November 29, 2015

Identifying and Cultivating the ‘Power Patron’

Library Journal's Patron ProfilesLibrary Journal released the first volume of a four-part ongoing publication called Patron Profiles last week. The first installment is a 33-page report called Library Patrons and Ebook Usage.

The report is unusual in that it doesn’t focus so much on perception of libraries or the information-seeking behavior of patrons, but rather on who uses libraries and why. It examines areas such as the library borrower as a book buyer, library ebook users, drivers and barriers to library usage, and what patrons value.

An interesting element in the report is the notion of a “power patron,” defined as a person who visits a library’s onsite facility at least once per week. Power patrons made up only 20 percent of the 2,421 survey participants, but the report recommends that libraries “recognize and cultivate” power patrons and not take them for granted.

Although public libraries need to identify and reach out to nonusers, it is the power patrons who, to a large degree, drive a library’s usage and success, according to the report.

The report gives some indications of who the power patrons are:

  • the majority (62 percent) are women;
  • 50 percent have an annual income of $50,000 or higher;
  • they read over 47 books per year compared to less than 18 books for the occasional patron;
  • they borrow over 42 books per years compared to less than six for the occasional patron;
  • they understand the library’s full range of services, borrowing more CDs, audiobooks, games, etc.;
  • they are more likely to vote;
  • 48 percent believe library offers excellent value for the tax dollar, compared to 24 percent of occasional users.

In addition, 40 percent of power patrons reported purchasing a book that they had previously borrowed from their library, and two-thirds reported buying a book by an author they discovered at the library.

An overwhelming number of power patrons, 75 percent, came to the library to borrow books, but 61 percent said their greatest driver of satisfaction was “general ambiance.” Unfortunately, only 35 percent rated their library’s ambiance as excellent.

The report provides detailed characteristics of all library patrons in such areas, which helps paint a picture of the difference between frequent and infrequent library patrons.

The next volumes in the series are:

  • Mobile Devices, Mobile Content, and Library Apps (January 2012)
  • Library Web Sites and Virtual Services (April 2012)
  • Media Consumption and Library Use (July 2012)

Subscription information can be found at

Michael Kelley About Michael Kelley

Michael Kelley ( is the former Editor-in-Chief, Library Journal.

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