If you’ve worked in a library setting or read my previous post on what they don’t teach you in library school, then you know that library school doesn’t fully prepare you for what you face in the library work place. After briefly covering the strange and enigmatic people known as patrons, I’ve gotten some requests to expound a bit more on the daily interactions with said patrons. Any seasoned library can tell you dealing with patrons is often the most challenging part of the job – so let’s talk about the customer service aspect.
Customer Service (AKA Dealing with Angry Patrons)
In most jobs now, customer service is a necessity. Libraries, schools, hospitals, banks, stores, and don’t even get me started on hospitals and the hospitality industry in general. Anyone who works with the public will tell you that you can’t please everyone. Growing up, I really wanted to be liked by everyone – that home-grown, all-American Captain America type that makes people say, “Golly, he sure is swell!”. Unfortunately, I had to swallow some very bitter truths about customer service and people in general:
- You will never please everyone, now matter what you do.
- You will never be liked by everyone, now matter what you say or do.
I remember my first job working in movie theaters when I was in high school. I had one co-worker, despite not knowing me at all, hated me. Always sarcastic, snarky, and just plain rude. I would bring donuts and stuff for the whole team, and she would never eat anything. I finally got fed up one night and point blank asked her:
“Did I do something to wrong you or make you upset?”
“Not at all, why?”
“Did I do anything at all that caused a problem with you?”
“Nope. Why do you ask?”
“Then seriously – what is your problem with me?”
She casually shrugged.
“…I don’t know. I just don’t like you.”
Now just picture that, but in a library with 100 patrons.
AND THEIR CHILDREN.
Summer time is a peak time for kids, turning the local library into “running and screaming kid” central. Having fun while attending a program or looking for a book, I get; Sprinting full speed, yelling, and climbing on furniture, not so much.
If you work in a public library, you’ve probably dealt with screaming children at some point. Me personally, I have no problem with them for the most part – after three nephews, I’ve kinda learned to tune crying children out. However, I know patrons can take it personally when a baby is screaming murder and crying its eyes out and the parents are doing nothing about it.
Sadly, the worst part is often the parent or parents who don’t control their children. They’re usually Facebooking or playing on their phone while their kid is climbing on furniture or knocking things over. When said child finally falls and hurt themselves, there are some parents who will point the finger at librarians for not doing anything.
Ma’am, we’re librarians. We’re not daycare. Try watching your child instead of looking for hookups on Craigslist. (Yes, I saw you.)
Many libraries now have a “no-touch” policy, i.e. where employees are not allowed to touch a patron or child in any way, shape or form. I remember a case a few years ago where a librarian caught a child falling and saved him from slamming his skull into the corner of a table. Rather than thank them, the parents of this child SUED that library for laying hands on their child.
Librarians, what gets your goat the most?
Feel free to comment below or on my Facebook page if you haven’t already joined!
That’s what I’ve got for this week, stay tuned for the next episode!
Justin Brasher, Brash Librarian