More than 70 library staff members from the Northeast, Wilkes-Barre and Scranton Library Districts earned six CE hours for their attendance at the multidistrict workshop, Library Patrons: Practical Tools for Resolving (& Preventing) Problems. Presenter Ryan Dowd kept the audience engaged with practical, proven techniques that will help avoid escalating confrontations in the public library.
Mr. Dowd is an attorney who runs the second largest homeless shelter in Illinois. He is the founder of the Homeless Training Institute, which provides training to libraries and other organizations worldwide. While his tips were geared to interactions library staff may have with individuals experiencing homelessness, they are sure to be helpful with any irate patron or difficult situation that may arise. He stressed the need to show respect to all patrons, because at first glance, there really is no way to positively identify people who are not homeless from those who are, and everyone is entitled to respect. The Golden Rule applies. Perhaps even more important to keep in mind is the fact that many homeless people are coming from a world very different from ours, in which they must be hyper vigilant to remain safe. Their level of trust is low, and staff may have to work a bit harder to earn it.
Among Mr. Dowd’s many useful tips were these:
Greet every patron. The average person will appreciate being noticed. Those with less than honorable intent will be on notice that you are paying attention.
If someone must be reprimanded or evicted, make the conversation private, and feel free to “blame the rules.” Explain why action is being taken and what the terms are.
In loud confrontations, speak at lower volume. Not doing so generally results in volume escalation and is counterproductive.
When faced with real, imminent danger, call 911.
Mary Ann W. Yonki
Wilkes-Barre Library District Consultant
Osterhout Free Library, North Branch