No, it’s not the beginning of a bad joke.
There has been a lot of discussion about what term people who work in libraries should use for the people who use their services. Patron is probably the most commonly used term, but is that the best term? The definition of patron is:
1. One that supports, protects, or champions someone or something, such as an institution, event, or cause; a sponsor or benefactor: a patron of the arts.
2. A customer, especially a regular customer.
Both certainly apply. Library patrons tend to the best supporters of library services, and most are regular customers. So why not just use the term customer? Customer implies an exchange of money, and library services are for the most part, free.
User is another term that is often used, but that has some negative connotations, as in the sub-definition: a person who uses something or someone selfishly or unethically.
I recently attended a teleconference where it was suggested that the most appropriate term for those who frequent library services is member. Member implies belonging, being a part of an organization. In order to use the library, a person applies for a library card to become a member of the library community. Member implies having a say in how your library services are developed and delivered. But then, what about people who visit the library but don’t have a library card?
In the end, it is all a matter of semantics, but sometimes it is the nuances that make a difference in life. Please take a moment to vote in the poll below and let us know what you prefer. Comments are also welcome.