decade.
Answer Center by the Numbers
The Answer Center answers about 30,000 calls each year. This averages to about 65 calls per day. They are so efficient at helping people that the average call time is just 2 minutes, 15 seconds.
Phone calls aren’t the only way of communicating with the library. The Answer Center responds to more than 9,500 emails each year!
The busiest day of the year is Martin Luther King Day when most of the calls ask, “Is the library open?”
In August 2017, the Answer Center took more than 5,000 calls related to the solar eclipse. 1,954 calls were answered the week of the eclipse with nearly all of the calls asking, “Does the library have eclipse glasses?”
The Answer Center is always busy during inclement weather and other community emergencies. In April 2013, when Fort Collins received more than 22 inches of snow in one day, the Answer Center answered 1,300 calls in just a three-day period (April 15-17). This is more than half of what they typically answer in a month!
Answer Center Book Picks
In addition to their dedication to customers, many on the Answer Center team are avid readers. To celebrate 10 years of service, the team gathered a selection of their favorite books! The small team developed a list of over 60 choices ranging from non-fiction, to sci-fi, to biographies. In the gallery below, you can find a choice selected by each member of the Answer Center team; the cover images are linked to the Library’s catalog.