Library Day in the Life Project – Day 2a

Sigh.  What a day!  I had every intention of taking pictures of my library but a number of things prevented me from accomplishing this task.  Essentially the day can be broken down and categorized as either the positive or the negative aspects of my job.

Let’s begin with the negative.  Public service librarians, such as myself, work one evening shift a week.  My regular evening shift is Tuesday so I started work at 1 pm instead of my usual 9 am.  From 5 pm onwards until closing time at 9 pm, I also serve as both shift supervisor and building supervisor (or as my manager calls it, the PIC (Person in Charge)).  To be perfectly honest, Tuesday nights tends to be usually quiet but not tonight.  We had a newish security guard who spent most of this evening coming by the reference desk getting advice from either myself or my other two Library Assistants (LAs) with what to do.  The first incident had to do with a group of unruly teens who were just being loud wherever they went in the library.  We have had problems with this group of teens in the past.  The most serious problem with them is the fact that they tend to hang out in our foyer and generally make other people uncomfortable when they walk into the library.  Anyway, the teens were upstairs making all kinds of noise that I finally had enough and ended up following the teens back downstairs to have a chat with them. I put on my “stern” face and basically gave them a verbal warning that if they caused any more ruckus, they would be escorted out of the library.  They seem apologetic and surprisingly, the evening was much quieter afterwards.

Little did I know that that unruly teens would be the least of my problems.  Around 8:25 pm, one of my LAs and the security guard walked to my desk at PHR to inform me that we had an unconscious patron passed out upstairs in one of the seats.  The LA pointed out the patron was still breathing but definitely reeked of alcohol.  He recommended that we wait 15 minutes before we wake him up since the patron wasn’t causing any problems.  My gut reaction was to call 911, which is probably an overreaction but last Saturday, when we had a similar situation with a passed out patron, we had to phone the police.  Anyway, I compromised and let the patron sleep it off for another 10 minutes before I headed upstairs.  The security guard eventually found me trying to wake the patron up.  I spent 5 minutes trying to rouse him without any luck.  By this point, I had to make the decision and I got the guard to phone 911.  As we waited for the police to show up, the clock was starting to count down and the prospect of staying past 9 pm loomed largely in my mind.  After talking to both staff at the reference and circulation desks, I swung back upstairs and tried again to wake up the patron.  Eventually the yelling did the trick and he woke up about 2 minutes before close.  He staggered to the downstairs escalator and out the building. The security guard phoned to cancel the request for police assistance and a “crisis” was averted.

Let’s not kid ourselves here.  Working in a public library especially in one that is located in the middle of downtown is not always easy.   I hate confrontations so having to talk to unruly teens about their behaviour in the library is not my idea of fun. I also felt out my element when it came to dealing with the passed out patron, trying to decide whether or not to call the police right away.  Yes, I know.  You are probably wondering, “Doesn’t your library have a policy to help you deal with these matters?” The short answer is no.  Our library has a security committee that quite frankly, has yet to do anything helpful.  Every time a staff member files an incident report, the report is never posted to the staff Intranet because the manager and head of the committee questions whether or not our situation a) qualify as an incident b) is fearful that our written incident reports could be subpoenaed by the police.

My point here is that sometimes you will be unsure of yourself especially in “stressful” situations and that’s okay.  I have been a supervisor for over 5 years but that doesn’t mean I always know what to do.  Often you have to rely on your own instincts and experience to get you through the situation.  Just don’t be afraid to “tackle” the situation.  Even though my library’s policy is less than ideal and our security committee appear to be ineffectual, I will still push to get clarification from management about what our policy is towards loitering in the front foyer and unconscious patrons.  Remember that minor incidents like these can escalate to something bigger unless you are better prepared.  So always “hope for the best, while planning for the worst”.


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