WVLS staff who attended the WAPL Conference in Pewaukee on May 2-4 will highlight conference recaps.

Session Title and Description:
From upset customers, to rowdy teens, to downright dangerous individuals, how confident are you in your ability to handle tough situations? Does your library have practices and expectations in place? Take a look at some basic strategies to empower your staff to handle tough situations with library users. Learn policies and procedures that can help and about effective ways to share information among staff. Michelle has been a librarian for 25 years in both small and medium sized libraries, and has been Head of Access and Security Services at the Hedberg Public Library since 2011 with additional experience working with mentally ill adults and runaway teens.

One session that stood out for me was one called “Everybody Does Security,” presented by Michelle Denis. Michelle works at the Hedberg Public Library in Janesville.

Right off the bat, Michelle recommended several resources that she references when working with library patrons.

Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion (Thompson)
Black Belt Librarian (Graham)
The Library’s Guide to Homelessness (Dowd)

Michelle referenced ideas from all of these resources throughout her presentation. She talked more about best customer service tactics when dealing with patrons at the library who might challenge us.

Some key highlights:

  • 30/30/30 rule: Every 30 days, every 30 minutes, watch what is going around you for 30 seconds. What is the buzz? Who is there? Get to know what is ‘normal,’ so you know when something isn’t.
  • Stress the behavior of difficult patrons. ‘You are a valuable person. It’s your behavior that is unacceptable.’
  • Be compassionate and empathetic, but also have a standard.
  • Have a Public Code of Behavior: What are your rules about smoking and vaping? What are your rules about drugs in the building? Hedberg Public Library models the same rules as the local school district and use its language. This helps with consistency with teens.
  • Speaking confidently about the rules comes from being confident yourself. If you aren’t confident, fake it until you make it.
  • Be sorry about the uncomfortable conversation, but not about the rule you are enforcing.
  • Have some signature phrases of ‘security’ things that you say. We learn by doing.
  • If you are documenting issues with patrons, use a simple, consistent form.

Michelle also talked about handling difficult situations in phases.
Phase 1: Smile and say hello.
Phase 2: Offer information. Assume the person doesn’t know the rule.
Phrase 3: Remind them about the rule and encourage compliance.

She also stressed that when it’s time for someone to go, it’s time for them to go. At Hedberg Public Library, front desk staff can ask for back up at any time.

This session had a full room of people, and the audience had a lot of great questions. Some audience members shared similar experiences.

-Submitted by Jamie Matczak