De-escalation Training for Library Staff

We strive to maintain an inclusive environment where our students, faculty, and staff (including our own staff) are seen and respected. As academic library workers, our professional standards and ethics compel us to acknowledge and address historical racial inequities; challenge oppressive systems within academic libraries; value different ways of knowing; and identify and work to eliminate barriers to equitable services, spaces, resources, and scholarship. (Excerpt from the William H. Hannon Library’s “Statement of Commitment”)

To support our commitment to challenging oppressive systems, the William H. Hannon Library received a $3000 Inclusive Excellence Project Grant from the LMU Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for an initiative that will increase our internal capacity to safely and conscientiously mitigate conflict in public spaces and at public programs through de-escalation. The grant funds will support expert training to provide library staff and student employees with the tools to protect ourselves, to know when and how to intervene as a bystander, to increase awareness of implicit biases that could result in harmful profiling of minoritized patrons, and to diffuse potentially difficult situations with understanding and empathy before it becomes necessary to contact Campus Safety Services.

The library is a community hub, with staff, physical spaces, and services that meet a wide range of needs of a diverse population, including patrons from our  campus community and visitors from across the county. We are open from 8 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Fridays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to midnight on Sundays. During the two weeks leading up to finals each semester, we are open 24/7 (with extended hours for LMU community only). Last year, the library welcomed over 307,000 visitors – which, as the first year returning to full operations after the COVID-19 campus closures, is significantly less than our academic year 2018-19 gate count of nearly 550,000 patrons. We anticipate usage to return closer to these numbers this year.

Although the vast majority of our interactions with our library patrons are supportive and positive, every semester our colleagues in public services (who include both staff and student employees) encounter patrons who are hostile, disruptive, frustrated, aggressive, or otherwise distraught.

The funding provided by the Inclusive Excellence Grant will go towards a hands-on, facilitated workshop hosted by Arete Training – experts in workplace conflict de-escalation and prevention. In January 2023, at this library-specific, scenario-based training experience, 40 library staff members and student supervisors will work through making safe and effective communication choices, while learning to manage our own emotions. We will examine our own agency in responding to difficult and sometimes volatile interactions: choices that inevitably determine the outcome. With the renewed objectivity and increased confidence that we will learn in this workshop, we can reduce stress, increase morale, improve our safety and that of our patrons, inform our training practices, and ultimately enhance the service we provide for all members of our community.

This co-curricular development opportunity, planned by our Library Staff and Organizational Development Committee and our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism Committee, supports the library’s Unit Strategic Plan Goal 7 (i.e., “Strengthen the library’s organizational effectiveness”) and directly connects with LMU’s Learning for Justice, Inclusion, and Transformation Initiative, Objective 1 (i.e., “Actualize commitments to inclusion, diversity, equity, and anti-racism across undergraduate and graduate students’ curricular and co-curricular experiences”).