Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Problem Patrons

Last week we had a problem patron. The person was not disruptive, mean, loud or malicious -- just needy and not even a student. Let's call this patron LD (for lady). LD self identified herself as a non-student. Since we don't restrict access to the building or library, LD was allowed to enter. She had a hard time expressing herself. It took many questions to figure out want she wanted. We finally figured out that she wanted help writing a job reference for herself. I found some sample references in several web sites and sent her to these sites. She wanted to write the reference and have her employer sign it. LD kept asking for all kinds of help with the computer and printer. She complained about the 10 cent cost per copy. Some of the questions are covered in an introduction to word processing class given in elementary schools. Some of the questions required "hand-holding" because she didn't understand. One of the student library workers tried to get LD to go to the career counseling office, but they closed at 6:45 and the time was 6:50. LD wanted to borrow a reserve book. To borrow a reserve book one needs a school ID. Sometimes if a student forgets their ID and is in the system, we allow them to use a reserve book. Since LD was not a student, she had no ID. LD tried to argue with the library clerk say that her ID was stolen and she had to go to the Police Department to get it back. LD even interrupted my dinner and a reference conversation with a student.

LD was in the library more than 3 hours. Her task could have been completed in 15-20 minutes. Last year LD attempted to apply to the nursing program because she wanted to help people get well. She was not accepted. You should thank the school because they saved us from a potentially poor nurse.

It is difficult to write diplomatically about a problem patron. Some college libraries do not allow non-students to enter the library. Some colleges don't even allow people without proper ID entry into the building. This person was not a threat to safety of anyone. She just needed the kind of help that we are not able to deliver. In a college library our students and faculty must come first.

In the same night I helped students with English papers and computer problems that they would have no way of solving without help.


BrooklynCollegiate said...

Did you ask for LD's information to pass to the placement office? At least she wants a job. Some people just use and abuse the system. If you were LD, how would you have liked your three hour visit to have ended?

Daniel Stuhlman said...

There was much I left out about this patron. We knew more about her than could be written in a public forum. Our library is a community college and our first responsibility is to our faculty and students. We will answer brief questions from outsiders, but we can not provide extended help to outsiders. We point people in the right directions, not do their work.