I love helping people find what they need. The ‘customer service’ side of librarianship is one of its great attractions for many people, me included. The problem is that not all ‘customer service’ interactions are pleasant. People are people after all and they come in to your library for a time, with all their baggage, meaning that often you will have to cope with some of the overflow.
That happened to me today. We had a customer who was already angry when she came in and everything that happened in the library just inflamed her further. However, no violence occurred and apart from her raised voice and my shaking hands after it was all over, the whole situation was finished reasonably quickly, although she was still muttering when she left.
I hate these confrontations. But lots of training over many years enabled me to deal with the situation quickly and calmly. After all is said and done, she was not angry at me, but at the ‘ the library’ and what ‘the library’ was doing. It’s hard to remember that sometimes, especially when you are the focus of a vehement verbal attack, which feels very personal indeed.
After a few of these type situations within a short period of time, early in my career, I got some invaluable advice from a dear, well-respected colleague. She told me to always remember that less than 2% of people will give you any sort of problem and much less than that will react like this lady did. That has helped me at times when it all seems a bit too much. The overwhelming majority of our library interactions are pleasant and friendly.
What I have also learned since those early days, mostly from my own experience, is that we all have baggage that we carry with us. It’s easy to say that the person is horrible, but she may just have had a horrible day and the library was just the last straw. Then again, maybe not. Still, I will give her the benefit of the doubt, as I doubt that our path’s will cross again in any hurry. 🙂