Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Case Study No. 1938: San Francisco Public Librarian

1977 Problem Patron SFPL Staff Training
A training video from 1977 on how to best handle an irate customer. Old time San Franciscans will recognize the information desk at the old Main Library, repurposed as the Asian Art Museum. A gem found in the media vaults of the San Francisco Public Library.
Tags: staff training library 1977 funny archival san francisco public library Asian Art Museum SFPL Comedy librarian
Added: 2 years ago
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Problem Patron Skits
Staff Training Video

[scene opens with black and white footage of an older female patron standing at the front desk talking to the younger female librarian]
PATRON: I have had a reserve in this branch of the library now for two solid months for "The Thorn Birds." My name is Nye. Now, I would like to find out what has happened to that reserve.
[the librarian reaches for a nearby box of index cards]
LIBRARIAN: Can you wait just a minute?
PATRON: This is ridiculous!
LIBRARIAN: Okay, I-I appreciate that you've got a problem. Can you wait just a minute? Lemmee check the reserve. Lemmee see what it is here and what the problem is, okay?
[she pulls out one of the cards]
LIBRARIAN: Oh dear, here we are ... Uh, and you had it for the book called "The Thorn Birds?"
PATRON: That's right.
LIBRARIAN: Okay, well ... What it looks like here is that there is one other person in front of you, and that--
[the patron interrupts and starts yelling]
PATRON: There is still one other person in front of me? I have been waiting, young lady, for two months at the very least for this book! And I am sick and tired of this ridiculous system, this has happened to me many times before--
[she stops when she believes that the librarian is smirking at her]
PATRON: What are you smiling at? I don't think it is a matter of any sort of amusement at all!
[the librarian continues to address her calmly]
LIBRARIAN: Well, I'm smiling at your comment that this is a ridiculous system. I think it is a ridiculous system on some level, and there doesn't seem to be a whole lot I can do about it. But, uh, I have to put up with it and I appreciate your problem. I realize that two months is a long time to wait for a book, but--
PATRON: Well, what are you going to do about it?
PATRON: You're just going to let me wait for another two months, I suppose, because you can't get enough books? I mean, that's no excuse! Either you're running a public library and you're servicing people, or you're not!
PATRON: I mean, this is just ... I mean, I can't believe the inefficiency and the stupidity of this system, for which I pay taxes!
[she slams her hand down on the counter, but the librarian continues to remain calm]
LIBRARIAN: The, uh, I don't consider myself inefficient. I recognize that the system is periodically inefficient. Um, I'm sorry that you're having problems with it. I have problems with it myself sometimes, and it frustrates me as well.


From ebscohost.com:

SFPL trains staff to cope with the problem patron
September 1977

Library Journal;9/15/1977, Vol. 102 Issue 16, p1806

Reports on the training provided by the San Francisco Public Library in California to its employees that prepares them to deal with problem patron situations such as voyeurs, exhibitionists and disruptive or disturbed patrons.

Noting that libraries - especially urban libraries - tend to attract their share of voyeurs, exhibitionists, and otherwise disruptive or disturbed patrons, the San Francisco Public Library has decided to do something about this problem: It's giving some 200 staff members specific training aimed at preparing them to deal with the problem patron. SFPL queried its satff on problem patron situations, and how these have been dealt with, and it used the responses to design a ten-hour course on the art of coping with the problem patron. Staffers were unanimous in voicing the need for such training.

SFPL takes this position: "Complaining patrons will always be with us, but staff members are not expected to submit to physical abuse or undue verbal harassment by members of the public. Supervisors and co-workers should rally to the support of the affected staff member and attempt to defuse the situation as quietly and informally as possible. The library's senior staff will also support and defend the right of all staff to courteous, reasonable, and temperate treatment by members of the public, as well as vice-versa."

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