The best defense against problem patrons is to establish good, workable policies and administer them consistently. Policies are the official rules set by the trustees of your library or school district. Policies should be available in a handbook or manual for all staff and patrons; in addition, you may want to post selected policies for your patrons, such as rules of conduct.
Procedures provide library staff with guidelines for enforcing the policies; they are often step-by-step instructions for handling situations.
It is extremely important that all staff be aware of library policies and be trained in the procedures. An introduction to the procedures should be included in orientation for all new employees, and they should be reviewed with all staff at regular intervals.
Sample policies and procedures for a variety of problems are available in many books and on libraries' web sites. One excellent source is Dealing with Difficult People in the Library, by Mark R. Willis (American Library Association, 1999). Policies and procedures from several different libraries are provided for a variety of problems, including unattended children and various kinds of disruptive behavior, such as fighting, talking, sleeping and aberrant behavior. Dealing with Difficult People in the Library may be purchased for $28.00 (ISBN:0-8389-0760-1). It can also be borrowed from many libraries, including the Idaho Commission for Libraries.
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