Friday, October 14, 2005

A note to a patron with an objection

Michael McGrorty, of Library Dust, gave an "exam" after Banned Books Week. The prompt, in essence, is to write a note to a patron that objects to some materials in the library. The example McGrorty provides is a fotonovela. To that end, I would be tempted to reply as Amy did in part of her reply. She made her reply in a comment to McGrorty's post. Amy wrote, "I promise that we have something in our collection to offend everyone. If we did not, then I believe we would not be doing our job." By itself, the quote may sound a bit snappy; I like its playfulness and truthfulness since every library is likely to have something to offend someone. However, she did write a very thoughtful reply as a whole. I happen to agree with the quote, and it would be my initial reply. Yet, I will curb my enthusiasm a little. Here then is a reply I might draft if I was in the situation McGrorty suggests. The prompt would assume that the branch manager of the local library would be required to write such a note. This is probably as close as I will get to playing manager:

Dear Madam:

In regards to your phone call of October __ about the fotonovela El Chacal de Coyoacán, the library is grateful for your interest in our collection. We appreciate your concern.

In terms of what we buy and place on our shelves, the ______ County Public Library has adopted the Library Bill of Rights of the American Library Association. The Library Bill of Rights is a document that the library has adopted to ensure good service and to allow our visitors and patrons to exercise freedom in choosing what to read. In addition, the library maintains a collection development policy of collecting works and materials that meet the needs and interests of our diverse community. This includes providing materials that present a diversity of viewpoints and perspectives. It also means that the library does not exclude materials on the basis of origin, background, or views of the authors or creators of the materials. The Library Bill of Rights and the collection development policy are available to the public through our Web site, or you can request a copy at the library.

We would like to reassure you that we take any concerns from our patrons very seriously. The library always encourages parents to visit with their children and to share with them their reading choices. We are grateful that you have expressed your concern and interest. While at times the library collects items that a particular person may disagree with or find objectionable, the library's mission is to serve all the taxpayers of _____ County. The librarians are always available to provide suggestions and assistance to patrons in finding materials appropriate to their needs. Reading lists for all ages are available, and our librarians enjoy sharing advice and suggestions. Parents know what is best for their children, and the library is happy to assist you in locating any materials appropriate to your interests and needs.

We hope to greet your son and you soon, and we look forward to assisting your son and you to find books that are enjoyable as well as interesting. If you have any further questions or concerns, please contact any of the librarians. Thank you for your interest and concern in our community library.

Sincerely,

. . .

I did consider if should have added a note about having an appeals procedure of some kind the patron might use. However, at this time I chose not to, but it could be something to suggest if this patron chose to extend her objection. At the moment, I think more in terms of the patron needs to be acknowledged and taken seriously, which I have done by explaining our procedures and more importantly, gently pointed out her parental duties. I did not provide links above to things like the ALA Library Bill of Rights since a note would not have links. However, it was done by electronic mail, links would be possible. I assumed this would be a formal note in writing.

2 comments:

Carleen said...

"We would like to reassure you that we take any concerns from our patrons very seriously. The library always encourages parents to visit with their children and to share with them their reading choices. We are grateful that you have expressed your concern and interest. While at times the library collects items that a particular person may disagree with or find objectionable, the library's mission is to serve all the taxpayers of _____ County."

Nicely done and very tactfully said. Although I don't deal with objections directly in my current position. I've been told from others who have that most of the time people just need to be heard and to know that they are being listened too. You're letter accomplishes that very well.

Angel, librarian and educator said...

Carleen: Thank you for stopping by. One of the things they tried to teach me in management class was havnig some tact. We had a similar exercise to the one I did here at the time. It does really take a sense of tact, diplomacy, and maybe even some compassion or humanity (sense of being humane?). Where I am at now, it would be more likely the library director or one of her assistants who would write such a letter if it came to that. I heard that too, that often people need to be heard and know someone is listening. I think as long as we resist the urge to suddenly be defensive, we can likely work things out with a patron having an objection.

In the meantime, best.