the great user debate

Saw a post on O’Reilly Radar today about something that has always bothered me a bit about working libraries – which is the lesser of three semantic evils: “user”, “customer”, or “patron”? According to Jimmy Guterman, “as has often been noted, there are only two industries that refer to their customers as users: high tech and illegal drugs.” Shame on him for forgetting about libraries.

In my opinion, none of these three most common choices is a particularly flattering or representative way to describe those who voluntarily benefit from what we do. Good arguments can be made for and against all three, and will probably continue to be made for eternity. What’s interesting about the post is the fact that those in high tech seem to sustain the exact same dialogue about the categorizations that librarians do. Also, fifty comments and counting offer a variety of pros, cons, and alternative suggestions worth looking at… “visitor”, “participant”, and “netpawn” to name a few.

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