When do they become patrons? (also I’m an anti-hip librarian)

July 9, 2007, 12:43 pm

In the premiere issue of the Journal of Web Librarianship, Michael Whang poses an interesting concept urging us to “think of every website visitor as a potential customer” and suggests using banner ads to communicate services and to measure conversation rates. 

This got me thinking about the larger question: at what point does someone become a patron?

If someone walks through our door are they automatically a patron? It gets reported as such in our gate count, but are patrons defined by what they do or simply by their location?

If someone comes in to buy a coffee and then leaves, are they a library patron? (We get zero profit from our café.) If they sit on a couch and read a personal copy of Harry Potter, are they a patron? If they look for a book that is missing from our shelves and so then leave, are they a patron? If they come in to check email and do nothing else, are they a patron?

I don’t think there is an answer—it’s just kind of interesting. With the advertising mindset, I’ve been observing what people do—really trying to define our patrons and their use of the library.

We’re finally getting some interesting stats from our IT folks. We can track unique log-ins. During the fall semester we had 11,949 unique log-ins – not bad for an 18,000 student campus. So that means that 66% of the entire student body logged in at least once during the Fall semester. Our graduate student population is around 6,000 and many of them have their own labs or offices, so I would estimate that the bulk of those who logged in were undergraduates—so I’d safely estimate that about 80% of all undergraduates used our computers at least once. Of course, they’re probably using it for FaceBook, but still, that gives us a better sense of use instead of just a pure gate count. I’m hopeful that in the future we can refine our metrics a little more.


Oh, and Kara Jesella set librarians back about 10 years… she’s living back in the roaring 90’s when the web was new and cool. Her article about hip librarians will do more damage than good. For me, changing the stereotype is done through actions, not through fashion. At the next ALA they’ll probably have hip librarian body wash, hip librarian hair spray, hip librarian lip gloss, hip librarian temporary tattoos, a mixed cd for Next Gen Librarians, the official “hip librarian” t-shirt, and so on. No thanks. The “hip librarian” is such a ready-made cliché — it’s fitting for New York City where style is more important than substance.

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