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SLA Training -- Heterick Memorial Library

Updated: 2016/09/16

Emergency Procedures

Immediately report emergency situations to an ALA or librarian. However, if taking the time to notify someone would make the situation worse, take action first and then notify a supervisor.

  • For example, if you are shelving on the third floor and see smoke, but the fire alarm is not going off, do not run down to the information desk and notify an ALA before activating the fire alarm--go ahead and activate the alarm, and then report to a supervisor. 

The Heterick Memorial Library Emergency Procedures Manual has detailed instructions for responding to various types of emergencies. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the manual. In emergencies library staff are responsible for ensuring the safety of patrons, so it is important that you know what to do.

Refering Questions

There are two situations in which you should refer questions. They are:

  • When you aren't 100% sure about the answer.
  • When answering the question would involve searching in a library catalog or database, or teaching the patron some kind of research or library skill.

When you aren't 100% sure. Even if a question seems simple, if you are not entirely certain about the answer, always refer it to one of the ALAs or librarians. No one will think less of you for referring a simple question. We will think less of you, though, for giving a patron misleading or incorrect information. When in doubt, refer.

When the answer involves searching or teaching. If you get the sense that answering a patron's question would require you to search in a library database or teach them something, refer the question directly to a librarian. The librarians have special training and knowledge for answering these types of questions. Examples might be "I'm looking for articles for my research paper" or "I need help picking a topic for my research project."

For help determining when you should answer a question and when you should refer it, use the READ Scale, a rating system for reference questions. You should be able to answer Level 1 and 2 questions. Refer Level 3 - 6 questions to an ALA or librarian.

Level 1

  • Very little effort
  • No need to consult any library tools or resources
  • 1 - 2 minutes or less
  • Examples:
    • Directional: Where is the bathroom? Where is Room 200?
    • Library hours: What time do you close on Fridays?
    • Basic technology assistance: How do I print? How do I connect my laptop to the TV?

Level 2

  • Small effort
  • May need to briefly consult a library tool or resource (a policy on the library website, a research guide)
  • Examples:
    • Finding items: Can you help me find this book? [shows you phone screen with picture of title and call number]
    • Policy information: How long can I have something checked out? How do I reserve a room?
    • Advanced technology assistance: How do I print on cardstock? I’m having trouble opening this PDF.

Don't know the answers to some of these? Look around this guide and the library website, or ask, to find out!

Levels 3 - 6

  • Require consulting multiple tools and resources (the catalog, databases, books)
  • Involve library and research skills instruction (how to search in a database, how to pick a research topic)
  • Longer consultations with patrons

Behavior at the Desk

Avoid long conversations with friends or classmates who stop at or walk by the desk. While it's important to be friendly--your friendliness is one reason why you were hired!--long conversations are unprofessional and can be distracting to patrons. They may also prevent patrons from coming up to the desk and asking for help. Please limit conversations to a quick wave or "Hello." 
Also avoid eating at the desk. Your supervisors understand that your schedules may not always allow you time to eat, and that it may be necessary to have a snack during your shift. But, as with long conversations, eating at the desk is just not professional. If you do need to have a quick bite during your shift, ask the ALA on duty for permission to do so, and go somewhere not visible to patrons, such as the first floor elevator room, the area by the sign-in book, or the OhioLINK desk.
This policy applies to any food that we are not sharing with patrons, whether that be snacks that you have brought in for yourself or treats that one of the supervisors has brought in. We do occasionally have food out for patrons. In a situation like this, it would be fine to eat at the desk--just make sure to clean up after yourself!

Answering Questions

Keep in mind the following three best practices when answering patron questions:

  • Never Assume
  • Always Ask Clarifying Questions
  • Always Make a Follow-up Statement/Ask a Follow-up Question

Never Assume. Librarians who have studied how patrons ask questions have found that the questions patrons ask often do not reflect what they actually want or need. A seemingly simple question like "Where are the science books?" might disguise a need for a book that can help a patron identify a wild orchid growing in her garden. Don't assume that the question a patron asks is actually what they want to find out.

In addition, do not assume anything about a patron based on their appearance. For example, just because a patron appears to be Middle Eastern, do not assume that she is an international student who speaks very little English and doesn't know much about American libraries.

Always Ask Clarifying Questions. Because patrons aren't always clear about what they want, in order to make sure we get them what they actually need, we have to ask questions that help us discover their true need. One example, using the orchid scenario, might be: "All of our science books are up on the third floor. Do you have a specific book in mind?" Always try to dig deeper (without being nosy or rude) to make sure you understand a patron's real question.

Always Make a Follow-up Statement/Ask a Follow-up Question. Studies have also shown that patrons appreciate it when library staff finish their interaction with a concluding statement or question that encourages the patron to return or ask for more help. Some examples are "Did that answer your question?" and "Let me know if you need any more help." Making a follow-up statement or asking a follow-up question is an easy way to help patrons have a better library experience.

Community Users

  1. Residents of Hardin and surrounding counties (Allen, Auglaize, Hancock, Logan, Marion, Putnam, Union and Wyandot) who are at least 18 years old may apply for a community user card.
  2. Patrons under 18 years of age may obtain a card with the signature of a parent.
  3. Proof of residency and a photo ID are required when applying for a community user card.
Give the person inquiring a Community User form to fill out and then direct them to an ALA or librarian for additional information.