What’s In A Name

“What’s In a Name?  That Which We Call a Rose By Any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet.” The thing is, Shakespeare had a point. Is the product not the same, regardless of what it is named?  In this regard, we’re talking about Patrons, Clients, Customers, Users, Members or any other class of persons who frequent libraries.

Two things come to mind when addressing this topic, namely:

  1. What do we (i.e. people who work in libraries) call the people who frequent the library?
  2. Does it matter?

Second question first: It matters because of the effect on how we as library personnel may treat them and what we expect from them.   It does not change who they are – They will continue to be confused and organized, self-sufficient and inefficient, valuing what we do, and being melancholy about our services.  However, each name that is attributed to them carries different inherent beliefs and expectations.  If you call the rose that thorny, odorous, thing; do you want to still smell it?  So maybe the name is important if it forces us to look at how we treat our people.  We need to provide service to all, regardless of their backgrounds and needs.

Extensive polls and surveys have been done in the library community on what we should call the people who frequent our establishments.  Some cons of each term:

     Patron – think of patronizing, signals some sort of money donation

     Customer – denotes we may be storekeepers

     Users – too vain, bad connotation

     Clients – one thinks of a fee, waiting on them

     Members – law library does not use library cards, no membership

I feel less time and energy should be spent on the name, and more effort should be spent on how we support our communities with their legal needs.  Do we need a particular name to effectively serve everyone that walks through our doors?

So, for the first question: What do we call the people who frequent our library?  Honestly, should it even be an issue?  What I do know is that people are people and no matter the circumstance, we as library personnel should be on our guard to treat each person as a person and not simply a number or a thing.


By rcll

September 03, 2014

Latest Posts