Friday, August 24, 2007

Everybody was kung fu librarianing...

Nelson reports on a workshop he recently added. This newly anointed black belt librarian reports on what he learned!

August 21, 2007 – Mustang Public Library

Warren Graham’s workshop, the first offered in Oklahoma, “The Black Belt Librarian” sponsored by OLA was one of those workshops which got ideas spinning long after the program were over. To my surprise the presentation was far more psychological than physical and was well suited for all library personnel, from shelvers all the way up to library administrators. If you ever have a chance to hear Graham speak, please do so because it is well worth it. You will get a philosophy of library services in a different context, yet a point of view which can be beneficial for everyone that walks through our doors.

Graham has spent 25 years in security, including 17 at the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, NC, before retiring in 2006 to establish Warren Graham Training and Consulting. He regularly travels across the country to all varieties of libraries providing security training; his book Black Belt Librarians which he presentation was based on details his methods.

Graham explains that libraries are in conflict because security of the collections, staff, and patrons is a priority for libraries and at the same time, libraries maintains its traditional role as an open, public space designed in making its resources available to all people. Graham states that librarians today have to make a choice on better security procedures because “we always do it this way” or “we never had this problem before” are classic statements that we can no longer afford to say. Case after case is made where libraries are not secure and librarians and the patrons are suffering, including our libraries in Oklahoma.

Handling difficult customers for public service staff and managers was one of the talking points Graham used and we did role playing exercises which was a lot of fun. Graham also covered topics such as:

• Entry and exit procedures
• Personal belonging restrictions
• Conduct on library premises
• Alarm and monitoring systems
• Emergency and disaster response
• Securing staff areas
• Lock and key security procedures

Graham uses the “AAA” rule which stands for attitude, approach and analysis. He gave real life experiences for each definition. It speaks volumes to have worked in a library for a good length of time and relay these experiences to an audience that is willing to receive it. It was a packed room in wonderful new Mustang facility (if you ever in Mustang, check out their new building) and I suspect that if this was offered again, it would be standing room only. Hopefully Mr. Graham will be asked back at the annual conference so we all can benefit from his experiences.

The main theme for the presentation and the throughout his book is communication, not Karate moves. Graham’s website states it best, if there's a single golden rule, it's to “never think about confronting the patron. It's all about communication. If you think, for example, 'The patron is doing something that is against the library rules so now I need to confront him about it,' you'll tense up mentally and physically. You'll be working against your own viscosity. Most patrons will comply if you ask them the right way, and that is what I train staff to do.” For more on The Black Belt Librarians the website can be found at:

OLA, with Linda Gens and Kay Boies did a nice job presenting this workshop. However, it is up to us to take this message and take it to heart. We all need to be safe in our workplace and this is a mindset that all of us need to take action on and it starts from within. Some of us do have paid security or take extra proactive measures to be safe, but are we doing the right kinds of things at the right time? I work with a staff that knows from firsthand experience that anything can happen at anytime.

Reporter: Nelson D. - Information Services Librarian, Norman Public Library.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yay! I knew Nelson would be able to share the experience in a better way that I could. It was a great workshop that provided some handy tips I have already started to put into action. I hope more people take it to heart!