Patrons Have Special Needs


Jessamyn pointed me to This Funny Well Dressed Librarian Post that says every single patron has special needs.

NEED: man who wants us to keep his library card on file at the front desk so he doesn't have to carry it with him.
REASON: (lazy) he loses it a lot.
OUR RESPONSE: We don't keep patron cards at the desk. If you forget your card, show us your DL, or other photo ID
HIS RESPONSE: Absolute confusion.


This is the kind of patronizing, condescendingattitude librarians need to change or we will all be out of business...WHY NOT keep the fellow's card at the deskwhen it will help him out AND save thelibrary system all the time, money andpotential screwups involved in issuingsaid patron a NEW card each and everytime he looses his old one.So what if he looses his card? At leasthe uses the library. At least he cares.Maybe he's an absent minded genius orand eccentric millionaire.Wake up and get real people.Yes, HE KNOWS you think he's and idiot.And he will do something about it.There is a direct relationship between hostile condescending unhelpful attitudes towards customers and their vote to say no to increased library funding, their indifference when WEask for THEIR help and their increasing perceptionthat the library does not offer what they need.

violence in libraries, towards staff and other patrons, is a growing problem. Just google "librarians" and "violence" or a few related terms. I think libraries are attempting to keep the lid closed on this topic, since libraries are facing so many problems, that they really don't want to touch this hot potato. Because of fear of scaring off patrons, potential employees, and having to hire security when budgets are already problematic.But anytime I hear about "crap" service, in any service-oriented jobs, I say, take a holistic look at what is causing the so-called crappy service.Low morale? When was the last time library workers had a COLA? Pissed off at patrons? What is administration's view of the worker as it pertains to deranged patrons' complaints?Stressed-out workers? What is the ratio of staff to patrons? Is one librarian supposed to cover two service desks? And police the building/Internet as well?From time to time, I like to go over and check out the continuing saga at Atlanta-Fulton PL, is really a little scary, fellow library workers at AFPL, is that what is happening is not unique to AFPL. Sure, it sounds like Hooker is not a great library director, but her attitudes and managerial style is not that uncommon.My former library is stretching staff to the limit. Many staff are taking early retirement, and the basic attitude is "I'm not paid enough for this!" Yet many soldier on and attempt to provide good service with what is available to them.I think it's great, despite your constant sarcastic tone, that you are well respected. I know my anecdotal stories seem inflated, but they are not.Here's another one: I was a mid-level manager at a branch where the female teenaged pages were being stalked by a man. This was back in the 1980s before I had my MLS. I was caught in the middle, trying to explain to administrators that this man was exposing himself to pages, whacking off, leaving pix of hard-core porn on the shelves for them to find, etc. And admin did not want to know. Only until one of the page's parents threatened to sue did administration do anything, and that was allow us to call the police.Librarians really seem to come down hardest on their fellow librarians. Sadly, those are the ones who seem to make it to high-level administration positions where they can spread the misery.Bad work environments can translate into bad service and morale.

Customer Service?We love our maggo....patrons.Well, at first I did catch a bit of static with the "Don't Eyeball the Circulation Clerk" policy. However, after the patrons became accustomed to the 15 second scalp shearings and delousings, it really became a rewarding experience to watch their little noggins nervously quiver like life-sized, de-smirked, Derek Jeter bobbleheads.And those kiddies. Wow! To see those little knobby knees rattle against the magical words of Shel Silverstein and Margret Rey was enough to make any librarian....(sniff).... swell with pride.At ease.(smile)

I can't take it any longer. Stop...stop...stop with the generalizations. Personal experiences are wonderful to bring to the table, but in no way indicative of the field in general.>Yet, these professions have some degree of respect, and library workers never do.My public librarians are very highly respected by the community, same with every other city I've lived in (except inner Philly).On librarians being assaulted, maybe its the case you've experienced in your career, maybe other have as well. But it is a generalization based on too little evidence. I've personally know 6 (yes, six) people in corporate jobs who have been assaulted by coworkers...doesn't mean it's a trend in general. I appreciate the examples.I do agree, however, that the field needs a more equitable gender mix (more men), just like other fields need more women. It's healthy.

I think there is probably a significant difference between the way someone might portray themselves or their library patrons in a blog and how they behave in real life.

If being able to blog about work craziness allows you to keep your game face on at work, I see nothing wrong with that. If the well dressed librarian has just been offered a permanant job where he works, I'm sure he does not actually yell "Idiot!" at patrons, or treat them with a lack of senstivity.

I think that some of the snarkiness about librarians who are not always all pollyannaish about their jobs is misplaced. I never learned about having to be the internet sign-up police or dealing with patrons making porn collages in library school. I think it is better to know what people actually have to deal with in reality than make everything seem like it is always sunshine and daisy-time.

