The 10 Lessons of Email

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I am amazed in this day and age we still have people who just haven’t learned simple nettiquette.   What I’m referring to is bad email behavior.   I also find it interesting when people say how swamped their inbox is – with so many technologies and options at our disposal why are we still even using email?  But be that as it may, email is probably here to stay all I ask is that we learn some simple nettiquette if we are going to use it.

Lesson 1 – When using work email to connect with customers, colleagues and vendors treat email just like you would a business letter.  That includes using spell check, punctuation and capital letters where applicable.  Just because the format is electronic does not mean you need to forego common niceties that make reading your message easier.

Lesson 2 – Do not under any circumstance use colored text or backgrounds.  I really don’t care if purple is your favorite color (it’s mine too) it is glaring on a white background and comes across as unprofessional.

Lesson 3 – Leave the quotes for the insurance companies and the famous authors.  There is no need to have 1,2, or even 3 quotes as part of your email signature.  To be honest who reads them?  No one!

Lesson 4 - READ.  Don’t respond to emails that say post-only  or no-reply.  More often than not your email will go into never-neverland and get you nothing.  If the email specifically says do not respond that what do you hope to gain by hitting the reply button?  Read the email there maybe an alternative email address or a link that they want you to use in order to communicate properly.

Lesson 5 – Always when addressing an email to multiple people who may not know each other, use BCC.   If Joe doesn’t know Susie he doesn’t need her email address.  This is especially important if Joe gets a virus on his computers because viruses love to hit email – once Joe has Susie’s email the virus can either use her as the sender of another virus or send her the virus.  Rule of thumb unless people know each other well use BCC when sending to multiple addresses.

Lesson 6 – Another good reason to use BCC is those folks who really love to use the Reply All button.  99.9% of the time you don’t need to use the Reply All button especially when you don’t have much to contribute to the conversation.  Replaying all to say “I agree” is not something all 36 people on the original email need to know only the person who sent the original email needs to know.

Lesson 7 – Real friends don’t let friends forward.  Those jokes that hit everyone’s inbox have ALREADY hit everyone’s inbox so don’t bother to forward them again.  Also if you absolutely must forward something, PLEASE remove the header info.  The part where it has everyone’s email address, the subject, date, etc – remember that viruses love email addresses and they’ll take them anyway they can.

Lesson 8 – Spam.  None of like it, none of us want it so do your part to avoid it.  Work email should be used for just that – work.  Don’t mix family business (e.g. jokes, pictures, etc.) with your work account.  Use a “throw-away” or web based email account for that (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc.).  Make sure you use  BCC and don’t forward those jokes (because if you do from your work account you can guarantee that someone that you forwarded it to will forward it again and not remove the header so your email address will be there).

Lesson 9 – Urban legends and email virus hoaxes, just the facts ma’am.  Unfortunately there are still people out there that insist on writing programs that do some not nice things to other people’s computers.  But before you leap to conclusions do your research.  We all get those emails of “a little girl who is dying of….” or a warning saying a big virus is going around — don’t just forward that email to everyone in your addressbook, think a moment and do a bit of research.  For urban legends your best bet is Snopes.com.    For viruses try Internet Storm Center if that is a bit too techie for you check out the sites for AVG, Norton or whatever anti-virus software you  use.

Lesson 10 – Email isn’t the only game in town.  Everyone complains that their inbox is full – so do something about it.  Use Instant Messaging, use Twitter, pick up the phone, walk over to the person and speak with them directly.   Most importantly use rules 1-9 and your inbox should be lessened automatically.

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Discovery and Delivery

This phrase has been bantered about a lot over the last several months at MPOW (always thought that should be MPOE – employment- but far be it from me to break from Internet tradition).  It got me thinking – is that what we really do at the library?  It certainly isn’t the only thing we do (our classes [or programs] as well as outreach via our booktalks, etc are very important) but it is a great deal of what we do.

Does it matter whether we discover an answer from a reference book, database, or web site?   Does it matter whether we deliver that “must watch now” DVD into the hands of an anixous customer, recommend a great fiction book, or find the last copy of “Romeo and Juliet” for a last minute high school student?  More importantly should it?

If the job of a library boils down to discovering things for customers and delivering it to them why should it matter how we discover it or what we deliver?  To me it shouldn’t.  So if we say that it doesn’t matter where we get the answer (assuming that whatever the source is it is reliable) and it doesn’t matter what type of material we delivery to the customer – should it matter how the request for discovery or delivery reaches us?

For some staff it does seem to matter.  In this day and age why would a phone call be seen as having more value than an IM or a hold request through the catalog?  A request is a request no matter what form it takes.  Are they not all ways our customers are asking us to discover and deliver something to them?  What makes you busier – 20 phone calls or a pull list of 150-200 items?  If you have a holds pull lists that ranges 150-200 items why can’t you see that as 150-200 customers asking for help?  If I IM you is that better or worse than a phone call?

What if I walk into your library and ask for “Of Mice and Men” is my request of more value (therefore given more attention) than a request for “Dumb and Dumber” on DVD?  If you asked some staff they might not admit it but they certainly give weight to book type requests vs. audio-visual type requests.  Content is content – it shouldn’t matter what the packaging looks like.  Remember the old adage don’t judge a book by it’s cover….. well it’s about time it’s been updated.   Don’t judge content by it’s packaging.

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