Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Difficult users

"I cannot imagine life without libraries, the librarians are real friends and so helpful."

This quote (taken from the Voices for the Library website) is typical of the views of many thousands of library users who have nothing but respect and even affection for library staff. But it is not always the full story.

As in any public facing service, library staff will also have to deal with people who are unfriendly, grumpy, annoyed, angry and even aggressive. Libraries are freely open to their clients and our doors are open to anyone. It's not something that most library staff spend much time worrying about, but the fact is that any member of staff might find themselves dealing with a difficult customer.

In the past the usual response of front-line staff was to call for "the librarian" to deal with problems, but changing staffing patterns mean that front-line staff are more likely to have to deal with problems without the immediate support of senior staff.

The aim of Dealing with Difficult Users is to recognise factors which may influence the negative attitudes and behaviours of the user and to understand the different methods of dealing with these attitudes and behaviours. During this one day session learners will discover their own natural style when dealing with a difficult user. In an interactive format learners will discuss techniques and practice applying them in a ‘scenario’ session.

The goal is to defuse difficult situations so that staff and user can work towards a solution. However the course also recognises that sometimes, through no fault of the staff, a difficult customer can become aggressive and even violent. Staff will be shown how to recognise the warning signs and how to use distance to when dealing with a difficult customer. Finally the use of "reasonable force" will be explained.

Libraries have a duty of care to their staff and other users. Although such situations are thankfully very rare library staff must be given the confidence and skills to manage difficult customers. This course, delivered by staff from the West Yorkshire Police Training Centre, is essential training for all staff dealing with the public.

Further information is available here.

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