Friday, June 26, 2015
Here is an detailed article offering suggestions on dealing with this problem in both academic and public libraries: Nicole P. Dyszlewski, Kristen R. Moore & Genevieve Blake Tung, Managing Disruptive Patron Behavior in Law Libraries: A Grey Paper. One section of the article suggests ways to interact with these patrons. Here is a summary:
● Address problematic patron behavior early, before it escalates.
● Make sure that patrons who face losing some or all of their library privileges due
to behavior problems have some avenue for internal appeal and review. This
could mean involving the library’s governing board, a library committee, or
● Keep contact information for local free and low-cost local legal services
providers available at all public-services desks and in printed hand-outs for
● Libraries that serve homeless or economically marginalized patrons may also
wish to keep current lists of local social service providers, such as food pantries.
a list of local organizations that provide a place to take a shower and other
● Make sure that patrons feel heard when they voice a complaint.
● Communicate clearly and reinforce positive take-aways from challenging
situations. As one county law librarian responded in the survey, “If I have to ask
someone to leave because they’re disruptive to other patrons I explain to them
why they need to leave, but also that they are welcome to use the library
another day when they are less agitated. This usually works.”
● In an academic library, use student orientation sessions as an opportunity to
open channels of communication, including how to engage staff to solve
● Consider posting anonymous patron complaints, and the library’s response, in a
public place or online.
● Small amenities can build goodwill and prevent conflict.
○ For example, if some of your library’s reading areas are within easy
earshot of group study areas, the reference or circulation desk, or close
to the exit, consider lending noise-cancelling headphones and offering
patrons individually wrapped earplugs.
○ If your patrons include students or attorneys who perennially leave their
laptops unattended at their desks, consider lending laptop locks.
● Be alert and aware, but take pains not to assume that a particular patron
encounter will end poorly from the start.
● Consistency and equal treatment go hand-in-hand. Although a law library may
prioritize services for its primary patron groups, consistent with its mission), all
patrons who are permitted to use the space are entitled to be treated equally
with respect to conduct rules.