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Picture of Caterwauller
posted
From the Chat on Saturday . . .


I'm in customer service, as I work for the public library. Used to be we called folks patrons . . . but in the last 10 years or so, we've changed to calling them customers. Should they really be Patrons? What is the difference?


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"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
~Dalai Lama
 
Posts: 5149 | Location: Columbus, OhioReply With QuoteReport This Post
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Boy, that's a hard one, CW. I was planning to say "patron" until I looked it up. "Patron" can mean "customer," but it also can mean a sponsor for something, as in a patron of arts. In France or spain it means an owner of an establishment, epecially a restaurant (?).

I don't think that customers work either because to me that means that they buy must something. Is there another choice? I know in our department stores lately they are calling the shoppers "guests," but that doesn't seem to work either.
 
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We've talked about calling them guests, but the profession at this point generally refers to customers. What the nomenclature does for us is remind us all that were there to serve (customer service). The title "patron" implies that the folks would be there, even if the service is bad. The reality is that we have to keep up with the bookstores and the internet when it comes to giving the folks what they want/need.

Does that make me an Information Pimp??? lol


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"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
~Dalai Lama
 
Posts: 5149 | Location: Columbus, OhioReply With QuoteReport This Post
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For years terms have been changed to placate someone or to make it sound more important. Years ago we had a Personnel Department. Someone decided to change that to Human Resources Department. We've been reduced from people to resources to be exploited, much like coal or oil. Secretaries became Administrative Assistants. Then someone decided that bank tellers and sales clerks should now be known as Associates. And, as Kalleh said, customers became Guests. Sometimes they are Clients. Of course, before that janitors became Custodians, then Custodial Engineers; sewer workers and garbage men became Sanitation Workers.

I don't know what prompted the move from Patrons to Customers. Perhaps it was to distinguish those who contribute financially to the library (patrons) from those who merely use its services (customers). Neither is a particularly good term, as far as I am concerned. What's wrong with User?

While we're talking about libraries, let me tell you about a couple of local proposals. The City of Seattle is facing a budget crisis. It has already cut library and park hours and curtailed social services. Now the mayor wants to eliminate the bookmobile!

The City of Mount Vernon is located in Skagit County, two counties north of Seattle. Skagit Copunty doesn't have a public library, but Mount Vernon does. Mount Vernon residents are, of course, allowed to use the library for free, but non-residents have to pay an $80 annual user fee. Many non-residents are happy to pay this fee and would pay more if necessary. But the City has recently decided to curtail all library services to non-residents. Non-residents cannot use the library at any price! I don't think this proposal has gone through yet. I can't even find a link to it. Maybe the newspapers don't consider it "newsworthy".

Tinman
 
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The theory behind calling all users "customers" is a simple one. Customers buy things and they are thus the source of an organisation's profis and its staff's wages. The idea is to remind employees of this essential fact since some need reminding.

The downside is that the name "customer" is not sufficiently descriptive. The Railways of Britain now call their passengers "customers" but this can be confusing since the railways provide services beyond that of travel.

It seems to me that the City of Mount Vernon authorities would be one organisation that would benefit from being reminded that their duty is to their customers (users, patrons) not to their management.


Richard English
 
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Yes, I think the use of the word "customer" is intended to evoke "customer service". The idea is to remind people that, although the service is provided for free, users are still entitled to a high standard. It is thought that calling people "customers" will stop the librarians (or whatever) from thinking, "Hey, he's not paying for the help I'm giving, I'm really doing this as a favour to him, so I won't try too hard."

Several years ago here the railways stopped calling us "passengers" for similar reasons. Even some twenty years later, when I hear a Tannoy announcement or read a notice that calls me a "customer", it still seems wrong.

I think "member" could be used for a user of a library, and I think I have also seen "borrower" employed, although I suppose that only really applied to the lending section. It also has overtones of Mary Norton's tiny and resourceful recyclers! Smile


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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I want to scream over the tannoy announcements, 'We're not customers! We're passengers!'. And it makes me want to take to the posters with a thick pen too.
 
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Oooooooooooh, Tinman, I could go on for a LONG time about what is happening as funding gets cut from libraries across the country. Library systems all over are cutting hours, cutting staff, cutting services, etc. I am lucky to be in Ohio, where the funding of our libraries has long been the best in the country. We're one of the very few states that get state money for local libraries. Even here, though, the budgets from the state has cut and frozen our portions, causing some libraries to close branches, reduce hours, etc. My own system http://columbuslibrary.org is funded partly by a local operating levy, which has saved us in many ways.


*******
"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
~Dalai Lama
 
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For some reason my posting screen froze at that point and I could type no more!

Back to the words . . . it's funny, but you all bring up interesting points. We count how many people come in the building, and call them User Visits. We keep track of how many new cards we issue each month, and call them New Borrowers. We have all kinds of names for youse guys!!!


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"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
~Dalai Lama
 
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Not that it'll change any minds made up or that it really matters, but ...

patron :- I like the AHD first two definitions on this one. "(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." Even better is the etymological meaning of 'big father' with the sometimes pejorative augmentative suffix -on- in Latin. In my day, now sadly gone by, patrons in libraries were thus designated.

customer :- is simplely enough (Again the AHD): "One that buys goods or services." Etymologically, it's a person who gives their custom to some business. And custom, BTW, gets defined as " Habitual patronage, as of a store. "

patient :- is literally, 'one who suffers'. Most probably after the bill is received and before the insurance company finally relents and pays it.

passenger :- My USD $0.02 on this one is that I can be a passenger on a train, and still be a customer of the railroad (or railway). Passenger is literally one who makes passage. And passage is a collective abstract noun meaning a whole passel of passing. Wayfarer is a nice almost and solidly Saxon synonym. The farer is cognate with the German fahren 'to drive'.
 
