Dealing with Difficult Patrons

Getting to know your patrons is an important part of being a librarian. Regular patrons develop a strong relationship with their librarian and are likely to advocate for the library in the community. But for every super awesome patron, there is bound to be one that is a little more difficult. Classic examples of difficult patrons are easy to come by; they may have a strong body odor, talk too loud, run, bring their bike into the library, ignore all social cues, walk behind the reference desk, or expect you to remember their Facebook password among other things.

So, how do you deal with a difficult patron effectively? The first step is to make sure that you have policies in place and that you enforce them equally across all races, social classes, genders, and ages. Too often, policies are written as a reaction to difficult patrons. Save yourself a headache and write policies now. This will assure that you aren’t targeting one specific patron by writing a “no brushing your teeth in the 2nd sink of the upstairs men’s restroom” policy.

Make sure you treat your patrons with kindness when addressing them about a breach in policy. Librarianship is a customer service profession and responding in a condescending tone may only escalate the situation. Stay calm—especially when it feels like it would be easier to blow up.

Below are some webinars and readings that can help you learn how to cater your approach to dealing with difficult patrons. Hopefully these prove beneficial, but it may help to look at other communication or customer services training depending on your specific issues and library.

Webinars:

Some light reading on the topic:

  • https://bit.ly/2NE2kd7 This website provides scripts and tips for common library patron issues. The webinar through ALA is linked above (as is the book which is available through ILL.)
  • Difficult Patron Behavior: Success Stories from the WebJunction Community: https://bit.ly/2LK5Xho
  • Technology, Road Rage, and Customer Service: https://bit.ly/2NGJSAT
  • The case studies at the end of this PDF may be good discussion points. https://bit.ly/2uMJHNa

Online Courses through Universal Class:

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