Work Like a Patron Day? Which Patrons?
and talking around us." Which brought out a huge sigh. Because not a day goes by that there isn't a "silly patrons, asking for quiet! We aren't shushers anymore"post in the library blogosphere or listservs.
Sophie: That's an important question -- what patron, indeed! Since libraries are open to every member of a given community, "patron" means many individuals representing many demographics. What you say about what "patron" means to different members of staff is actually a good way to look at it -- if every member of staff chooses a particular patron group to emulate on Work Like A Patron Day, then a given library should have a pretty decent picture of what different people are hoping to get out of their library experiences.
I think it would be a mistake to craft new rules around the observations gleaned from WLAPD, though: I'd rather see libraries using those observations as a way to open a conversation between library and community about what is expected, and what is possible, given the library's budget, staffing, hours, and space. I'd also like to see libraries use those WLAPD observations to implement small changes that would improve the overall atmosphere of the library. After working for a day at stations where keyboards aren't functioning properly and screens are all smudged up, I bet the in-charge-of-computer library staff would add "clean computer screens" to their daily routine and would ask the IT folks to fix or replace the keyboard. That's not rules, that's making the library as functional & clean as Kinko's, where their patrons might also be doing some computing.
Ditto the business of shushing/not shushing. I think many libraries are so into making internet-accessible computers available to the public that they aren't thinking as much as they could be about the realities of libraries as mixed-use public spaces. As you say, depending on the time of day and day of the week, the library is serving many functions to many different demographic groups, from quiet-seeking scholars to rambunctious families spilling giddily forth from storytime. I think the person Michael quotes in the entry you link to is really asking us to look at how & if we're offering spaces that are well-suited to the needs of our communities, rather than asking our communities to make do with the spaces we offer them.
Sophie: Oh, I agree -- "making do" is making lemonade out of lemons, not saying, "well, we're budgetarily screwed, so, sorry, folks! You're SOL, too!"
This fits in well with what we wrote about in our book (warning! shameless plug for Pop Goes the Library: Using Pop Culture to Connect With Your Whole Community, available for purchase now!) about the importance of library services being specific to a given community, and being engaged in ongoing conversations with their communities. Just as we need to take a look at what pop cultural trends are speaking to our communities, so we need to look carefully at what usage needs are now, and how they may be changing. Maybe Community A sees a spike in homeless usage of the library and its bathrooms because local shelters are crammed, while Community B sees their computer usage going through the roof because once-spendy community members aren't replacing outmoded home computers because their budget can't stretch to afford it, and then Community C finds that its patrons want more fiscal health programming.
I think what Brian Herzog is getting at in his original post is that libraries are never done. Our policies are (or should be) always evolving, because the communities we exist to serve are changing, too. We're not going to please all of the people, all of the time, and that's hard to swallow, because as a profession, we like to meet our communities' needs. But by speaking honestly and working collaboratively with our community members, we can serve most of the people really well nearly all of the time. And that's what we should really be shooting for.