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<Asa Lovejoy>
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I've long been upset by the manipulation of language by both the "Politically Correct" types and the Orwellian politicians. I have great disdain for those who refer to me as a "consumer," when I see myself as a customer. It is my custom, my habit, that I wish to indulge, and that has nothing whatsoever to do with my eating a book, an automobile, or a pair of shoes! Were I Lord of The Language, I would have flogged all who use "consumer" to mean customer, patron, client etc.

As for libraires, as the economy worsens nationwide, libraries, those bastions of liberty which are sine-qua-nons of intellectual and moral freedom, become the targets of the very politicians whom I excoriated above. They become the refuge of street people who have no other place to go because they've lost their jobs, or they've been turned out of the mental hospitals because some damned politician, using the ruse of "civil rights," shuts down those facilities.

Portland does not have a city library, but the county has a library system. Thanks to a large county levy that voters passed recently, the budget is relatively stable, and all branches are open again. However, one of our County Commissioners hired a new head librarian for over $130,000 per year plus huge benefits, and didn't even hire from within, despite our having many PhDs and MLSs in the area!

Whew! Shut up, Asa, bfore you're thrown outa here!
 
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Asa, I think I'm in love! Thank you so much for understanding what the public libraries deal with! I would think, though, that 130,000 a year for the head of a large county system would be reasonable . . . and sometimes new blood is good in an organization. That's not to say that hiring from within is always a bad idea.

Now, everyone - are you listening? Go down to your local libraries and take the nice folks working there some chocolate!


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"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
~Dalai Lama
 
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Will do, CW. Wink

I noticed that jheem included "patient" in his list of definitions. In nursing it is definitely the fad to call our "patients" our "clients." Whenever I write an article or book chapter using the word "patient," the editor will dutifully change it to "client." Supposedly, "patient" sounds too dependent. It may be clear to them, but it is irritating to me!
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Caterwauller:
We have all kinds of names for youse guys!!!

Yeah, and I bet some of them aren't printable!

Tinman
 
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quote:
Originally posted by tinman:
quote:
Originally posted by Caterwauller:
We have all kinds of names for youse guys!!!

Yeah, and I bet some of them aren't printable!

Tinman


Have you been reading my work emails? Oh wait, we don't put that stuff in email because it can always be intercepted!!! I generally refer to the people who use my branch as "folks" or "the little darlings".


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"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
~Dalai Lama
 
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Quote "...I have great disdain for those who refer to me as a "consumer," when I see myself as a customer..."

In marketing there is a useful difference between the terms.

In many cases customers are also consumers in that they consume or otherwise use up the product. But they need not be.

A widget factory is the customer of the suppliers of raw materials; the wholesaler is the customer of the factory; the shop is the customer of the wholesaler; the end consumer of the widget is the customer of the shop.

Used correctly the words provide a useful dictinction.


Richard English
 
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If we call those who use the television "viewers," is it too much to hope we may call those who use the library "readers?"

("Users" is so...harsh.)


RJA
 
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When I was employed in the National Park Service a number of years ago, "those people" were called visitors.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Robert Arvanitis:
If we call those who use the television "viewers," is it too much to hope we may call those who use the library "readers?"

("Users" is so...harsh.)


"Users" always makes me think of drugs, and I only WISH everyone in the library was a reader!


*******
"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
~Dalai Lama
 
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<Asa Lovejoy>
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quote:



"Users" always makes me think of drugs, and I only WISH everyone in the library was a reader!


Well then, how about "refugee?" Roll Eyes
 
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Somehow I sense that all these name changes are the "work" (using the term loosely) of people with too much time on their hands. As I recall, students in school no longer have gym classes or go to the library; they have classes in kinetic wellness and they go to the Instructional Resource Center. This is progress?
 
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Actually, Hic, I think what's going on is that we're trying to find a label for people, which, if you ask me, are too diverse and interesting to ever be able to withstand a static label.


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"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
~Dalai Lama
 
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Interestingly, I am reading a scholarly paper on values clarification, published in South Africa. They call their students their customers, defining "customer" this way: "anyone to whom a product or service is provided." They then said that the producers and customers (lecturers and students) are both part of the production process. The lecturers and students were the "internal customers" and the "external customers" weren't employed by or studying at the college.

It seems like a lot of rigamarole to me!
 
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I think it has helped my own company (yes, we call our library system a company, too) to think of fellow employees as internal customers. It keeps us thinking about serving one another. Not a bad thing, really. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes at the library, and a great number of employees who are there simply to do those things . . . and we haven't always gotten decent service from them. Now, everyone has to go through the same customer service training, so hopefully we'll be treating one another as well as we treat the folks who come through the front door.


*******
"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
~Dalai Lama
 
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quote:
Originally posted by tinman, Sat Oct 09, 2004:
But the City [of Mount Vernon] has recently decided to curtail all library services to non-residents.

I'm happy to announce that, according to this morning's Seattle P-I, Mount Vernon has reversed its decision.

Tinman
 
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Oh, that's great, Tinny! Lucky you!


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"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
~Dalai Lama
 
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I know this is an old thread for us, but I wanted to show you that the debate continues in my field.

Kalleh - are you still debating what to call patients, too?


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"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
~Dalai Lama
 
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I see that I did contribute to this debate, some four years ago (and still with the same avatar). I don't think I've changed my view all that much - there is a useful distinction between the various terms. But I would add now that it's more important HOW you treat those you serve than WHAT you call them.


Richard English
 
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quote:
Kalleh - are you still debating what to call patients, too?
Yes, the debate is still raging. However, "patient" may be winning the battle. There has been a new national initiative in nursing education, addressing quality and safety, and they have chosen the "patient" term. I have always preferred "patient," so I am glad to see that.
 
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