Patrons, Users, Customers, Oh My

What somebody calls a “library patron” usually informs the world what someone’s philosophical and worldview of libraries are.  I have gone back and forth between using the term patron and the term user.  I don’t like the term customer because of its business (and profit) connotations.  However, in a recent talk from R. David Lankes, I learned that a BRILLIANT librarian decided to settle the debate by asking “patrons” what they wanted to be called.  They answered member.


Member.  They believe so because they pay dues (taxes), when they come to the library they receive a member library card, they have privileges, they don’t have privileges etc… Member implies ownership, a co-equal with other members and the staff.

How cool is that!  Not only did some genius decide to ask member’s what they want to be called, but think about what membership means.  You don’t want to be a customer, but you do want to be a member.  What a powerful statement.  I am a member of suchandsuch library.



Filed under librarianship, libraries

2 responses to “Patrons, Users, Customers, Oh My

  1. Mick

    I like David, I like his work. I don’t think patrons care what we call them as long as we work hard for them. Just my opinion.

  2. I tend to agree with you, but some people are really into labels and the connotation of labels. It has made for a very interesting conversation on Twitter and via email.

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