Post contributed by Michelle Welcome, of Montague Public libraries:
The first subject that came to my mind is dealing with problem patrons. Specifically, extreme problem patrons. We have a patron who constantly breaks the ILL rules, and has been doing this for a long time. She oversteps boundaries because she thinks she is entitled to do so. Overstepping as in calling across the state, even across the country, to other libraries to try to get what she wants instead of going through the process we have in place. Just this alone has caused us issues which are time-consuming to sort out. There have been multiple times that dealing with one of her issues has taken hours, and sometimes days, to resolve. We have reminded her of the rules many, many times, formally and informally. It does not matter. At best, she “behaves” for a couple of months, then goes right back at it, as though none of it ever happened. When it comes down to returning an ILL item, she almost always returns it very late. An example is one time we contacted her because she had an item for two months past the due date. She refused to return it until she was able to make copies of something in it.
Additionally, she becomes very abusive to staff. As soon as she hears that we are declining her request (whatever it may be) she changes her attitude and is very rude, sometimes downright mean, has hung up on staff many times then attempted to report to the director that it was the staff member who hung up and was rude. (We know for a fact that it was not, nor has it ever, been any of our staff). Another thing that happens frequently is that she always wants to renew ComCat items and becomes so nasty and rude when staff tries to tell her that they can’t be renewed, she throws a fit and then the renewal happens just to get dealing with her over with. There are so many stories about things that have happened with her, and things she has done, but it would take me writing a book to discuss all of them!
In response to rude patron entry
Part of the problem is that most patrons have no idea of the process and what is involved in getting them materials that are not readily available. With patience, we can often find the most obscure items for them but it is not always an instant fix. I know that people will not read even more signs and more handouts so I am not sure how to get the info out, but I know we try to educate all our new registrations about the benefits of such a great library system and how it works.
This morning a patron questioned me about the difficulty a couple members of her book club had getting a hot book. They were miffed to have to wait in line for the book with the rest of the CWMARS members. I explained how the system works and hopefully she understands that instead of only our 1 or 2 copies, the book club has access to many copies throughout the system. I also said they shouldn’t always pick the hottest books out there. If they wait six months, the same book will be languishing on the shelves of many libraries and we can get them in quicker. Some patrons want instant gratification and get upset if they have to wait. But, there are even more patrons who thank us daily and appreciate the fact that we can get them the titles they are searching for. I want to personally thank Hansie and her colleagues at the MLS for helping me with so many hard to find items. Keep up the good work! Sandy Balayan Bushnell-Sage Library Sheffield
Response from Joanne Nichting, Circulation Supervisor, East Longmeadow Public Library
Sometimes you will find yourself dealing with a patron that just can’t be satisfied no matter what you do. That sounds to me like the patron that you described. Unfortunately, every library has a least one of these patrons (am I right or am I right?). My suggestion would be for everyone to stick to the policies and try not to let her get you upset. That is what she is looking for. If she doesn’t get that reaction, she might chill out. Also, I’ve tried killing them with kindness. It’s fun to watch them get flustered when they can’t get you angry at them. I sometimes think that librarians could have second careers as psychologists.
Response from Jean Williams, Cary Memorial Library, Lexington
In response to Michelle of Montague– If a patron here in Lexington were to be two months late returning an ILL book, that would be the patron’s last request through us! Also, we don’t tolerate abusiveness to the staff. Patrons who are verbally abusive are given legal no-trepass orders to stay out of the building, by our director and the police. Your problems with this patron sound like something that should be referred to your director,and perhaps your town counsel. If your director does not support you, then you should take this to your union, certainly. Yes, we are public servants, but we do not have to tolerate abuse from anyone.
Additional post by Michelle Welcome
Thank you all for your replies!
Sandy…Unfortunately we’ve done this over and over, explained rules over and over, it literally doesn’t matter to her. She just wants what she wants, when she wants it. Ditto on thanks to Hansie and her colleagues for all of their help!
Joanne…Yes on all counts! In all seriousness though, we’ve recently had a staff meeting where we addressed the issue, and for now we’ve agreed to follow all rules, no exceptions. It probably wont stop her abuse, but maybe it will change somewhat if we’re all consistent.
Jean…We hope we don’t have to go this far, but we’ve discussed it with the Director and if this patron gets very abusive again then she’ll take further steps.