West Texas Library Group

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Patron Conduct Policy & Procedure Examples

Patron Behavior Policy

The Branch Librarian of each branch is responsible for handling problems with patron behavior. It is also her responsibility to report a serious situation, or an ongoing problem, to the Library Director or the Librarian in charge. When a Branch Librarian is not available, her substitute is responsible for handling problem situations and reporting them.

Most problems that arise with patrons involve minor behavior problems. Some, such as intoxication, involve misdemeanors. Occasionally, though, someone may commit a criminal act, such as molesting a child or striking another person. Never hesitate to call the police if a crime has been committed.

Here are the basic rules governing patron behavior:

The public library is open to all.  Library staff will request patrons to stop any conduct that significantly interferes with use of the library by others.

Specific behaviors that are unacceptable include, but are not limited to:


Eating or drinking (water in a closed container may be allowed)

Theft of, or vandalism to, library materials, equipment or facilities

Using the library while noticeably intoxicated

Yelling, or speaking so loudly that a reasonably tolerant person cannot work



Leaving children under the age of 7 unattended in the library

Using skateboards or skates in the library        

Lying in the aisles

Sleeping, if it is disturbing because the patron is snoring, or if seating is limited and the patron is preventing others from using needed space

Abusive language

Extremely offensive odor (to the point it is nauseating, permeates an area, and/or prevents use of needed resources).  ( a note concerning this may be given to the patron

We need to bring an awkward situation to your attention. We try to assure that visiting the library is a productive and pleasant experience for the majority of library users. The library staff has have received complaints from patrons, and has determined that your odor is a problem. 

Library policy states that “library staff will request patrons to stop any conduct that significantly interferes with use of the library by others.”  We value your right to use the library, too, but this policy requires that we ask you to leave the library now and find ways to improve this situation before you return.

If you would like to discuss this policy, please contact Pat Harper, the County Librarian, at 841-4179.

Soliciting, panhandling and political activity

Loud, continuous crying or screaming

Harassment (including exhibitionism, following other patrons or staff, staring, repeated unwanted personal questions or attention, repeated requests for information if the intent appears to be to embarrass or upset the staff)

If a child appears to be harassed by an adult, intervene. If the situation is uncertain, ask the adult if he/she needs help finding material, or find a reason to talk to the child. Find a way, without making accusations, to separate the adult from the child.

Harassment is a crime if it involves exhibition, sexual harassment or threats. If a staff member or patron is a victim, encourage the person to call the police, or allow you to call the police. In the case of a child, try to contact the police and the parent unless the child objects. If a child is upset, do not leave the child alone. Stay with the child until police or an adult relative arrive.

Let other staff members, volunteers or substitutes know what the offender looks like. Write an incident report so you will have a record if someone is a repeat offender.

Here are general guidelines for handling encounters with problem patrons. For specific advice, call the Library Director, the Librarian in charge, or refer to the book It Comes with the Territory.

1.         Explain clearly to the patron why his or her behavior needs to stop. Be calm, polite, and

            specific, and state consequences. For example, "When you talk loudly, it disturbs other

            people. Please lower your voice or you will have to leave the library." (You may not have to

            add the warning about leaving the library, especially if the patron is unintentionally loud)

1.        If the offense is mild, such as loud talking, give a second warning if necessary.

2.       Ask the patron to leave the library. For example, you might say, "Please leave the library now. The next time you come in, please observe our rules about speaking quietly."

3.      Giving a patron a note instead of a verbal message may be less embarrassing for you and the patron. You may use this note (see above) for a message concerning very offensive odors. For notes covering other situations, contact that County Librarian.

        4.    Call law enforcement if a patron refuses to leave after you have clearly told him or her to go. If you are in a town where it is difficult to get an officer, make an arrangement with family, friends or business people to give you backup. It is a good idea to work out a code to tell someone you need immediate help without letting anyone else know that is the purpose of the call.

5.    If you are alone in the library and you feel unsafe, leave the library if you believe this is the best course of action. If other staff and/or patrons are in the library and you believe a person is likely to become violent, use your best judgment.  Call the police, evacuate everyone but the disturbed person, or try to talk to the person if you believe you can calm him or her down.

      SAFETY is more important than library materials or library rules. Don't put any other concern before your own safety and that of other staff and patrons.

