Patron Trauma: Real-World Library Guidance

As a library worker, did you ever imagine that you might be expected to function as a social worker, a job search guru, a self-help expert, an instructor, or any other number of roles that today’s library workers are thrust into? Library workers are facing challenges that they are not necessarily equipped to manage. Whether you find yourself helping library patrons locate information regarding Medicare benefits, unemployment compensation, news on global crises, or witnessing a community member struggling with tough times in other ways (i.e., homelessness, mental health crises, etc.), coming face to face with trauma and adversity can be difficult. As our society comes to terms with how common trauma is, library workers are challenged to cultivate their best selves to help those most in need. Titles from ALA Editions | Neal-Schuman and Facet Publishing will help you understand what trauma is and how it impacts library work while providing you with real-world guidance on using empathetic service to work through and with trauma.

Titles that may interest library workers are listed below.

A Trauma-Informed Framework for Supporting Patrons: The PLA Workbook of Best Practices by The Public Library Association Social Worker Task Force

Whether it’s navigating a crisis or witnessing a community member struggling with tough times, coming face to face with trauma and adversity can be uncomfortable. But in striving to learn more about challenging behaviors, and how we can better interact with library patrons and our coworkers, we can come to see that people are complex and not simply “problems.” This workbook from the PLA Social Worker Task Force (SWTF) provides a collection of powerful tools to add to your customer service toolbox. It’s filled with prompts, exercises, and best practices that shed light on how trauma can affect people, helping you build confidence in your ability to support your library’s patrons. You will

  • delve into what trauma is and how it impacts library work; 
  • be introduced to a framework for utilizing a trauma-informed lens in your interactions; 
  • practice exercises to spur personal reflection on common concerns bound up with library work and the policies relating to these issues; and 
  • gain hands-on tools and techniques, including strategies for de-escalation and guidance on the impacts of involving law enforcement and banning patrons.

Recipes for Mindfulness in Your Library: Supporting Resilience and Community Engagement

Mindfulness not only offers the possibility of a healthy life/career balance for librarians themselves, but in challenging times of rapid social change and uncertainty, it also represents a powerful way to build community resilience. In fact, mindful experiences can be structured to nurture the kind of civic engagement and discourse essential for library support. This collection explores a wide range of approaches that demonstrate how librarians have integrated mindfulness into their teaching, collections, services, programming, spaces, partnerships, and professional development. An inspirational idea generator for library administrators, marketers, and outreach staff. 

The Librarian’s Guide to Bibliotherapy by Judit H. Ward and Nicholas A. Allred

Bibliotherapy can be defined as the use of guided reading for therapeutic ends. And though you might not be a licensed mental health professional, you can—and do, even without knowing it—support mental health and personal growth by connecting patrons to books that heal. Regardless of your previous experience or existing skills, this guide will empower you to make “shelf help” a part of your library’s relationship with its community. The bibliotherapy-informed practices, programs, and events outlined in this guide will help librarians support the mental health and personal growth of their patrons.

Libraries and the Substance Abuse Crisis: Supporting Your Community

The opioid epidemic, and other behavioral health issues such as alcohol and drug abuse, directly impact every community across the nation; and, by extension, public libraries’ daily work. Because libraries are not only trusted guardians of information but also vital community centers, people struggling with addictive behaviors as well as their family members and friends often turn to the library for help. But many library workers feel overwhelmed, finding themselves unprepared for serving these patrons in an effective and empathetic way. Written by a frontline librarian whose personal experiences inform the book, the book encourages readers to turn their fears and uncertainty into strengths and empowerment, offering to-the-point guidance on welcoming people with substance use disorders and their loved ones through policy, materials, outreach, collaboration, programs, and services. 

Teaching Life Skills at the Library: Programs and Activities on Money Management, Career Development, and More by Kimberli S. Buckley

Between making financial decisions, maintaining a healthy work–life balance, and juggling health, family, friends, and other responsibilities, life can feel overwhelming. Place these same responsibilities on an individual just entering adulthood who has less real-life experience and it can feel even more overwhelming. So why not make sure our teens and young adults are more prepared to face the world before they go out on their own? How can we also reinforce these skills for adults who may never have learned them or who may need a refresher? This book provides a hands-on and interactive approach to creating and planning library programs and activities that will enable patrons to learn and build the most important life skills.