What do you call the people who use your library?

Voting is now closed in my poll on what we call the people who use our libraries. Thank you to everyone who voted and participated in the discussion here and on Twitter.

Studying at the library Image credit: University Communications

The results can be seen in the chart below. I have to say I’m not surprised that User came out top with 34%, it was always in the top two as the votes came in. From the comments I’d heard on Twitter I think people prefer it because it can be applied to everyone, no matter what type of library they are using or for what purpose. The idea that different sectors used, or preferred, different terms came up a lot in the discussion. A couple of academic librarians felt member was more appropriate to public libraries because it implies that people have to join to use the library’s services. My argument against this and for the use of the term member in academic libraries too is that membership of the university library may be automatic but it is membership nonetheless and a status that is required in order to use the services provided.

I am surprised that Reader came in second and actually was leading for most of the time. I always thought Reader was a peculiar term. I’d never come across it before I started work in Oxford and assumed it was a legacy from the way back when. I’d be interested to hear in the comments whether anyone outside Oxbridge users this term.

Two additional terms that were suggested by those voting ‘Other’ were Borrower and Visitor. I have problems with each of them but for different reasons. Borrower to me feels outdated and implies that those people are only using one aspect of a library’s service. Visitor seems to be the opposite of Member; it suggests a lack of ownership or belonging and I think it puts distance between that person and the library.

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