This is part of a series of Session Notes from grantees who have received Professional Development grants from the Office of Commonwealth Libraries. Each grantee will share their professional development experience and include tips and other resources from the workshop or class. Grantees had their choice of an article for the Compendium, a webinar or a podcast. This project was made possible by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
by Corinne Brumbach,
Outreach Services Coordinator
Berks County Public Libraries
Age of the Patron
The overall theme of the Innovative User’s Group Conference focused on the most important people in the library, the customers. Multiple presentations stressed the importance of our patrons. The Innovative group plan to make all future technology advances to their various ILS systems with the patron in mind is the main priority. As Mr. Leif Pedersen, Executive Vice President for Product Management and Marketing for Innovative states, it is the age of the patron! While this seems obvious, our profession often clings to notions of tradition. It can be especially difficult to remove emotions when assessing a program, service, or policy. If we want a sustainable future, we must shift our thinking, placing the needs of our customers first.
One public library shared their experience in breaking barriers at the IUG Conference. Staff at the Addison Public Library in Illinois made a historic, customer-first decision: elimination of fines for residents. The decision was rooted in wanting to remove barriers, not wanting patrons to be punished or feel unwelcome. After three months of being fines free, the library went from 1,320 blocked juvenile cards to 425, billed library items are resolved 40 days faster and there was a 78% reduction in days an item is overdue. Curiously, circulation statistics have not varied greatly.
A single question can guide all future decisions, what is best for the patron? Are library policies impeding access for patrons? Are cataloging practices restricting access? Are we more focused on outputs rather than outcomes? Are we planning programs based on perceptions of what the customers want, or have we asked them directly? Has your community given input on what operating hours are best? To secure a successful future for public libraries, we must come together and approach library operations with a business mindset, always putting the customer first.