Friday, March 10, 2006

Mentally ill patrons

The big topic at our staff meeting this morning was a recent session at the AkLA Conference about how to deal with mentally ill patrons done by Ron Adler who is the CEO of the Alaska Psychiatric Hospital in Anchorage. Ron used to live in Ketchikan, so we have been well trained by him over the years. What was remarkable about his session, said my boss, was how grateful the other librarians in attendance were for the training and how excited they were to have some new ways of approaching and talking to difficult patrons. There is already talk of having Ron speak at our Juneau conference next year.This is a hugh issue for every public librarian I know and it is something that is seldom discussed or written about in the trade. As with so many library issues, it is sometimes really helpful to reach outside the profession for expertise and guidance. As Michael Sullivan so pointedly reminded us in his talk at AkLA, library school is generally academic librarians teaching other people how to be academic librarians and the "real' world of libraries can be quite a shock for some people. Personally, I could have used a lot more training in personnel management, municipal budgets, grant writing, and story hour techiques rather BRS and Dialog which became obsolete so fast it wasn't even funny!


Alec said...

Fascinating! Do you have any notes to share about the talk?

You mentioned library schools not teaching some skills... Well, I think depending on the program (or maybe because times have changed), schools are teaching such things. My management class covered personnel management. It's something you could conceivably spend a whole semester on, but I learned a lot and necessarily some of the knowledge will have to come from "on the job." (That's why assistantships or internships are so important.) There are also classes in both storytelling and grant writing at my graduate school. (I really wanted to take the storytelling class.)

Perhaps my favorite class in grad school was Adult Popular Literature, a class with a decidedly public library focus. I am an academic librarian, but the course was well taught, helping me to appreciate a variety of literature and to further hone my reference interview techniques. Not only that, our homework was reading! What could be better than that?

Barbara said...

Actually, being the Oldest Person in the Room, I think there has been a real revival in readers' advisory in LIS education. I had some great reference courses, but the concept of readers' advisory seemed quaint at the time. I'm glad it's back in the catalog.

I will pick up on what Charlotte says, it's great to get expertise from outside the field. And since the world keeps changing it's never too late to learn more. It also can enable some useful collaborations. It certainly is important in academic libraries - and no doubt the same for public libraries.