Good manners and a friendly demeanor can handle most library customer issues. But what if being courteous is not enough? Do you, your staff, and your co-workers know what to do if someone is emotionally bullying or physically threatening to staff or library visitors? Belligerent? Acting out because of drugs, alcohol, or other cognitive issues? Refusing to leave? Caught stealing or damaging property? The awareness, attitude, and actions of library employees are the first defenses against customers who are AOA (Angry on Arrival).


Make safe practices a priority for front line staff. Planning, consistent enforcement of policies, training, support from supervisors and managers, and applied technology can work together to protect library employees, customers, vendors, and visitors as well as your workplace’s property.



• How We Influence the Behaviors of Others

• Setting Limits on What is Acceptable

• Prevent Escalation: Don’t Engage Emotionally

• Distractions, Alternatives, Disengagement

• Trust Your Gut: When to Call Authorities



• Ensure everyone on the staff knows what to do in emergencies

• Lower the drama of difficult encounters with library customers

• Develop consistent responses to challenging customer behavior

• Improve basic security features of your workplace

• Institute regular safety programs with professionals

Dealing with Hostile and Potentially Dangerous Library Users

  • Pat Wagner is a trainer and consultant with 40 years of experience working for libraries, universities, local government, nonprofits, and small businesses. She supports the success of libraries with programs on personnel, supervision, management, leadership, marketing, strategic planning, project management, and communication. Pat has worked with libraries and library organizations throughout the United States, from the smallest rural storefronts to the largest academic and urban library institutions. Pat also is a frequent speaker at state and national conferences. She is known for her good-humored and practical presentations.