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Special Interest Group Archive: Library Support Staff 10/28/2020

These are the notes from meetings dating back to 2015.

Notes from the meeting

Support Staff SIG – Topic “Uncomfortable Conversations”


We have a mix of people attending from public, academic, and community college libraries

Sometimes “strong opinions and viewpoints” can create a situation where an uncomfortable conversation happens.

How do they come about? How can we deal with them? It’s a learning experience. We will try to share new techniques.


Social media and how different views get expressed because it’s over a more un-secure environment.

An experience was discussed during political conversations. They had to step out or bow out because you can end up feeling ‘under attack’ by others with the alternate opinion or “bickering” and “name-calling”.

A lot of these conversations are by grown adults.

Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and sometimes Twitter can be worse because it’s constant & fast

A fear of retaliation was mentioned. Someone added that it’s a real fear because what happens is you’ll get someone who gets offended and finds the real person physically and goes after them.

Someone stated they like to take a break once in a while from social media and “snooze” things that can be upsetting or negative.

Someone added they take the negative and reply with a positive to change the “tone” of the discussion, and sometimes it’s in the form of a positive message or quote.

In-house, we’re starting to regroup and get back in the swing of normalcy with starting our programs back up.

{Side Note} Someone mentioned their library is an early voting site and it’s been chaotic with the resumption of library services.

Someone came up with a solution to “remain professional” and keeps directing patrons to library resources and to not get engaged with that kind of discussion. In a way that’s a way to courteously change the subject/conversation.

Someone else mentioned they flat out say they just don’t discuss politics in their workplace.

Someone lets the people vent depending on their level of anger/frustration. Even if you might be one of the only people someone speaks to, there is merit in measuring the danger of engaging in the conversation vs lending an ear.

Someone mentioned their suggestion box is a good item to use if it’s a comment about the library they’d like someone to review. An item, such as a folder, can be a good distraction because you can go get it and excuse yourself that way. That, and making pretend phone calls was mentioned.

Some libraries have a panic button. Some have a secret code and phrase to alert each other of a problem.

We should always know where the fine line is in the conversation.

Despite we are at work, we don’t necessarily have to be fake or neutral since we are human with our own opinions, but just remember your purpose and acknowledge the patron. You don’t have to be untrue to yourself.

Someone uses comedy to state things so even if there is some disagreement both parties are still smiling.

Someone asked about mask usage. That can be uncomfortable to tell students and telling people over and over. Some people get difficult about being told what the policies are.

Library services are done by appointment and most of the time things go well, there are many who do wear their masks. Another member added smaller groups are allowed to come into their library, and are remembering to keep things sanitized and clean to keep things safe for others.

Someone added that at times, incident reports had to be done as well as having the public leave but for the most part people have been good about following the new regulations.

Conclusion: Next Meeting possibly December 29th for a mid-winter meeting

Next convener chosen

Southeastern NY Library Resources Council
21 South Elting Corners Road | Highland, NY 12528
Phone: (845) 883-9065