One of my job responsibilities as a reference assistant is to attend meetings and webinars on different library issues from around the country. Unfortunately, more times than not these seminars have topics like library security, dealing with disruptive or disorderly customers, and working with people experiencing homelessness.
I was amazed to learn that the Library of Congress has no time limits on their internet usage, and that when the doors open there is a mad rush for the computers so people have a place to hang out for the day. Not that I wish to deny anyone a place to be, but certainly all-day use was not the intended purpose for these computers.
It saddened me to read that the Seattle area library system averages eight library incidents PER DAY! Here at L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, we do not average eight incident reports in a month. I tend to think of Seattle as a bunch of techies that drink coffee all day, but I understand that larger cities with multiple libraries, will always have more than their share of problems.
Do we have the occasional person that is disruptive? Loud? Disrespectful of both the library staff and their fellow customers? Yes, of course we do. Do we sometimes make mistakes at the reference desk or fail to find the answer someone seeks, and do some people become angry at us? Yes, it does happen. But for the most part, if we ask someone to tone it down in the quiet area, or lower their voice while on a cell phone, they respectfully comply. Very seldom does the conversation escalate to a customer shouting at us. But again, of course, it does happen.
We all want everyone’s library experience to be positive, rewarding, informational, educational, and entertaining. Our goal is to fulfill the library’s Mission Statement: “To promote lifelong learning, create collaborative spaces, and support open access to diverse materials and resources to enhance the quality of life in the community.”
So, thank you to our loyal library users for helping to make this a great place to be!