I love (generally) people. I love how they can (positively) surprise you. How they can band together in a time of need. How they can work together for a common goal. How they can thwart you expectations. I get surprised by the kindness of people in the library all the time, it’s one of the best parts of my job. But…I think all bets are off when it comes to getting what they want. In this case, I mean signing up for programming. Then out come the claws, the raised voices, the threats. The “I’m a tax-payer, how DARE you. This is outrageous.” And I have to stand there, with a sympathetic smile, and take it, while trying to defend our policies to people who do not want to hear it.
I realize that it’s unrealistic to expect to please absolutely everyone I encounter in the library, but that doesn’t stop me from trying. I do my utmost to make sure each person I talk to, be it child, parent, grandparent, babysitter, etc. leaves the interaction satisfied, with what they were looking for, or something even better. I also know I have a lot to learn, being a new librarian. And I look forward to the challenge. I want each library visit to be a positive experience. I want the people to come back. I want good memories to be associated with the library, with the Children’s Department, and with me.
But, some days, you just can’t win. That seems to be the case lately. The SPL has an incredible Summer Reading program for kids and Tweens. And it officially started up on Monday. This is both the best time of year, and the most hectic. We have so much happening: arts and craft programs, upcycling programs, magicians, animal experts, storytimes, movement classes, technology programs, a ballet, the kick off, the finale…There’s no time to think, to breathe, to do anything but sign people up, answer questions, and ride out the Summer Reading Storm.
Because we have such a high quality of programs and performers, we are very strict about only allowing children who reside in our town to attend. These programs do cost the library time and money, not only in terms of the performers, but librarian time and effort as well. We like to make sure our town patrons are served first. But, when a grandparent comes in, wanting to sign their out-of-town grandchildren up for our programs, we have to say, “I’m sorry, but only resident children are allowed in our programming”. Cue face change-narrowed eyes, downturned eyebrows, reddened checks. Start up the angry music to accompany their tirade against me, the department, the programming-or lack of specific programming-, and the library in general. I know it’s not my fault, but that doesn’t mean listening to someone, who is understandably frustrated, yell at me for a library policy is pleasant. It does hurt my feelings because I can’t help or make the person happy. They leave frustrated, angry, and with a very bad memory of me, my department, and the library.
Whenever this happens, I try to explain why our policy is in place, but the irate patron isn’t always in a mindset to listen. Understandable. But I at least try. I do my best not to get mad, sarcastic, or upset. I try to make alternative suggestions…
The only point I’m trying to make is to those of us who get mad when things don’t go our way. And I am guilty of this occasionally, too.
I realize when we are frustrated, we take it out on the person directly in front of us, the one who is saying in so many words the dreaded “I’m sorry, but NO.” I also realize that it’s probably not solely that person’s fault, if their fault at all. I think we all need to get better at not taking out our frustrations on the person in front of us. Look at what that person is saying, even if you don’t like it. Is the point valid? Does it make sense, even if it’s not what you want to hear? Can you see why that policy is in place?
Also take into account the other person. I get you didn’t get your coffee this morning, but that doesn’t give you the right to take it out on me. Stuck in traffic, having bad hair day, have a headache? Also not something in my control.
It’s also not a good look to be yelling about anything in public. #justsaying