PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.
Last week's article about the lack of human interaction with businesses and agencies certainly "struck home" with many readers.
I received a number of calls and e-mails from people who identified with the article. All expressed a high level of frustration with today's communication, or lack of it, from the user's perspective.
One caller noted that she had used a company's 800 number to contact them, and a recording told her several times that she could use their web site at www.blah-blah.com to do the same thing, easier.
She hung up and tried the web site, finding it more frustrating than the 800 number.
She went in circles around the web site and ended back at the home page.
Her grandson was enlisted to maneuver the web site, and his results were about the same; going in circles and ending up back at the home page.
I always think that if a teenager can't surf a web site and get results, there is no hope for me!
I get frustrated with "pull-down boxes" on web pages; you pull down the box, make a selection then hurry to click it before you accidentally scroll through the selections and pick something else.
Other people who contacted me talked about the frustration of using the phone and selecting a number from the vocal menu.
If you are on a cell phone, selecting a number is difficult. You need to use a "real phone" with an adult receiver and separate number pad so you can listen and select a number at the same time.
The same level of frustration was noted when you hear a list of services and topics provided, yet after listening to the whole list, you can find nothing that seems to fit your topic.
Another frustrating situation has the caller entering account numbers to find that you are talking to a human being who asks for all the same things over again.
On a more local level, the library has a need to call various state agencies for information.
We have found that staff cuts, and elimination of whole agencies have made that an interesting process.
One agency has been reduced in staffing to the point that you leave a message, and they will call you back within 5 working days.
Then begins the game of "phone tag" as return calls are always made when you are not available.
I am sure that this situation is being driven by reduced budgets, and the goal of private enterprise to maximize their profits.
People are money, and having an efficient online system can save lots of money while allowing business to be transacted.
It all comes down to an issue of communication.
We know that 93 percent of communication is visual and vocal. Only 7 percent is verbal.
On an 800 number, all communication is done by the smallest category of communication.
On a web site, all communication is done by the written word, and some graphics.
It is no wonder communication fails so many times in the world of technology.
And your public library still has buildings with real people who stand ready to assist you. If you need to go to that web page, we can get you started in the process.
Real people answer the 26 phone lines that access our various buildings.
Your library card continues to be your access point for information.