Robust Policies to Protect Patrons and Staff

Younger, Jamar. “Guards, police keeping order at PIma County libraries for $750K a year.” tusan.com, 16 March 2014. https://tucson.com/news/local/guards-police-keeping-order-at-pima-county-libraries-for-750k-a-year/article_88cb1d09-85e5-51c9-a54b-3f6c4c7e5b10.html Accessed 18 November 2022.

Creating a safer and welcoming environment in the library is nothing new. However, in the past decade safety in the library, and outside on library property, has become a major concern for patrons and staff. Today, we are dealing with an environment where patrons and staff are increasingly looking over their shoulders. For patrons, they are at a point where they will leave the library if another patron is causing problems. Especially in the Children’s area. I have seen parents leave with their children to get away from angry or loud patrons. For staff, they are afraid to even do their job especially when a patron is yelling or getting angry as they are not sure if that patron will become violent or will accost them in the parking lot either coming into work or leaving. I know there are no magical solutions that will make this new reality go away. What I do know, is we need to create robust policies, create consistent rules and consequences for patrons, along with support and understanding for our staff.

Creating a robust library policy or Code of Conduct will let patrons and staff know exactly what to expect for behavior and consequences. For example, at the Calabasas Library, here are a few of the library’s policies:

The following are not permitted in the library:

  1. Exhibiting loud or disruptive behavior that disturbs library activities.
  2. Interfering with another person’s use of the library or with library personnel’s performance of duties.
  3. Using vulgar, abusive or threatening language directed at library patrons or staff.
  4. Displaying physical threats to library patrons or staff.
  5. Abusing or misusing library furnishings, equipment or materials, including jumping on furniture, banging on computers and placing your feet on tables or chairs. Moving furniture without staff permission.
  6. Running, wrestling, pushing, climbing, biking, skateboarding, or skating in the library

For the Thousand Oaks Library, their Code of Conduct list includes

  • Speak softly.
  • Talk on cell phones in the lobby or outside the building only.
  • Enjoy your food in designated areas or the outside courtyard only.
  • Ensure drinks in the library are securely covered.
  • Wear a shirt and shoes at all times.
  • No running.
  • No animals, with the exception of identifiable guide and service animals.

Both the Calabasas and Thousand Oaks Libraries have stated that If policies are broken, the patron could be asked to leave. Calabasas Library has stated that if a patron is violent they can be banned from the library. It is very important that patrons know there are consequences to their actions. Policies need to be clear and have the consequences spelled out so there is no confusion.

When problems arise, we need to stand behind and support the staff. This could mean stepping in and being a buffer to the staff member/s that are being verbally attacked. Unfortunately, many staff members have been physically attacked. This is when security measures in place will help protect those involved. For those libraries that are able to have a security team, have their number available at all Reference and Circulation Desks. When possible, have the security team come in and meet with staff. Have training for staff and create a policy where they know when it’s time to call management and/or the security/police.

When the issue is over, give the staff member a break and give them time to wind down. This is a very emotional event and will affect them for the rest of the day, if not longer. Listen to them and do not dismiss them and their feelings. This should not be the new normal. Library staff should not have to become used to being verbally or physically attacked. Management needs to step in and create policies that are robust and have a kick to them.

Above are just a few policies that let patrons know what behavior is expected from them. These Codes of Conduct are from two different libraries. What about your library?

What are some policies your library has and what policies do you feel are important?

Does your library have different or additional Codes of Conduct for your Children’s area?

Is there a policy that is important that relates just to the Children’s area?

Please let us know what you feel is important and what additional policies you feel should be put in place.

Calabasas Library. https://www.cityofcalabasas.com/government/library/library-policies. Accessed 18 November 2022.

Thousand Oaks Library. https://www.tolibrary.org/services/about-us/library-policies/code-of-conduct. Accessed 18 November 2022.

Today’s blog post was written by Kerrie Mierop, Youth Services Librarian at Calabasas Library in California, on behalf of the ALSC Managing Children’s Services Committee.

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