keeping public libraries connected throughout the Commonwealth
Working with Internal Staff
Communicate with staff immediately. Let staff know that a challenge is at hand and provide as much information as possible (sometimes you might have to limit what is said but at least communicate something to the front line).
Speak with one voice, with one spokesperson. When staff members receive inquiries outside the realm of their job duties, such as questions about library customers, library staff, former library staff, or the management and direction of the library, they are not to respond to those questions. All such outside inquiries should be addressed to the Director. Staff members should offer the person the Director’s business card and let him/her know that he/she can feel free to come and knock on the Director’s door, or e-mail, or send a letter, or call the Director. This minimizes risk. It removes the awkwardness for employees and eliminates potentially detrimental situations in which employees might say something inappropriate or counter to the mission of the library.
Emphasize library confidentiality. Employees of the library must not improperly disclose confidential information about library customers, employees, or library business at any time. If there are issues about which staff cannot and/or should not speak concerning library customers, employees, or library business they should refrain from doing so.
Let employees know that there may not be a quick and easy resolution.Often the challenge is presented in an angry manner, out of the blue, initiating a sudden and potentially volatile situation. The timing is never perfect.
Know that some (and perhaps many) on your staff will not understand. Professional librarians know the rationale for why a challenged item is retained but many employees might agree that the item is “obscene” and worthy of challenge and removal.
Rest assured that you did the right thing, followed the right process, and remained strong in your support of the First Amendment.Discuss with staff the following tenets of public librarianship:
Free access: We distinguish between our personal convictions and professional duties and do not allow our personal beliefs to interfere with fair representation of the aims of our institutions or the provision of access to their information resources (excerpt from the ALA Code of Ethics).
User Privacy: We protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted (excerpt from the ALA Code of Ethics).
Maintain professional neutrality as library workers safeguard the freedoms of customers.
Know that all things shall pass in time, be patient, and model patience and calmness for your employees throughout the process.