Welcome to Dr. Albrecht's Library 2.0 Service, Safety, and Security Resources

Dr. Albrecht's podcast feed is below, and following immediately below that are his blog posts (you have to be logged in as a member of Library 2.0 [free] to see). Additionally:

Our training programs for library staffers and leaders cover service, security, safety, supervision, and even a little stress management. Our goal is to help to keep all library employees physically and psychologically safe, making it easier for them to serve all patrons in their facilities.

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Dr. Albrecht's blog posts are below. One of the features of his blog is "ASK DR. STEVE," where readers submit questions and he answers them. To submit a question for Dr. Steve, please email askdrsteve@library20.com.

By Dr. Steve Albrecht

In my earliest days watching library staff interact with patrons, I was always amazed at the power of those elderly female staffers, who I affectionately called the “Little Old Lady Librarians” or LOLs, for short. They just had an obvious knack for taking care of large and small behavioral issues with certain patrons. Why? If I had to guess, it was because even the most difficult, challenging, entitled, or rude patrons suddenly complied because the LOLs reminded them of their mom, grandma, auntie, or other older female relative who told them how to act, at home and out in public.

I had several encounters working as a library security consultant where staff would ask me to help them intervene with a particularly difficult patron, with mental health issues, who was angry, and under the influence of something. I asked this person to leave and he cursed me out. But when the LOL asked him to leave, he said, “Yes ma’am. Sorry to have been a problem” and he left. This happened more than once, with different patrons, and I was always pleased and amazed at their fortitude when dealing with patrons who wouldn’t comply for me or other staffers, but yet did, for them, every time.

Perhaps my usual demeanor was to blame for the challenging patrons’ replies back to me. I’m not a smiler by nature (bad teeth as a kid, all caps now) and my personality tends towards the direct command or abrupt request, especially when I’m stressed or tired. My approach with certain angry people has ranged from grudging compliance all the way to a challenge to fight. By contrast, the LOLs are always firm but pleasant, something their many years of life experience and skill in dealing with all kinds of people, in the many jobs they have held, certainly helps them. No civilized human beings want to put their hands on a LOL, no matter how many life problems they are carrying around. They see a compassionate person in front of them - who reminds them of someone older and kindly in their lives, either vaguely or quite directly, and because of this mostly positive influence - they go along with her requests.

The Little Old Lady Librarian could be described as a trope, a cliche, or a stereotype, but regardless of what we call her, her methods work with patrons who may not comply with other staffers or even when asked by library leaders. I have met LOLs who were part-timers, volunteers, longtime library workers, and even directors. They all shared the same tool: they have the “right touch” when it comes to getting recalcitrant patrons to go along or leave. They can align themselves with those patrons by being compassionate and assertive.

I speak of the concept of alignment often in my live training programs and recorded webinars. As a service and security tool, it suggests we get patrons to go along by being more like them. Maybe alignment is based on age, race, gender, or simply the style of dress matches the speaker and listener (or what body language experts call “mirroring”). There are many reasons why human beings align - or affiliate, as the social psychologists like to say - because most people want to be like others. The LOL asks them to stop doing something or leave and because of her non-threatening, non-authoritative demeanor, they can comply and save face in front of her, especially in public and in front of other strangers.

What skills can we learn from LOLs? They:

  • Have a firm but fair hand.
  • Provide equal treatment of all who follow or don’t follow our rules in the library.
  • Are skilled at empathic listening.
  • Offer a no-nonsense but also a kindly demeanor.
  • Display a non-aggressive posture, coupled with an assertive request for compliance.

I’ll put it this way: If you have ever worked with or for or around a LOL in your library, you probably have more than one story that proves my point, where she rode to the rescue and saved the situation. LOLs are a treasured part of the library staff. Learn from yours.

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Comments

  • Perhaps Dr Albrecht should go back and read his own post. 

    https://www.library20.com/safety-and-security-with-dr-steve-albrech...

    As was well-stated in that post, sweeping generalizations should have no place in library culture -- even when couched in "humor".

  • Yes this is a trope, but as short White woman who was a librarian in tha Bronx NYC and now works in South Central Los Angeles, I have used this 'superpower' to my advantage. People don't want to be seen beating up on respectful member of the community who doesn't come off as a threat. A large man who has a manhood to defend can't pull this off.

    Seeing oneself as a member of the community and being so is also is protective. I had another White woman ask me if I was 'afraid' to work where I was. My asnwer- "No, I live here". 

  • I am rapidly approaching LOL-hood, but my personality (and, sadly, my teeth) are a lot like yours! Some of those stereotypical LOLs may simply have gotten so burnt out that they no longer cared enough to get worked up by unpleasant patrons. I've certainly known some that dealt with it by having a nice strong Refreshing Adult Beverage or three after work.

    • So true! I know where and when to blow off steam! We all share war stories beind the scenes where I work.and have a good laugh over the cast of characters.

  • Your valid points here could have been better made without resorting to stereotypes.

    • I guess you missed the LOL part - I'm being tongue in cheek, Laugh Out Loud also stands for Little Old Lady Librarian.

      • I got the LOL part. 'Humor' doesn't cancel out the damage of stereotypes. 

        • I agree with Cindy, I guess that I am probably one of these so called "LOLs" at age 66 and having been in the field for a long time. The qualities that you suggest, firm but fair, empathy, etc are not just hallmarks reserved for those of us who have been around a while.  I think that any staff member, at any age can strive for this and many of my younger colleagues set a good example of this.  I find your humor indeed a stereotype,and kind of implying that we are old, feeble, etc.  While I do have some patrons say wow, you have been here a long time, these are also the same ones that come to me when they need assistance and know that I will do my best to help them.  Any staff members worth their salt, regardless of age, ability, etc will know the techniques that can help diffuse difficult situations.  Stop with the generalizations, you are not funny.

          • Hi, Catherine. Thanks for commenting. I think the points you make were exactly what Dr. Albrecht was trying to make, and showing that these traits that we *might* associate with the "LOL" are good for--and can be adopted by--all. I believe the use of the stereotype was in order to help us visualize those traits in a humorous, but perhaps sometimes accurate, way. I'm sorry you felt it was offensive. If anything, I felt he was complimenting those LOL librarians.

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Dr. Steve Albrecht

Since 2000, Dr. Steve Albrecht has trained thousands of library employees in 28+ states, live and online, in service, safety, security, and supervision. His programs are fast, entertaining, and provide tools that can be put to use immediately in the library workspace with all types of patrons. In 2015, the ALA published his book, Library Security: Better Communication, Safer Facilities. He is currently writing the sequel, The Safe Library: Keeping Users, Staff, and Collections Secure, for Rowman & Littlefield.

Steve holds a doctoral degree in Business Administration (D.B.A.), an M.A. in Security Management, a B.A. in English, and a B.S. in Psychology. He is board-certified in HR, security management, employee coaching, and threat assessment.

He has written 24 books on business, security, and leadership topics. He lives with six dogs, two cats, and three chickens. (Not all in the same room, of course.)

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DEALING WITH CHALLENGING PATRONS - UNLIMITED STAFF TRAINING VIDEO

Watch Dr. Steve Albrecht on video and onstage, as he presents his safety and security workshop, "Dealing With Challenging Patrons" to a live library audience. 45 minutes for unlimited staff showings at a one-time $495 fee or included in any all-access pass program.

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Praise for Dr. Albrecht

"Thank you, thank you, thank you! Thank you for presenting at our staff development day. Our staff has expressed their appreciation for the information and tools you provided. We know the lessons learned will be useful in our day-to-day work. It was a pleasure to have you with us -- even if it was only virtually." - Athens, GA Library

"I wanted to thank you for the session. My husband was listening from the other room and said, 'Wow, that was great!' This was the best
library workshop I've been to, and I've been to a lot! The staff was saying the same in emails." - Emily from MI

"Your suggestions of what to say to challenging patrons will really help me once we allow patrons back into the library. Thanks!" - Lori from IL

"Not only have I learned incredibly valuable skills to use in my career as a public librarian, those lessons will have a ripple effect as I teach a course on Social Crisis Management... I always give Dr. Albrecht the credit in the portions of my lecture and presentation.  And have first hand experiences using these lessons to support his approach. Thanks again for lending your expertise to ensure that as librarians we can remain safe, keep our customers safe and still deliver on our mission and the meaningful work we do each day." - Jen 

"You helped to keep my brain from turning into mush during this long time off. Thank you!" - C. from MO

