As information professionals in a web 2.0 landscape, it is important for us to understand the possibilities that this new networked society has for communication and participation. Transparency offers the chance for us to start a truthful dialogue with our users and bring them into the conversation.
As Chris Anderson says in his blog, In Praise of Radical Transparency, “As the tools of production and distribution are democratized, institutions lose power and individuals gain it. As the Web becomes the greatest word-of-mouth amplifier in history, consumers learn to trust peers more and companies less. And as the same trends play out within the firm, businesses are shifting from command and control to “out of control” (Anderson, 2006, para. 1). This is the fundamental idea in the shift from secrecy to transparency within companies and institutions. No longer will the traditional top-down hierarchy be the way that users consume information. Instead, companies and institutions need to open up their practices to their customers, resulting in a less hidden and more open conversation with the people they serve.
Aaron Schmidt’s article, Earning Trust The User Experience, really spoke to me as I am a huge advocate of transparency in corporate practice. This week’s module brings this practice from the corporate world into the library world. Transparency builds trust, and in the library world, according to Schmidt, trust breeds loyalty, and loyal library users are more likely to take advantage of the library (Schmidt, 2013, para. 2).
I completely agree with Schmidt’s statement and have recently made a personal decision to move a service I use to a more transparent company.
Cutting the cord: moving to a more transparent internet provider (a case study on transparency)
About four years ago I made the choice to cut the cord on my traditional cable package. I was sick of paying for an overpriced cable and internet package with a company that was all about the bottom line. Instead, I chose to make the move to a smaller internet provider called Teksavvy who provided a more affordable internet package but who also communicated openly with their customers effectively through blogs, company forums, and even online third party internet forums not owned by the internet provider themselves.
Teksavvy looks for customer feedback through their forums and social media sites, allowing users to comment, question, and criticize openly without censorship. On dslreports.com, users often ask questions about various products and services to which they frequently get responses from Teksavvy employees within 20 minutes.
Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa who writes and maintains a blog that focuses on digital law in Canada and around the world, recently wrote a blog post titled, Telecom Transparency Reporting Fails to Satisfy. In this post, Geist writes that “Canadians have become increasingly troubled by reports revealing that telecom and Internet companies receive millions of requests for subscriber data from a wide range of government departments. In light of public concern, some Internet and telecom companies have begun to issue regular transparency reports that feature aggregate data on the number of requests they receive and the disclosures they make” (Geist, 2015, para. 2).
While some companies, like Teksavvy, have started producing transparency reports (found here) which shed light on government requests for information, some companies do not. As Geist states, “[the reports] also paint an incomplete picture since companies have offered up inconsistent data and some of the largest, including Bell, have thus far refused to come clean on past requests and disclosure” (Geist, 2015, para. 3).
While this is not a library specific example, it embodies Schmidt’s article about building trust and loyalty toward a company or organization. I have been a loyal customer with Teksavvy for four years, because their open and transparent mission statement makes me trust the company more than one that operates in a closed hierarchy.
From Teksavvy’s website:
“We believe doing what’s right is the best business strategy of all. It is simple, effective and transparent. It doesn’t require phony rules. Or marketing tricks. Or contracts to lock customers in. Each member of our team can make quick and effective decisions to do what’s right for our customers. That’s how we have built TekSavvy and will continue to do so” (Teksavvy- Who we are, n.d.).
So how can we apply this to libraries?
In a web 2.0 environment it makes sense to turn a traditional organization into a transparent one. In many ways libraries can be looked at as a company, however, our bottom line is not profit, but instead, customer satisfaction.
By creating a more transparent library we look to build trust between the organization and our users. By utilizing web 2.0 technology we can open our libraries to be more communicative with our users. According to Schmidt, “Letting librarians’ personalities show makes it easier for individuals to relate to—and therefore trust—the library” (Schmidt, 2013, para. 6).
In my opinion, the shift toward transparency is primarily about building trust. Trust is a powerful agent to build loyalty for the library. Our patrons, customers, and users are very intelligent and will spot insincerity very quickly. As Schmidt argues, “if a library isn’t honest with its members, it is unlikely that a trusting relationship will form. Making it known why your organization makes the decisions it does and being forthright when it makes mistakes are effective ways to humanize your library. Engaging patrons with participatory design methods and involving them in the planning process take this idea further. The more deliberate the transparency, the better the result” (Schmidt, 2013, para. 12).
Similar to my experience switching to a more transparent internet provider, libraries have much to gain from building more transparent communication with our users. Through transparency and web 2.0 technology, libraries can build more lasting connections and open channels of communication with our users. Trust and loyalty will create a user that is more likely to take advantage of all the library can offer.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a video produced this week. I may do a quick one later this week and insert it into the post at a later time.
Anderson, C. (2006). In praise of radical transparency. Retrieved from http://www.longtail.com/the_long_tail/2006/11/in_praise_of_ra.html
Fitzgerald, S. (August 10, 2015). Cutting the cord: 5 things you should know. Retrieved from http://www.torontosun.com/2015/08/10/cutting-the-cord-5-things-you-should-know
Geist, M. (2015). Telecom Transparency Reporting Fails to Satisfy. Retrieved from http://www.michaelgeist.ca/2015/07/telecom-transparency-reporting-fails-to-satisfy/
Schmidt, A. (2013). Earning trust. The User Experience. Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2013/11/opinion/aaron-schmidt/earning-trust-the-user-experience/
Teksavvy. (June 4, 2014) Transparency report. Retrieved from http://teksavvy.com/Media/Default/Citizen%20Lab/TekSavvy%20to%20Citizenlab%20-%202014-06-04.pdf
Teksavvy. (n.d.) Who we are. Retrieved from http://teksavvy.com/en/why-teksavvy/company/who-we-are