You can’t please everyone. Don’t try.

Seth Godin writes that 2% of people will complain when they’re unhappy with an institution/company/thing, saying, “If you have fans or followers or customers, no matter what you do, you’ll annoy or disappoint two percent of them. And you’ll probably hear a lot more from the unhappy 2% than from the delighted 98.  It seems as though there are only two ways to deal with this: Stop innovating, just stagnate. Or go ahead and delight the vast majority.”

Our 2% here at SUNY Potsdam’s College Libraries can be best represented by this comment left in our suggestion box, on a suggestion blank titled “What’s Wrong?”:

“The group study section.  It is complete bullshit how we have nowhere to sit and get kicked out for sitting together. It is our school.  We should be able to make the rules.”

To which I say:

But despite my jaw-dropping awe at the entitlement of that comment, yes, really.

Okay then… Nancy Alzo, our head of reference, posted a very evenhanded response which included “It is your school and we work hard to accommodate what all of our patrons ask for within the limits of our facilities and our budget.  We offer both group space and individual space because we have requests for both kinds of study areas.  You want a rule that suits your particular preference, but take a look at the other comments we have received recently.  Our most frequent “what’s wrong” issue has been posed by those who want quiet study.  They want a rule that is the opposite of the one you are requesting.”

And thus we draw a line in the sand.  We will strive to do good work, to provide flexible and useful spaces for our population.  But we will not let the 2% who want what they want, and want it now, deter us from trusting our experience, our professionalism, and our goals as we deliver good service to the quiet and, we hope, delighted, 98%.


  1. Awesome post. Not bending over to accommodate the vocal minority is absolutely the BEST thing any service organization can do for its customers.


  2. Thanks, Matt. I think of it as finding the balance between being a responsive service organization and being a bunch of doormats. I refuse to be a doormat, but I will do everything we should to be responsive.


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