At the beginning of May I presented a session on New Zealand Libraries in 2025 at the LIANZA Waikato/BOP Weekend School where I shared some ideas about how libraries can get to 2025, whatever it may look like.
One suggestion was the need to move from patron-focussed libraries to patron-driven libraries. (If the terminology seems unfamiliar, you could just as easily substitute the word patron with customer, client, or user.)
Patron-focussed libraries know that their patrons are important and will learn whatever they can about their patrons to improve the library’s services. Patron-driven libraries know that their patrons are their business. Rather than learn about their patrons, patron-driven libraries think like their patrons and use this information to change the way their library is run.
For example, most libraries let patrons submit suggestions for purchase. If the suggestion meets the library’s selection criteria, and there is budget, then the item is usually purchased. This is patron-focussed. The library learns what is of interest to patrons and determines whether it fits with the library’s business model before making the purchase. Other libraries, particularly tertiary libraries with ebooks, allow patrons to make a purchase without any intervention at all. This is patron-driven acquisitions, and the patron is the decision maker.
Shelley Gurney from Catalyst IT and Paul Nielsen from Hauraki District Libraries also presented the same weekend on mythbusting the Koha Open Source ILS. This session reinforced the values and benefits of being customer-driven.
In terms of ILS systems, proprietary systems are patron-focussed and open source is patron-driven, with libraries being the patrons or end-users. Proprietary ILS vendors learn what is of interest to libraries and if, it fits within their business model provide a solution. An open source ILS on the other hand, allows libraries to make the decisions themselves.
In some ways the difference between patron-focussed libraries and patron-driven libraries is similar to the differences between buying a pizza or making one yourself. Both have their advantages depending on your needs and capabilities.
Individuals today, have more influence over what, when, and how they interact with organisations than they’ve ever had. Libraries must adapt their offerings to ensure patrons choose the library before any other information source, or risk becoming obsolete and irrelevant.