Dealing with difficulties
All programs, no matter how well thought out, are bound to have an occasional mishap or disgruntled client. Having clear procedures to communicate issues ensures problems are resolved quickly and with minimal disruption. This section outlines the procedures we have developed here at the State Library of Queensland and may help you design your own. We have also outlined our responses to some of the more common issues.
Contact lists – Ensure staff know who to contact in what circumstance. This is particularly important if you have front of house staff working on weekends and public holidays when there may be fewer staff onsite. Have a contact list including - emergency, first aid, security, rosters/calling in sick, customer feedback, program concerns.
Record keeping – Most organisations have detailed procedures for recording and reporting incidents. If you don’t, encourage staff to take notes including time/date and contact details of anyone involved in an incident.
Lost and unattended children – Children can become separated from their parents/carers for a whole range of reasons. Occasionally, you may have an issue with parents/carers leaving children in an area for children while they use other parts of the library. If this is the case, it is important to take a non-judgemental and calm approach. Expectations around the independence of children vary greatly across families and cultures.
Rough/unsafe play - Usually, rough play can be resolved through diversion. Suggest an alternative activity or divert energy into another aspect of the game. If this doesn’t work, explain to children that this is a public space that needs to be safe for everyone and that their behaviour is not safe. In most cases, parents will provide assistance and children will move on to another activity. If not, you may need to give them a clear choice about playing safely or leaving the space.
Involving Parents/Carers – Sometimes parents/carers seek out child friendly activities/spaces where they feel safe enough to allow their children to play independently. Caring for children requires a lot of energy and supporting parents/carers is an important aspect of working with children. Although children always benefit from the encouragement and support of a caring adult, it is important to remain non-judgemental in this situation as expectations around the independence of children vary greatly across families and cultures. Try and resolve the issue in a way that meets everyone’s needs.
Firstly, you could acknowledge the need for the parent/carer to ‘sit back and supervise’ and engage with the child yourself, ensuring that the parent/carer is in view at all times. If you do not have the capacity to do this (eg, too many children in the space), offer an activity that encourages parent involvement (eg, making craft together). Role modelling positive engagement with children is an excellent way to develop the skills and capacity of parents/carers.
If the situation is unsafe for any reason, for example child repeatedly engaging in rough play and parent/carer remains uninvolved, you may need to advise the parent/carer that children need to be supervised at all times.
Noise complaints - Depending on the size and layout of your library, you may encounter issues with noise complaints. Although some library clients may come seeking a quiet place to study, it is worth remembering that children are legitimate library visitors and have the same rights to an enjoyable and productive library experience. With this in mind, try to resolve differing needs with diplomacy and compromise. Programs for children usually have set schedules or peak times of activity. You could advise plaintiffs of this and suggest they come when the library is quieter. If children are being unnecessarily loud, they may also need to be diverted into a quieter activity. It is also worth considering the differing needs of clients when structuring your overall library program and allocating spaces to particular activities.
Last updated: 8th October 2019
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