NLW 2019: Patrons are People

Patrons are People coverPatrons are People

I found this in a pile of old items in my library’s basement. It was not in use, and probably hadn’t seen the light of day since the 1950s, thankfully.

The illustrations are adorable, and much of the advice is sound:

  • Letting the customer be right (even when they are clearly wrong)
  • Smiling when you speak to soften your tone
  • Acknowledging patrons when you are busy
  • Calling patrons back rather than keeping them on hold on the phone
  • Relating to teenagers

Advice I’m not as crazy about is not answering certain questions over the phone. Of course I’m not doing a student’s homework for them, but the communication method usually doesn’t change how I answer a question. I ask if they are working on a homework assignment and then suggest online sources, offer to set aside books on their topic, and suggest keywords for searches. You can tell if an adult wants a quick answer to a “ready reference” question (What time was sunset last Tuesday? What’s the gross national product of Peru?) or if a student wants you to do their homework for them. That’s called a reference interview.

I like the title, too. Patrons are people. They are your neighbors, your family, and the people who work in the restaurants, stores, post office, doctor’s office, gas station, and auto repair shop you patronize. You are a patron, and you are a person, so there’s good advice here to treat people like…people. Too bad the examples talk about bobby socks, Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature, and card catalogs.


Patrons are People contents

Patrons are People contents

Never maintain that you're right

smile when you say it

Don't answer that question

working with teens


  1. I love books like these because some things never change.

    there very well could be no card for Shakespeare. I remember a class of middle school children back in the late 1980s when card catalogs were still in wide use. I

    I was showing them how to use our card catalog when the question came up, ‘If I find something I want do I rip the card out and bring it to you?’ NOOOOOOO!!!

    BTW, does anyone remember Will Manley’s books about librarianship? They were wonderful.

  2. I haven’t read all the pages posted – but some things never change. And yet many in public services (and customer services too) never seem to learn the lessons.
    Oh well.
    I would have loved to have had this book when I was taking Library Management course at Simmons.

  3. Ear worm – I keep sing “Patrons are People, people with…”
    My own version of “Parents Are People” from Free To Be You and Me.

    1. Oh wow! This song has been an ear worm for me too but I couldn’t figure out why! It must have been triggered by this, I hadn’t thought of that song in years.

  4. The scanned pages above appear to be from the 1956 edition. Both that edition and the original 1945 edition are readable in full online at HathiTrust. (The copyrights were never renewed, so they’re in the public domain now, at least in the US.)

    The 1956 edition featured above can be found at

    and the earlier 1945 edition can be found at

    if you want to read them for yourself (or feel better about weeding your old print copies).

  5. “No Card for Shakespeare” sounds like a great early 21st Century band name!

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