jump to navigation

Difficult and/or Problem Patrons January 30, 2007

Posted by L Wolfe in Library Stuff.
trackback

We had a great discussion at the first St. Louis Saturday of 2007, held at the Blackberry Café in Clayton. The proprietor asked me what kind of meeting we were having. I replied we were “library people, librarians.” I am thinking he was surprised at how lively and loud the group became, but he didn’t shush us! There were 15 people in attendance, including our three gracious LISGSA committee members, 3 just graduated students, 2 other alums, one soon to be student, a student participating in the University of Alabama program, and many familiar and new faces. All sorts of libraries were represented and all seemed to have experience with “problem” patrons. The talk explored specific difficult situations, library policy, useful verbiage, and humorous stories. We agreed that everyone had a right to library services, but that our challenge is to provide the best possible service to the greatest number. We have to be conscious of when any patron interferes with or limits our ability to provide access or services to other patrons.

Christa Van mentioned the book, Patron Behavior in Libraries by Beth McNeil & Denise J. Johnson, I found a very useful chart in the chapter “Down and Out in the Reading Room: The Homeless in the Public Library.” The chart classifies problem patrons into groups or broad headings. Some are descriptions of illegal behavior in the library; others apply to behavior that goes against common policies in libraries.

Class I
Dangerous (very serious)
Class II
Who Knows? (serious but…)
Class III
Nuisances (annoying but harmless)
Armed
Sexually deviant
Emotionally disturbed
Predatory
Combative
Felonious
Delinquent
Committing arson
Vandalizing
Threatening
Touching
Child molesting
Lawbreaking
Paranoid
Drug-intoxicated
Openly hostile
Verbally abusive
Drug selling
Drunk
Narcotized
Homeless
Soliciting
Defacing
Rule breaking
Belonging to a gang
Highly emotional
Staring
Exhibitionist
Zealous, preaching
“Acting weird”
Politically incorrect
Physically ill
Hallucinating
Bringing pets
Continual pacing
Loitering
Begging
Malodorous
Eating
Time monopolizing
Laundering
Loud talking, laughing
Defacing
Latchkey
Whispering, humming
Lonely
Sleeping
Hyperactive
Voyeuristic
Amorous (consensual)
Coughing
Drinking beverages
Knuckle-cracking
Chattering

Although all homeless patrons are not problem patrons, I find the more you know about this population, the better prepared you are to offer services and deal with “interesting” situations. In “The Dilemma of Urban Library Service for the Homeless.” (Current Studies in Librarianship), the author demonstrates the different ways that libraries address the needs of this population. While some libraries provide help through referrals to outside agencies such as Baltimore Public Library’s “street card” that lists services such as food, health, shelter, legal aid, etc., many libraries restrict services to patrons who cannot provide a home address. Here are some other articles from HW Wilson’s Library Literature on the subject:

  • Ayers, S. The Poor and Homeless: An Opportunity for Libraries to Serve. The Southeastern Librarian v. 54 no. 1 (Spring 2006) p. 66-74
  • Manley, W. Don’t Judge Patrons by Appearances. American Libraries v. 36 no. 7 (August 2005) p. 104
  • Pierce, J. B. Finding an Ethical Balance. American Libraries v. 35 no. 11 (December 2004) p. 61

And don’t forget to check out the articles recommended by the St. Louis LISGSA committee. Thanks guys! 🙂

Technorati Tags: ,

Advertisements

Comments»

No comments yet — be the first.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: