Because of stagnant or declining budget allocations, many libraries have made conscious attempts to foster customers’ self-sufficiency. Sometimes this self-sufficiency is euphemistically called empowering customers. Whatever term is used, the result is that customers are expected to do more for themselves. Now, there is nothing inherently wrong in trying to promote customer self-sufficiency; most people are used to fending for themselves in supermarkets and gas stations. In fact, many customers like to be able to peruse the merchandise without sales personnel hovering in the background or actively trying to induce purchases. At some supermarkets and other businesses, customers can register their purchases with optical scanners and then make payment.


Libraries also permit self-checkout, patron-driven acquisitions (as part of just-in-time access to and development of collections), and the electronic filing of inter library loan requests; provide self-help guides (print and digital); and create other ways to encourage the customer to be self-sufficient. However, libraries should review their practices and policies to ensure that, when possible, visits do not become frustrating. How the library helps or hinders navigating and deciphering the system alters customers’ perceptions of the quality of service provided and their attitudes about librarians and libraries generally. This does not mean that libraries— their arrangement, staff, policies, diverse collections and services, and equipment—are responsible for any and all instances of confusion.