From my first author visit of 2019-20, at an elementary school in Dripping Springs, Texas

As a human who would love to occasionally experience an interaction with my fellow humans without receiving an emailed survey afterwards, I have mixed feelings (to say the least) about sending out surveys of my own after school visits.

But I do send them. Every month, I have a survey company email all my recent host librarians to ask for their feedback — not just on my performance, but also on communication, logistical support, etc.

I know that nothing is stopping librarians from reaching out directly to me with feedback after my visits. But I have much more to gain from receiving that feedback than librarians have from providing it, and I see requesting it as just good business for visiting authors and illustrators.

I figure, there’s a difference between the office supply place asking about my experience buying a $20 package of padded mailers and me asking how one of my hosts felt about a much larger investment of a school’s time and resources.

When I receive constructive feedback from my hosts, I reflect on what they tell me and how it ties into feedback I’ve received previously, and I consider how I could do better at future visits.

That sort of response is even more valuable than the warm, fuzzy feeling that I get from a host librarian’s praise, because it can lead to a concrete way to improve at what I do.

Still, I do really, really, really like it when I hear that I hit the mark, and I recently began routinely asking those I survey for their permission to share their anonymous feedback in places like this post.

A few examples that made my heart sing:

He was very engaging. I liked that he talked about never giving up.

Chris took special care to really interact with the students.

The communication was easy and stress-free.

Kids were excited to meet him in person.

Chris was very clear as to what he needed to make the visit run smoothly.

I loved the way both the writing process and the love of books were emphasized.

My teachers thought it was an amazing use of time!

My students loved it and are all dying to read every book.

My administration said she heard great things and was pleased.

I always received immediate responses and the pre-planning was great!

Loved the discussion about how each child has a talent to develop.

The students loved hearing him read his own book.

All of which is to say that, in the end, I’m glad I ask for that feedback from my customers. I appreciate their honesty, and it gets me past any reluctance I might feel about sending out surveys.

I still delete the vast majority of the surveys I receive, though, because who has time for that? But in case anyone from Office Depot asks, those padded mailers are working out just fine.