Do you ever say “no” to your patrons? This question has haunted public libraries since we adopted the contemporary business model that states “the client is always right.” Moreover, it is part of the common core of public libraries to offer as much welcoming a place for our customers as we can provide. However, what happens when a customer is infringing into the positive experience of another client? More interestingly, how do we respond to this infringement when the parties involved are caregivers? It’s time to use redirection in public libraries.
Redirection in Public Libraries
As a Youth Services Librarian, I have worked with our Library’s staff to use redirection when witnessing in older children a behavior that might disrupt the library experience of other patrons. In other words, we avoid saying “no.” Instead, we use a narrative that help us reach the desired behavior using redirection and using positive reinforcement when possible. We are referring to behaviors that do not pose immediate risk and which caregivers are not addressing.
|Children tossing puppets.||Don’t throw puppets, please.||Gentle touch, please.|
|Children running||No running, please.||Walking feet, please.|
|Children jumping on sofas||No jumping on furniture.||Sofas are for seating, please.|
|Children screaming||No screaming, please.||Inside voices, please|
When a “no” command is replaced with a redirection, we are securing a positive outcome supported by the caregiver. Caregivers may feel less of a threat to their parenting abilities if our narrative and tone is not judgmental.
On the other hand, we would like to use our better judgement if the patron in question is a young child or a differently-abled child. In those instances we would like to give enough space to the caregiver to handle the situation. Ultimately, we want all our patrons to come back to the library.
What if it is the Caregiver?
You might recall a time when a frustrated caregiver complained to you about another caregiver’s behavior during a Storytime. As we attend to a concern, we are invited to be wise. We listen, gather information, and consider alternatives. For instance, if a Preschool Storytime has ended and you are ready to handout stickers to the young participants, give hugs, or give “fives,” then do you make the children form a line and practice mindfulness? Do you have a more free style and do not follow structure when it is time to dismiss your program?
After a Yoga Storytime’s craft activity, in which we make a point of being respectful of others, the children in attendance were forming a line to receive their stickers. One young child, who does not yet understand the idea, shoves himself to the front, out of line, but requesting attention from the side. This normal behavior happens frequently and most caregivers are mindful to make it a learning opportunity. The librarian might also help by redirecting the child to wait for his or her turn. However, what happens when the caregiver takes offense in this suggestion? A librarian might face an unfavorable situation. Do we please the young child and by extension its caregiver, who appears unaware of a conflict with courtesy? By doing so we might upset the other caregivers who appreciate respect for others.
Do We Ever Say “No”?
Regularly, library staff must make a judgement call when walking a thin line between excellence in customer service and advocating for a positive library experience for everyone.
We avoid saying “no.” Naturally, we are referring to behaviors that may be disagreeable, but are not infringing a Library conduct rule. Interestingly, on occasion, caregivers must also be part of a learning experience. Library staff is cognizant of this fact and plays a pivotal role in making the library experience the most pleasant for everyone. After all, public libraries are in the business of serving the public and our example might help adults to remember that we all share the space in a public library.