22 August 2013

Thankful Thursday – FGS2013: The ‘New’ Buzzword is Collaboration

Well, FGS is amazing. Or, rather, the people at FGS are amazing. Yesterday was jam packed with research and catching up with genea-friends from far and near. The folks at the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center pulled out all the stops and were performing the herculean task of handling all the people who were coming in to do research while attending the conference. It was standing room only at the research tables and I heard that even the microfilm room, which is colder than a Siberian winter, was full. After being in the Library from about 9:30 until 5:30, I dashed back to my room to quickly freshen up for the opening social. That’s where things went a little awry.

I do my best not to be critical unless it can be considered constructive (mainly because I’ve been on the receiving end of criticism that was anything but constructive). It’s not helpful to just hear that you stink at something, so, here’s my take on what I can only say was a customer service fiasco. We entered into the venue for the Opening Social, the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory. We were greeted by several people who were handing out raffle tickets and packets of flower seeds, a nice touch, although I ended up with 3 or 4 packets that people didn’t want because they wouldn’t use them. We took a few steps forward ... and stopped. We were chatting among ourselves, so at first it didn’t seem to be an issue. However, after about 15 minutes, having moved only about 10 feet forward (that is not an exaggeration) we started wondering what was going on. We finally moved past the entry way and into the conservatory, only to see the line of people winding through the facility with no discernible end.  After waiting another 10 – 15 minutes, someone from our group went up the line to see if she could determine whether or not we were supposed to wait in the line or not, and she wasn’t really able to find out anything other than it was the line for the food. Keep in mind, we were told it would be ‘light appetizers’ and we hadn’t had dinner prior to arriving, our plan being that we would spend a bit of time at the social and then head out for dinner. Finally, after waiting 40 minutes and not getting beyond the middle of the first room, we decided to go back out the way we came in.

Having had such a great day at the library, it was a real let-down to not know what was supposed to happen at an event we paid to get into. At no time did anyone from FGS, FindMyPast.com or the facility inform the people standing in line what was happening or what was expected of us. All someone needed to do was walk up and down the line informing people that they could go forward into the tent at the back of the facility. I can’t comment on the food or drinks, though I heard varying comments about that as well. What a shame that such a great day nearly ended with a complete downer all because someone didn’t have the wherewithal to let people know.

Of course, leave it to the group I was fortunate to join to make the most of a bad situation. Ft. Wayne has an amazing little place called the Dash-In that makes the most delicious vegetarian dishes and serves awesome beer.  Once we’d eaten, we decided to head back to the hotel where we found more folks who’d bailed from the Social. We ended up staying up far later than I intended, discussing the challenges genealogists face when going into Archives. So many of you have had negative experiences in Archives, and it really irks me to hear that there are Archivists out there who don’t understand the concept, and importance, of good customer service or the value in the collaborative possibilities with genealogists. It only takes a little bit of communication to right a wrong.

Have you had a negative customer service experience at an Archives, or Conference, that you were willing to ‘forgive’ because you knew the circumstances warranted it? Did you notify someone that a change would make the situation better?

Let’s hope that was just a little hiccup in what will otherwise be a fabulous conference.

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