6.   If a serious problem arises, or a problem escalates, inform the Library Director. If she is not available, talk to the person in charge at the Main Library, or call the Library Director at home.

7.    If a serious incident occurs, fill out an incident report. This may be helpful if a patron causes repeated problems. 

Additional advice:

-Do not touch the person you need to talk to, especially if he or she is intoxicated, angry, sleeping or apparently mentally disturbed. If a person is touching or hitting you, you may have to use physical means to stop the behavior. If you can, place your hands firmly on his or her shoulders or arms and tell the person the behavior must stop.

-Be nonjudgmental. For example, if you have to ask someone to leave because of body odor, say, "The odor from your clothes is disturbing other patrons. Please leave now, and come back to the library when your clothes are clean." (in this case, if you can refer the patron to a shelter or other facility, do so)

-Tell a disturbed patron very clearly that a very specific behavior must stop. For example, say, "Yelling is against the rules. You must stop". Repeat this if necessary.

-Generally, use common sense. If one patron complains about another one, but you think there is no real interference of that patron's rights, listen. Then explain the library policy on significant interference. Or, call the Library Director if you are unsure of the best action to take and wish to discuss the situation.

Siskiyou County Library's Patron Behavior policy is based on the Siskiyou County Code, the American Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee Guidelines  (see Appendix) and the book It Comes With the Territory, by Anne M. Turner. This book is kept in Reference at the Main Library, and may be borrowed by staff members, or by patrons for in library use only. It gives useful advice on handling problems.

The County Code states that it is a misdemeanor to do any of the following acts in or about any County library:

a. Maliciously deface, cut, mar, or otherwise damage any County library structure, furniture, equipment or materials

b. Maliciously damage in any way the grounds or facilities around any County library

c. Give other than his lawful name, address, and telephone number for the purpose of using any library facility, or checking out books, or receiving any library materials or equipment, or when  such information is requested of him by the Library Director or other person in charge of a    County library

d. By means of unnecessary noise, action or conduct, disturb others who are making reasonable

    use of library facilities

e. Loiter within any County library with the intent to violate any of the provisions of subsections a, b, c, or d of this section

f. Upon any violation of the provisions of subsection (d) of this section, or after any County library    has been closed to the public, refuse or fail to leave the building or grounds thereof promptly    when so requested by the Library Director or person in charge of a County library.

g. Parents of juveniles who damage any library buildings or grounds or the interior of library

    buildings may be held financially responsible for such damages.

The goal of the library's policy is "...to maintain a safe and healthy environment in which library users and staff can be free from harassment, intimidation, and threats to their safety and well-being." (It Comes With the Territory, page 138)

It is important to note that it is not the library's intention to restrict access to the library "...by persons who merely inspire the anger or annoyance of others..., unless the behavior would interfere with access by an objectively reasonable person to library facilities and services."  (ALA Intellectual Freedom Guidelines)

It is up to library staff to judge whether or not one patron's behavior is interfering significantly with staff or other patron use of the library. If so, the staff needs to request that the behavior stop.


Every library occasionally receives complaints about materials or service.  Complaints nearly always come from deeply held opinions and convictions, and we must take them seriously, even when they seem frivolous or unreasonable. When handling complaints, be polite and firm and never become angry or argue with the complainant, even if he/she is unreasonable, angry, and insulting toward you, the library, and the County.  You cannot afford to take the comments personally.  Always say "we" instead of "I."  Four suggestions  for handling an unreasonable person are:

            - Listen attentively and let the person talk him/herself out.  After a complainant tells you what is on his/her mind, he/she may calm down and listen to what you have to say.

            -Paraphrase the patron's complaint to be sure he or she knows you understand it

- Politely tell the complainant that you are sorry that he/she has not received the service expected, rather than trying to excuse or justify the actions of the library or yourself.

- Offer to do what you can to solve the person's problem without breaking library policy. If it cannot be resolved, suggest that the patron talk to the Library Director. Offer to make the call or make an appointment for the patron. Sometimes just talking to a supervisor is all that is needed to calm a person down, even though the supervisor says exactly what the
patron has already been told.

Boston Public Library
Appropriate Library Use Policy

Entering the Library barefooted, without a shirt, with offensive body odor or personal hygiene, or being otherwise attired so as to be disruptive to the Library environment.