But what it teaches is that your every behavior should be guided toward making your library patrons feel good, to make them feel like their concerns are important, but without ever committing to anything or accepting blame. Read the article, the manual is literally genius.
Apply this to your library. You listen to people. You empathize with their concerns. You say something like, I'm sorry this happened. And you redirect them to some other part of the library or out into the parking lot because, holy crap, enough is enough, and you have work to do.
But use that connection to promote some library service. Because part of your job should be Sales.
Most library employees don't realize that we have a product that we need to sell. It's the continuation of the library; it's more libraries; it's increased budgets for more stuff and people and raises. You are the product. You sell yourself and your job.
Apple has a formula for their brand of sales, and it spells APPLE:
Libraries should also adopt some similar cutesy acronmym-like thingie:
(L)isten. (I)-contact. (B)-present. (R)edirect. (A)void. (R)estate. (Y)-me?
You probably might want to mix those around depending on your particular situation, for example, I would always begin with (Y).
But you have to sell. If someone can't use a computer, direct him to one of your computer classes. Or online tutorials. Or if he won't stop being a pain in the ass, give him a program schedule and suggest he look it over at home.
or if you can't find a book on the shelf, sell the Hold. Send the book to whichever branch they want. Or sell the ebook. No interaction with a patron should ever terminate with a direct answer. The response to "Where is the bathroom?" should include directions to the area for appropriate reading material: The books on bladder control are over here and the bathroom is down that hallway.
How would you deal with this patron?
PATRON: Ga-ga-ga-ba-ba-ba [Stops babbling, puts his fingers in his mouth and pulls out own tooth - drops it in an envelope addressed to the White House and puts the envelope in his robe pocket].
YOU: I can see how you'd feel this way. It can be frustrating. But many of our patrons use the library often. To wash their clothes in our bathrooms. So come back after your visit from the Secret Service.
Notice you said nothing substantial. You empathized with nothing. You promised nothing. But these kinds of interactions often make people feel good without requiring you do any work at all.
But remember to sell. And remember our acronym:
- (L)isten, or just appear be to listening. Earbuds help.
- (I)-contact, [eye contact] avoid it for crazies or keep it for normals.
- (B)-present. I really don't have anything dopey to say about that. It's actually really useful when you give 100% to the listening and not laughing.
- (R)edirect real problems to someone else. Anyone else. Maybe someone at your library who uses a cane and can't escape too quickly? This will save you a lot of headaches.
- (A)void making promises. There's not much you can do to solve problems while working with no budget. So just empathize. Everything else costs money.
- (R)estate the obvious. "The fax machine isn't working because the fax machine is broken. Our malfunctioning fax machine is not responding. The Out Of Order sign is taped to our non-working fax machine. Here is a copy of the sign to take with you."
- (Y)-me? [Why me?] Because you're not the boss, that's why. Or maybe you are the boss, if you're one of those bosses that actually does stuff. Nah, you're not the boss.