Magazine article Library Administrator's Digest

The Problem Patron

Magazine article Library Administrator's Digest

The Problem Patron

Article excerpt

Problem patrons represent a small group, but every library needs to spend time preparing for all problems whether they be potential or real. Preparation begins with a board approved policy and procedures in place which will equip library staff with the confidence to deal with a difficult situation, whether it be an angry patron or someone suspected to be on drugs. The policy can be called "Patron Behavior and Library Usage," "Security Policy," or simply "Problem Patrons"; whatever it is called the document must clarify the library's purpose and specify appropriate and inappropriate uses of the library as well as the consequences of unacceptable behavior.

As policy is developed, focus on specific types of behavior or inappropriate library use not types of people. Before final approval, the policy should be reviewed by an authority familiar with local laws and ordinances. Find out whether the policy needs to be displayed to be enforceable. Another tip when creating your policy is to keep it simple and clear. The policy should be easily interpreted by all staff even if read during an emergency. While local ordinances need to be referred to in your policy, it would be best to append the actual text of the ordinance rather than bog down the policy with legalese.

When writing the policy, consideration should be given to matching the level of consequences with the inappropriate behavior. Problems run a continuum from annoyance to very dangerous. In the book Patron Behavior in Libraries, Bruce Shaman classifies problem patrons into three broad categories based on the perceived threat to others in the immediate vicinity when the inappropriate behavior takes place. The classes are:

*Class I - Dangerous (very serious)

*Class II - Who Knows? (serious, but ...)

*Class III - Nuisances (annoying but harmless)

Class I - the most dangerous type of person may exhibit some of the following behaviors:

-combative

-drug intoxicated

-armed

-sexually deviant

-vandalizing

-threatening

Class II - the serious, but who really knows? …

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