Some are not. Some doctorss are great, some should have had their medical license pulled years ago. Same with lawyers. Yet, these professions have some degree of respect, and library workers never do.The point? Not all of everybody is everything, and there are different sides to each story.I guess I have been lucky that I have worked with a lot of library workers, librarians and not, who made shit salaries, and were treated like dirt by patrons, but who maintained their professionalism and managed to help the patrons as much as the patron allowed them to.Here is some on the other side: I know personally seven (yes, seven) librarians who have been physically assauled by patrons. Why?Politely asking an "atypical" patron to please supervise her children who are ripping the children's room apart and destroying the public-use computers. Because, librarians are supposed to maintain some order, and they will get complaints from the public if the computers are in an unusable condition, and the room is a mess as well.One had a patron come across the desk at her. Another was slapped. This is in between the usual masturbators, complainers, and library-card throwers who keep accruing fines (many of which had been forgiven before) and have an attitude with any service staff. And who know that the public library is one of the only places they can take out their aggressions on service staff with little or no repurcussions to themselves.I have seen library staff cursed at in foul language because a patron waited until the last moment to do their taxes, or went past the deadline, and the library worker is attempting to help them get the tax form they need (and are not sure which one it is, which also seems to be the library worker's fault and problem). And staff kept trying to help them, and did get what the patron wanted, with no thanks from said patron.Librarians threatened with losing their job ("I am calling your boss and I pay taxes and you work for me...on and on...") because in between helping the many patrons who come to the reference desk, the patron felt the librarian should also be personally babysitting their 12-year old who just happened to look at "porn".And many more experiences in over 12 years' service to the tax-paying public, who seem to feel that their per capita $12 library tax entitled them to everything, all the time.So, I think there are numerous reasons for bad morale and bad service, and I think it will just get worse until few dedicated people really want to be librarians anymore. And I think this site and sites like the contrarian librarian are important, so people see what public librarianship can really be (stressful) like before entering it. Those who feel it is a fun, no-stress or low-stress job where one sits around reading all day can be forewarned.But anyone can reach a burnout point. And maybe that is where the crummy service starts seeping in.As for the man who wanted the library to hold his card: I guess if he really has a problem, the library can do so. But why should they? The library and its workers are there to provide information to the public, make selections in materials, etc.Not babysit children or cards. And I sometimes wonder, if librarianship was not such a female-dominated field, would the public have more realistic expectations from staff?

I agree with anonymous patron. sigh.Librarians are crap at customer service. When are they going to start teaching it in library schools?Librarians should be polite and helpful. That's the least we can do. And not snigger about people's requests behind their back. That's what I find the most disappointing about some refgrunt blogs, it's all bitching and moaning. Well, why are you a librarian if you hate the people that use libraries?

I agree with most of what you're saying. Losing my library card makes me idiotic and lazy? Huh? I'm not advocating keeping the guy's card at the desk at all, but maybe just a little sensitivity on the part of the author would be nice.

Well, the kid is in library school. Maybe he hasn't taken Dealing with People Who Aren't as Smart and Cool as Me 101 yet.

(From a different Anon)Lets summarize:1.Man is issued library card to check out books.Man often forgets to bring his library card.Man is told that he doesn't need card to check out books.Man is confused.Man is an idiot.Alternate take: library is clearly run by morons who create policies and procedures to no purpose. If one doesn't need a library card, why is one issued a library card?2.Woman wants specific books about doll making.Woman is told they will have to be inter-library loaned.Woman indicates that time is of the essence.Woman is an impatient bitch.Alternate take: Library could provide other doll making information, available locally or online, to tide her over until the requests are filled. But the library staff are overly literal minded and treat information like objects that can be out of stock.3.Woman brings kids to the library.Kids eat chicken at the library.Woman tries to keep kids and library clean.Woman is not good enough to read books, should be satisfied with scrap paper.Alternate take: Woman should check out books and read them at Harolds Chicken Shack, with all the food she wants and none of the self-righteous library staff.4.Man has simple question about the computers.Man gets jargony lecture about purpose of the computer, and related security issues.Man restates simple question.Man is an idiot.Alternate take: Man wants simple answer to simple question, not jargony lecture.5.Man is using the bathroom.Library is closing.Man wants to finish using the bathroom.Man finishes using the bathroom.The "all patron's are idiots" theme is pretty tired. Though, I'm always a fan of the good "evil-patron" story, but this column just wasn't funny.Yes, holding the card at the desk doesn't work, but that isn't the issue. The issue is library staff having complete contempt for their patrons.

According to this logic, I might just forego reading the book I need for a report and have the librarian read it and summarize it for me. Saves me time, I'll keep using the library, and then I won't 'loose' the book. And I'm a genius.If I had any moderation points left, I'd -1 this one.

I would just moderate you as -1 can'treadeventhearticle, but I think it would do better to comment. The Circ people can use another form of id to get the account. Hell, he'd have to show an id to get his card from the Circ desk anyway. Would it be responsible to allow anyone ot ask for the card without proof of identity? No? Didn't think so.

If every single patron who wanted us to keep track of stuff for them got their wish, the circ desk would be overtaken by a file for cards. We're not supposed to be his Mommy; a grown man needs to be responsible enough to take care of his own library card.

Besides, if he can't remember his card, he probably won't remember to bring photo ID, and I certainly hope you aren't advocating giving him the card and letting him check out books without proving that he is, in fact, the person responsible for materials on that card.

You're right that not everybody is bad at customer service, but my experiences have tended to be pretty poor. It's kind of sad. My heart sinks when a librarian turns her nose up at me as though my questions aren't good enough. Chalk me up as yet another person who feels intimidated by information desks. My own profession, too. That's bad.As for customer violence, this is by no means limited to librarians. People seem to be wanting to lash out at anyone these days when they can't get what they want immediately.My husband is a teacher and gets way too much of this kind of behaviour (including being a counsellor to suicidal/homicidal/mentally unstable students), a friend of mine is a town planner and people are constantly threatening to get him fired if they don't like the information he provides. My sister works retail and is always having to deal with irate customers.Yeah I've been threatened with the 'you shouldn't have a job' line too, and I'm in a special library. So it happens everywhere. People have zero patience 'I can't wait 5 minutes, I'm so important, etc etc'Why is it that the public expects us to be babysitters? I was at a conference last year where they asked high school students what their vision of the library would be like in the future, and they said it would have a daycare centre. What are we doing wrong to give people the impression that we provide this service?

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