Patronage 2.0

My attention shifted today to a site guaranteed to warm — nay, torch — a librarian’s heart: Superpatron.

This is a blog written by Edward Vielmetti, an energetic and tech-savvy patron of the forward-thinking Ann Arbor District Library. As outlined on Superpatron, the courtship went this way: he suggested that the library build RSS feeds into its catalog, whoever responded from the library knew about Vielmetti’s interesting personal blog and complimented him on it, Vielmetti joined the library’s technology advisory board, and now here’s Superpatron.

Let’s sample a few of the notions recently blogged there:

1/4 – I was wondering the other day whether libraries shouldn’t start to keep special collections of books meant to be written in. There would be a special shelf for them, when you checked them out there would be a nice pencil or pen to go with, and maybe if you were lavish you’d bind in a few extra blank pages between chapters for extra notes or a pocket in the back to keep note cards.

1/3 – I’ve experimented at various times with posting lists of the books I’m interested in out of the catalog at the Ann Arbor District Library and into my blog. My latest effort is below. It uses a combination of Feedburner and its RSS-to-Javascript publishing services to take data from the AADL’s records for my hold list and format it nicely.

12/30 – I wrote a half dozen lines of not very pretty code and turned the Ann Arbor District Library‘s new holding lists into a wall of books display for non-fiction and for fiction.

The AADL is naturally moved to comment publicly on many of Superpatron‘s fine ideas. Best of all, a climate of creative use is being fostered: a library opens its resources up through blogs and feeds, and Web 2.0 mavens run with it.

A note about the word patron. It’s my sense, having just completed library school, that this word is out of fashion – one hears and sees user much more frequently, and even, from time to time, customer. Presumably, some notions about banishing old stereotypes and (patronizing?) approaches is behind this trend. But I’m against it; I like patron, and maybe power users of library services like Superpatron will help to revive this fine old term.

The OED’s definition of patron stresses “defender, protector” at the core of the term — it derives from padro/father & is inflected with religious use. User is so very dry and generic — equally applicable to dishwashers, screwdrivers, highways, and drugs. Patron actually restores the deference to a “user community” that libraries so often profess — and surely we can say the word without taking on the full baggage of patriarchy or ecclesiastical intervention or starving artist exploitation or what have you. Patron is compact and it correctly assigns ultimate responsibility for the life of a library.

As for customer — stop it, just please stop it.

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