By Crystal Phillips, Cook Public Library

Ounce of Prevention
Presented by: Shari Carlson, Hokah Public
Hokah, Minnesota is a small
town of about 550 people.  The library is
open 25 hours per week and is staffed by librarian, Shari Carlson, and library
assistant, Barb Bissen.  This
presentation by Carlson, highlighted the importance of safety in library, especially
in small libraries where there are few staff. 
Carlson worked many years as a behavioral health consultant and was able
to offer practical tips on preparing for behavior issues in the library.  She said that while troubling behavior
happens in libraries it is often not documented.  Librarians need to be trained how to deal
with disruptive behavior.  Librarians
should understand the stressors that affect individuals, which can stem from
money, work, economy, family, relationship and health issues.  Carlson said librarians should recognize that
that gut instinct is meaningful and acts as a protective device.  Some potential warning signs include changes
in body language, facial expressions, challenging or defensive behavior and
changes in appearance.  Librarians should
have a practiced procedure to deal with these situations.  Carlson offered the following intervention
tips, offer assistance, be supportive, answer questions, redirect or change the
subject, allowing venting, remove the audience and use a team approach, if
possible.  If the situation goes wrong,
position yourself in a safe, sideways manner instead of directly in front of
the person, assume the person will comply, start nice and then get authoritative
if needed, give them an out, don’t take things personally, and most
importantly, if your gut says the situation is dangerous call 911.  She said “nice goes a long way and sometimes
it’s the only nice that person gets.” 
Carlson offered the following
tips to encourage a positive library culture.
1. Promote a Relaxed and
Positive Environment
This starts with taking care of yourself.  Make sure you eat and sleep well.  Be a professional and watch out for signs of
compassion fatigue.
2. Promote Mindfulness
Be present in every moment.  Provide mindfulness tools such as Zen gardens
and tables, Buddha boards, fish tanks, sand pictures and coloring pages.
3.  The Power of Color
Choose colors that help library users feel comfortable
and calm.
4.  Outdoor Inspiration
Bring the outdoors into the library with plants, water
features and gardens.
5.  Engagement
Provide card games, puzzles, chess, marbles, cribbage,
etc. to promote making connections between library users.
6. Acknowledge and Value
Respect all genres of literature and types of information.  Welcome all types of hobbies and arts into
the library including music, gardening, crafts, etc.
Her final advice:  Take a vacation.