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

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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

Real life rarely imitates the training experience. Except when it does. There is much value to "practice makes perfect" and "perfect practice makes for perfect execution." In other words, what we do in training we can remember and use on the library floor.

One way and one place to get it right is by using role-play scenarios, for about 45 minutes or so, at staff meetings, to practice what to say and how to say it, for more challenging, complex conversations and service interactions with patrons. One employee plays the part of the staffer and another plays the part of the patron. They each can add their own approach (and twists and turns) to the following 12 scenarios here, with an eye toward improving, problem-solving, and perhaps most importantly, by creating a common response that is used staff-wide, in similar situations, so we show a consistency of message.

The role-plays should only take about five minutes. At the end, the group can give both role-players some feedback as to what they heard and saw (body language is a big part of our success with challenging patrons too) and what they liked and what they might say or do differently. The goal is to be supportive and informative for all in the room.

When I turn my live training library groups loose on these role-plays, I give them the obvious caveat that it's always easier to play the part of the patron, because you can go off in a dozen different directions (some that have little to do with the foundation of the role-play scenario but are just fun to be a bit wacky). All the while the patron is spinning, the employee is trying to listen empathically, come up with what seems like the best answers, stay within policy, follow the Code of Conduct, and provide good service.

I always tell my training groups to go easy on their co-workers and start to come around and comply once they realize the employee is using good de-escalation skills, customer service skills, and communications skills. No sense in beating up on a colleague who is trying his or her best. The group feedback should be supportive and forgiving. These scenarios are tough because there are no perfect answers, ideal solutions, or flawless words to use. Your best efforts may be thwarted by an eccentric, rude, stubborn, indifferent, or angry patron, who also happens to have poor listening skills, either in general or because of the situation in particular.

These 12 scenarios have come to me from library employees over the years. After 21 years as a library security consultant, I can make up my own, certainly, but I like getting these scenarios from staffers who have had to deal with them. Get to work on these at your next staff meeting and see what answers you can develop for your team.

  1. A patron is using the Internet and soon goes over his one-hour time limit. Other patrons are lining up at your desk to use the Internet too. One patron says to you, "Hey! I'm next and he's hogging the computer. I need to get online now! Either you do something about him or I will!"
  2. An adult comes to your desk and it's clear she's very angry. She's accompanied by her 13-year-old son. She says, "Yesterday, one of you people told my boy he had to leave because he was making too much noise. I want somebody to tell me why he was told this and I want to speak to the one who made him go!" (Yesterday was your day off and the employee in question is off today.)
  3. An elderly gentleman is at the circulation desk trying to check out two DVDs. His borrowing privilege has been revoked due to overdue notices, big fines, and missing items that were never returned. He says to you, "You're just picking on me because I'm old! I know my rights! You have to let me have this stuff!"
  4. During a summertime field trip sponsored by the local Day Camp, you see several children riding on the book carts, jumping on the tables, and pounding the computer keyboards. You approach the camp counselor, who tells you, in a defensive way, "What's the big deal? They're just letting off a little steam. Weren't you ever young once?"
  5. Two teenage couples are in the library near closing time. It's clear from their physical behavior that each is highly interested in their dates. Both couples are making out quite visibly and other patrons are embarrassed. One of the boys stops his activity and says to you, "What are you looking at?" The other boy joins in and taunts you with the same question.
  6. An older woman approaches you to complain about noise being made by several middle school students. "Libraries are supposed to be quiet places. What's wrong with parents these days? Those kids should be kicked out! What are you going to do about this?" You've been busy with another patron and haven't heard any more noise coming from the students than other adult users.
  7. A man in his late 50s who frequents the Genealogy area almost daily is now seen with a young boy of about 10, playing video games on the man's laptop computer. It's clear they don't know each other too well. The man and the boy have both been seen in the library before but never together. Today, it looks like they're leaving together. You approach the man and he says, "Go away! My new friend and I are doing fine without your help."
  8. Every Friday when the Library closes, a nine-year-old girl is out in front of the Library waiting for a ride. As the Person In Charge, you ask her if someone is coming for her; she tells you her mom was supposed to pick her up before closing time. She appears mature enough to take care of herself, but still has that look of unease. It's already 10 minutes past closing and other staff want to go home and get on with their evening plans.
  9. A middle-aged man likes to dominate all conversations in the library. His voice is loud and other staff and patrons seem rattled or offended by his language and mannerisms. He comes into the library about once per week but doesn't seem to remember how to use the Internet, so he makes a lot of demands for staff time to explain the simplest things to him, over and over again. Staff are not sure if this is real or he is messing with them.
  10. A big burly guy comes into the library and seems very intimidating. He always wants to use the exact same Internet computer each time and he gets visibly upset when another patron is using "his computer." He has confronted people who get too close to him or who ask when he will be done using the computer. Staff are afraid to speak with him because he seems angry, suspicious, and even a bit paranoid.
  11. A first-grader comes in every Saturday morning with her grandmother for children's reading hour. The child seems happy playing with other kids but appears fearful of her grandmother. When it's time to leave, the child cries and doesn't want to go. The grandmother gets angry and pulls her roughly out the door.
  12. A 30-year-old man who is developmentally disabled spends all his time on the Internet. He needs to be reminded of the Internet usage rules and not to make fun of other people or to stare at young women in the library. He gets dropped off by his caregiver, who rarely stays very long with him once he's inside. The female staff feels uncomfortable around him, because he stares at them, although he has never said or done anything inappropriate toward them.
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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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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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