Written by Justin Hall

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Valuing Community Patrons  

As an academic institution, UNT Libraries provide information resources and services to UNT students, staff, and faculty on a daily basis. However, UNT Libraries are not just open to UNT affiliates, but also community patrons not directly affiliated with UNT. Although community members make up a smaller portion of the patrons that frequent the library, they are just as valuable as UNT affiliated patrons and have access to many of the same resources that UNT affiliates enjoy. With that in mind, UNT Libraries strive to best serve community patrons by understanding their varied information needs. It is critical that library staff adhere to the same high standards of service when assisting the greater community rather than focusing on a smaller group. Community patrons are just as essential to the continued function and success of the library and should be treated as such.  
Why UNT Libraries Serve Community Patrons  
While community patrons rarely support libraries directly, they are still fundamental in terms of academic library mission success. The goal of all libraries, academic or not, is to provide the community with information resources they would otherwise not be able to easily access. In most cases, public libraries are the institutions for providing this service to the community. This is because, unlike academic libraries, public libraries receive their funding directly from community taxes. “Educational institutions, and specifically libraries, understand the necessity of positive relations with their various publics as insurance for the continued financial and emotional support that will lead to their ongoing growth and success” (Marshall, 2001, p.116). 
However, since academic libraries often have specialized resources that are unavailable in public libraries, they can satisfy community needs that would otherwise go unfulfilled. This is one of the main reasons why it is important for institutions like the UNT library to be open and accessible to the general public. Additionally, by supporting the community in unique ways academic libraries are able to build stronger ties to the community thereby making the services they provide all the more valuable and essential. “Librarians at private institutions, however, often see service to unaffiliated users not as a requirement but as a means to maintain good public relations in their communities.” (Courtney, 2003, p.3) 

Understanding the Needs and Privileges of Community Patrons 

Most people who come to the library do so with a purpose in mind. Whether that purpose is internet access, recreational reading, or research, anyone who walks into the library should be considered a patron. UNT Libraries are aware that unaffiliated community patrons have different needs when compared to UNT affiliated patrons which has led to tailored services that are both beneficial and responsive to those needs. 

 For example, all community members have access to the library’s guest computers. By utilizing the guest computers located in the Willis, Sycamore, and Discovery Park branches, any patron can access the full catalog offered by UNT Libraries and all of the digital information resources stored within it. In addition, community members can use the library catalog to search for physical books located in the library. Any community patron can browse the books available in the general collection as long as the books stay within the library. UNT Libraries also offer community members off-site services such as checking out books or placing online holds. These services are available to any patrons with a courtesy card. In order to be eligible for a courtesy card, a community patron must fall under certain criteria such as being a be a Denton resident, UNT alumni member, or enrolled in the TexShare program.  

For more information about the services and resources available to community members checkout the link here.  

Did this blog help you to understand the importance of serving community patrons? Let us know your comments! Please contact Ask Us if you have any questions about library services. 

Courtney, N. (2003). Unaffiliated users’ access to academic libraries: A survey. The Journal of 
Academic Librarianship, 29(1), 3-7. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0099-1333(02)00387-7 

Marshall, N. J. (2001). Public relations in academic libraries: A descriptive analysis. The   Journal of Academic Librarianship, 27(2), 116-121. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0099-1333(00)00183-X 

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