"I was able to view Library Safety and Security and Interacting with the Homeless. I learned so much and appreciate the education you offered.  I became aware of changes, large and small that I can make in my life to enhance how I interact with all people. I do hope our library offers your classes in the future because I did not view all the webinars that I wanted to and I am sure my coworkers feel the same. Thank you again." - Vicki from VA

"I wanted to send you a note of thanks for your webinars... I watched 5 of them and found them to be incredibly informative. Currently I am working with my library's director to put together a situation response manual for safety and security matters that apply to our own library... What you have shared has been very useful to help set up some guidelines and decide a good direction for training within our organization. Thank you so much for sharing your insights." - Jennifer from IN

"Thank you for the great content. I appreciate it." - Carmen from MT

"[I] found [your webinars] extremely helpful and informative. Thanks again and stay safe!" - Christine from PA

"I remember when you came to our Annual Employee Training Session and presented a terrific class. I was able to view all of your webinars during this time and I learned so much. Your generosity of spirit during this pandemic is truly appreciated and your kindness will be remembered. Thanks again and Cheers." - Bernadette from CA

"We have watched a couple of [your webinars] in the past and they always provide a great approach to issues that are becoming more and more common in public libraries." - Rod from TX

"Your webinars were educational and inspiring." - Karen from GA

"I have recently watched all your webinars... (this begins to sound like a groupie saying, "I have all your records!") and I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from them. They were probably the best work at home professional development material I encountered in the two months my library has been closed. I've worked in public libraries since 1988 and everything you said makes sense in my experience. I look forward to putting what I learned from your webinars to use when we eventually reopen to the people the library exists for. Many thanks!" - Barbara from BC Canada

"'I've learned a lot from your diverse offerings as I knew that I would. I listened to 4 of your webinars at this run. I also attended your talk last year at one of our branch libraries. I hope that your presentations remain in my mind and that your practical, philosophical and respectful methods of engagement can be brought forth in times of need." - Deborah from CA

"We don't always take the time to do online courses or participate in webinars because of time and money restraints. We have been lucky to have the time now to take advantage of these opportunities. Your webinars really pack a lot of info in the time allotted. Your observations and surveys conducted with staff across the country made this applicable and the reality. Many of the situations described sound like our day to day interactions with patrons. Again thank you so much for these valuable webinars. I hope we will be open soon and able to put your tips into practice." - Kathy from MD

"I’ve really enjoyed all of your webinars, especially the ones about security and challenging patrons, and I’ve gained some useful knowledge that I can utilize at my library. I hope you have a wonderful day! Thanks again!" - Deborah from OH

"You're the best of the best." - Nick from CA

"I have found your webinars especially helpful during this time of stay-at-home orders and the inability to report to work for my daily schedule. (My branch is closed indefinitely.) I have especially found "Interacting with the Homeless" and "Stress Management for Library Staff" as the most help to date. I have been doing daily meditation as a stress reliever and taking time to find happiness despite all that is taking place in this world.... having this opportunity to listen to your thought-processes is very invigorating and life-changing. Thank you from the bottom of my heart." - Danielle from MD

"[Y]ou've expanded our minds and helped us greatly with your generosity. Thank you for all that you do, I appreciate it immensely." - Valerie from TX

"Thank you very much for your work and very good webinar." - Donna from IN

"I appreciate your vast knowledge on patrons and safety situations." - Mary from IL

"I've long wanted to explore your work, and have enjoyed and learned from 4 of your webinars so far, with plans to view them all. They are excellent! I am charged with leading our staff around issues of safety and security in our rural system, and you are a clear and dynamic voice in our field. I really appreciate your experience, knowledge, and presentation style, down to talking fast to get the most information into the time of the presentation! Hopefully, I'll be able to obtain the new edition of your book soon, as I hope to keep these themes as relevant currents for the duration of my career." - Kimberlee from CA

Additionally:

"Thank you for your wonderful `Safety and Security in the Library' presentation. I so appreciate that you were able to join us virtually this year and share your knowledge on these topics with our library staff. I look forward to exploring some of the resources you shared with us."

"Thanks so much for recording the presentation. It was fantastic!"

"Thank you, Dr Steve, for your presentation today. It was very helpful and insightful. Your subtle humor also lightened the mood."

"I wanted to reach out and thank you for all the information that you gave in your webinar on conducting a library facility security assessment."

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