by Carolyn Davidson Brewer
Assistant Director, North Texas Regional Library System

Remember your mission: To provide a safe environment for all of your library users and employees.

Do not confront a violent or potentially violent person alone. If the situation is extremely dangerous, call the police and move other persons to safety.

Explain to the person that the behavior is unacceptable. Ask them to leave the premises. Do not tell them to calm down as this usually exacerbates the problem. Involve law enforcement if the situation is serious.

Avoid prolonged eye contact as this can be interpreted as a challenge. You need to make eye contact, but do not stare at the person.

Be aware of your body language, do not cross arms, make fists, or move suddenly. In turn, check the other person’s body language for signs of violence, such as those listed. If they display these signals, remove yourself from the immediate space of the person.

Speak in a calm, regularly toned voice. Be respectful of the other person and use their name if known during dialogue. Do not interrupt the person, but listen. Use positive language in responses and ask open-ended questions.

Do not confront anyone with a weapon. Remain calm, difficult but necessary, and begin talking to the person about why they are so upset. Do not be a hero – keep the person talking until police arrive.

Acknowledge the person’s complaint and express understanding. Explain in detail what action will be taken to relieve the complainant’s situation. Give specific time frames for the problem to be addressed and corrected.

Have a library code word to use on phone calls and discussions that mean help is needed.

If someone is under the influence, contact the police to have them removed. Do not try to rationalize with them. If they are bothering staff or library users, remove the staff and users from the area until police arrive.

If someone is delusional, contact the police. Do not agitate the person but quietly remove others from around the person. Do not disagree with this person but calmly respond that they are safe in the library.

Everyone’s safety is the number one priority – move all persons to a safe room or area if necessary. Lock the library’s inner doors to seal off areas if someone has a gun.

Document any incidences and use the situations as staff training for future needs.


Original Publication Date: 
October 1, 2008
Legacy Article Number: