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Specific Procedural Guidelines

(Always complete and file an Incident Report.)


  1. Remain calm, listen attentively and elicit all information about the complaint.

  2. Paraphrase the person's statement in order to understand the problem or complaint. If inaccurate, paraphrase until the person confirms your statement.

  3. If the complaint conflicts with established policy, explain the policy in question in a calm, firm tone. Provide the person with a written copy of the policy if necessary.

  4. Try to find acceptable alternatives that might resolve the matter without violating policy.

If the person persists, use the "team approach." If the person is still dissatisfied:

  1. Notify the supervisor responsible for the area in question or the most readily available supervisor.

  2. If a supervisor is unavailable, take the person's name and telephone number, and tell the individual that the problem will be referred to as soon as possible. If requested, give the individual the office telephone number and hours of your supervisor.


When confronted by a person whose behavior becomes assaultive or menacing, staff should remain as calm as possible.

  1. DO NOT argue with or physically confront the individual.

  2. Attempt to distance yourself from the individual. Advise others in the area to leave the scene and request assistance from Security (6460).

  3. The key to control in situations where a person is being physically threatening, or someone is in imminent danger of assault, is TEAMWORK.. If physically unable to break away from an attacker, shout for help.

  4. In case of extreme emergency, dial "911", then notify Security as soon as possible.


USE DISCRETION. If a person's odor is so strong and offensive that it results in complaints, quietly and privately ask the individual to leave the library and not return until the person has cleaned him or herself.


Explain that the consumption of food or beverages in public areas of the library is not permitted. Advise the person to consume the food beverage outside, or to discard it immediately.

CHILDREN (Disruptive)

  1. In a firm but nice way, inform the child that this behavior is inappropriate and should be stopped immediately.

  2. If a parent/guardian is with the child, inform that person that the child's behavior is disruptive and ask that it be stopped.

  3. If the behavior continues, ask them to leave.

CHILDREN (Lost or Unattended)

  1. Children separated from or left unattended by their parents may be frightened and should be reassured by staff.
  2. Locate the parent or responsible guardian and firmly explain the Library's policy on unattended children.
  3. If the library is closing and the parents or responsible adults have not returned for their child, or cannot be contacted, call Security (6460).
  4. Remain with the child until appropriate arrangements have been made and the child is in the custody of the parents, responsible guardian, or police.


(See: Vandals & Destructive Library Users)


Disruptive behavior may include the following: loud talking or singing; tapping or banging; loud and noisy behavior in general; monopolizing a staff member's time.  

  1. Advise the problem person to discontinue said behavior. Library users should be discouraged from long, irrelevant conversation. Politely explain that you must return to work.
  2. If the problem person continues to be disruptive, notify the supervisor for the area in question, or a staff person directly involved, or the most readily available supervisor.
  3. The supervisor should attempt to mediate and defuse the situation.
  4. If all attempts at resolution fail, contact Security (6460).


(See: Inebriated Library Users)


USE DISCRETION. A person who is acting strangely may be under the influence of drugsor may be suffering from a medical problem.

  1. Do not make the person feel threatened.
  2. Speak firmly but politely to the person to determine the likely cause of the behavior.
  3. If a medical emergency, call 911.
  4. If the behavior appears to be drug induced, call Security.
  5. If you witness the use or sale of illegal drugs, call Security.

Page 9


If the behavior is not disturbing others, it should be ignored. If the behavior is disruptive, take action Politely but firmly explain to the individual that their behavior is disruptive to other library users.

  1. DO NOT scold, denigrate or touch the individual. Allow space so that the person can leave the building easily if he or she feels threatened.
  2. Do not argue. Simply state the library's rules. Sometimes a firm stand forces an emotionally disturbed person to face the reality of the situation.  
  3. If the disturbance continues and the individual will not respond or is physically threatening to himself or others, call Security.


Firmly but politely ask the person to remove their feet from the furniture.


USE DISCRETION in the case of people who smell of alcohol. If the behavior is not otherwise offensive, then there is no problem.

  1. If a person is noticeably intoxicated, loud, obnoxious, or if other library users are complaining, take action.
  2. Politely and firmly tell the individual that drinking (or intoxication) is not allowed in the library and ask the individual to leave.  
  3. If the individual refuses to leave, call Security.
  4. DO NOT scold, denigrate or touch the individual in an effort to remove them.


Flash overhead lights on each floor at 15 and 5 minutes before closing.  Walk through all public areas at closing and politely but firmly announce to all remaining library users that they must vacate immediately. If a person hesitates, approach the individual and repeat the announcement. Wait as the person gathers their belongings (or completes a task in process such a photocopying a page). Escort them toward an exit.

