Wednesday, 25 June 2014

C is for...

Yep, this post has been brought to you by the letter "C".

I've been thinking a bit more about the ways that libraries connect with the community, and the language that we use to describe the relationship that librarians have with those who walk through the library doors.

C is for... customer. This term implies a retail-like relationship, where our product is information - be it in the form of books, magazines, music, news, or online access. We provide this product to the customer who pay for it with their taxes. If they're not happy with the product, they're sometimes quick to remind us that they've paid for it up front with their rates.

C is for... client. This term implies a service-like relationship, where we work to find information for them. They've come to us with a job to do, and we'll be judged according to the quality and timeliness of our service.

The problem with seeing library users as customers or clients is that it implies a one-way relationship. They come to us, and we give them what they want. However, developing this kind of dependent relationship is counterproductive - especially in a digital age where people are equipped with the means to succeed in locating and accessing information. And one of the central principles to libraries is that of life-long learning - NOT life-long getting-somebody-else-to-do-it-for-me!

C is for... counterpart. This term implies a collaborative-like relationship, where we work alongside others in order to achieve a common goal, which is an information-literate society with the skills to access and critically assess information, and share it with the wider community. We are not the gatekeepers, nor are we the indentured servants. We are the teachers who introduce and guide others through the world of information, so that they have the confidence to navigate it independently.