If a person remains after the scheduled closing time, have two or more staff members approach the individual and repeat step 3 above. If a person refuses to leave within a reasonable amount of time (ten minutes after closing), call Security.


Firmly announce to all that the building must be vacated immediately. Approach library users who hesitate and repeat the announcement. Quickly escort them to an exit. If a person refuses to leave, report the person's location to security or emergency personnel once you have safely vacated the building.

Page 10


Starers/Watchers: Get a general description. Note height, coloring, age, general build, any visible scars or tattoos, and what the person is wearing. Although the offender may be gone by the time the incident is reported, a good practice is to tell fellow staff members what the offender looks like so they can be on the watch.

Flashers/Masturbators: Remain calm and do not show shock or alarm at the action of the individual. Try to remember as much of a description of the person as possible. Alert fellow staff members and call Security.  If this happens to a library user, help the person calm down and explain the situation to you. In the case of children, call or contact their parent/ guardian. Obtain a general description and the location of the incident. Call Security.


USE DISCRETION. Library users who simply doze off for a short period should be left alone.

Noisy sleepers or those sprawled out on the furniture should be approached with caution.

DO NOT touch the sleeper nor shout to wake them. Address them as "Sir," "Miss", or "Madam" in a firm, conversational tone until they awake.

Advise (s)he of the problem and request that they stay awake or leave.


Ask the smoker to stop at once and inform him or her of designated smoking areas, if any are available. If the person does not stop smoking upon request, (s)he should be asked to leave.


Explain that soliciting or panhandling is not permitted on the premises. If the problem persists, call Security.


USE DISCRETION. Some library users act strangely and may or may not be disturbing to others. If no one complains about the behavior, it is not a problem. If no one complains but you feel uneasy, consult with other staff members to determine what action, if any, needs to be taken.


Personal property: First make certain that the item has not simply been misplaced or turned in as a "Lost and Found" item. If not found, assist the victim in calling Security to report a theft.

Library property:  Unauthorized removal, or attempted removal, of library materials is, in legal terms, larceny. To establish that larceny has been committed, the library must prove beyond any reasonable doubt that two elements were present at the time of apprehension: 1. the taking away and current possession of property of value by the subject and; 2. the intent to steal. When these two elements are clearly present apprehension, detention, and arrest are appropriate.  Even if a person is attempting to leave the library with materials which have not been properly checked out, it must not be assumed that theft was the intent. Absent mindedness, misunderstanding of procedures, etc. are all possible causes. In such instances, the person should be approached pleasantly and the problem should be corrected. The most common way of probing intent to steal is by showing that the suspect concealed the item. However, simply because an item is not visible to the eye does not mean that it has illegally been concealed. To prove intent to steal by concealment, the item must be carried in a place or manner in which it would not ordinarily be carried. A person who attempts to exit the library with a briefcase containing materials which have not been checked out, has not illegally concealed the materials since that is where books might normally be carried. The person could claim that they were inadvertently scooped up with other materials. On the other hand, if a person is attempting to exit the library with materials under his clothing or covertly wrapped in something, concealment can be used to probe intent to steal since library materials are not usually carried in this manner. If it is determined that a person has willfully tried to violate the law and both "possession" and "intent to steal" seem clearly evident or provable, call Security. If the individual tries to leave, DO NOT risk personal injury by attempting to physically detain the individual. An authoritarian tone of voice and manner may convince a person to remain or hand over the materials. If the person leaves before the police arrive, give them his or her name (if known) or a general description.


Examples of destructive behavior by library users are: destroying or defacing materials, including the removal of pages from books, periodicals and newspapers, etc.; destroying or defacing property, including defacing of walls and furniture, damaging facilities (such as rest rooms), breaking windows, etc.; misuse of equipment, such as computers, microfilm readers, printers, etc.

 Destructive library users can be careless, thoughtless, or dangerous. Staff must evaluate the situation and decide the best method of handling it.

If the person causing the damage seems otherwise harmless, let the individual know that the actions in question are against the law and must stop at once.

If it is determined that the person is causing damage maliciously or is "out of control" call Security.


If a person speaks to a staff member or another library user in an abusive or obscene manner, calmly tell the person that such language is not acceptable. Tell the person that if he persists with such language that you will call a supervisor.

If the person is persistent with obscenities, call a supervisor.

If the person continues to be obscene, call Security (6460) and request police assistance. DO NOT try to physically detain the individual but be prepared to give a complete description to the responding officer.

Often people can be verbally abusive without using obscenities. If a person's remarks make you feel uncomfortable, offer to contact your supervisor or offer a Suggestion Form. If the person persists, tell him/her that his

If a telephone caller uses abusive or obscene language, hang up. If repeated incidents occur, notify Security.

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Updated September 15, 2005 . Please send comments to Ludwig Possie Web Administrator.
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