How to Recover from the Difficults in the Library Realm

It’s only been two months of working in a small academic library and like any job I’ve already had to deal with the Difficults. I know you might be wondering what are the “Difficults” and allow me to explain. The “Difficults” are not a what, but rather who. The Difficults can be anyone at any given time, but at CPC they are the library patrons who make my job extremely difficult primarily due to a large entitlement complex. You know, the patrons who not only completely ignore the posted library policies but also take pride in doing the opposite of said policies all while disrupting everyone else around them. Ultimately they are chalked up as the inconsiderate patron.

After many days sprinkled with a Difficult here and there I slowly started to realize their sub-par behavior was starting to get to me. Just last Saturday, after dealing with a Difficult I was surprised to find myself reverting back to an old bad habit of grinding my teeth when I was upset or anxious. If you’ve read my TWU letter of intent you’d understand my background. I came from humble beginnings and grew up in a rough neighborhood, but even though my life was often chaos our Mom was adamant about the value and power of respect, consideration, and kindness regardless of how we look, where we came from, and any other differences we as a society may possess.

With that lesson forever embedded into my heart that’s how I approach every person I encounter-with respect, consideration, and kindness. Unfortunately, even though I take this lesson with me not everyone else does which has led me to take action and research some ways to deal with the Difficults after a long hard day at work. So in the meantime here’s some strategies to help ease the headaches, the teeth grinding, and the exhaustion the Difficults may bring to us Librarians.

While a Difficult is being difficult

Even though at the moment the patron may be odious do the following:

  1. Listen: Yes, they’re upset and taking it out on you, but be sure to listen to their request and try to solve the problem. Not only will this show that you hear them, understand them, and genuinely want to help them, but it will also get the overall issue resolved.
  2. Remind yourself it’s probably not you they’re upset at: Like in tele-fundraising know that if a person is upset with you for things outside of your control or something extremely small know that it’s most likely not you they’re upset at, it’s probably the system, policy, or something going on in their lives. At CPC Austin we have LVN and RN students who are EXTREMELY hard working. Many of them have multiple kids, work a full time job-sometimes two jobs, and are also going to school with that, know that they are under a ton of stress. So if someone is projecting their frustration on you remind yourself they might have other obstacles in front of them.
  3.  Stand Your Ground: For some reason there are many students who think being a librarian means I am their assistant-there to tend to any request they have whether it’s making copies, watching their items, or delivering stuff to their classrooms (I know, ridiculous, right?). While sometimes it would be less of a headache to just give into their request remind yourself that if you do give in you are setting a bad precedent for the future. So, if they start trying to make you feel bad for not “helping” them remind yourself that not only are you showing them the true nature of your job, but you are also helping them understand the idea of responsibility and accountability.

After a Difficult has calmed down or left the library:

  1. Breathe: For me specifically I need to take slow and steady breaths with my mouth open so I won’t grind my teeth. Do 3 repetitions of 10 breaths.
  2. Quietly crank that calming music (oxymoron I know): For me there’s nothing more calming than classical lullabies such as those from Chopin, Mozart, and Liszt. Here’s a great playlist from Halidon Music if you’re feeling a little stressed.
  3. Try not to rant: Somewhere along the way I learned that although it is tempting, try your best to limit or eliminate venting to your significant other. I know you’re probably thinking, why? Isn’t that kind of the deal when in a relationship? While support is a HUGE part of a relationship I’ve found that when I unload the day’s frustrations the following happen:
    • I relive the frustrations all over again.
    • I’ve created a bad habit where I’ll want to share my frustrations after every little encounter with a Difficult.
    • I end up wasting the small amount of precious time I have with my significant other on being upset and worked up.
    • I’m allowing the simple frustration to grow and evolve into a major problem.
  4. If you must rant then write: Once I got into grad school I bought a beautiful travel by sea themed, Julia Rothman Journal and made it my written form of The Burgeoning Bibliothec. I knew that librarianship was going to be a huge journey for me so I wanted to begin right away in chronicling all of my questions, schedules, frustrations, moments of awesome and so much more. So, if you must vent and rant I suggest doing so in writing. For me, when I’m worked up writing helps slow me down just long enough to make sense of everything, put things into perspective, and ultimately it tires me out enough to let whatever happened go.

Helpful Links:

After a quick Google search I found a few good articles that may help you while encountering a Difficult:

Wikihow-Deal with Rude People: Helpful when encountering a rude person which is bound to happen to all of us.

How Emotional Intelligent People Handle Toxic People: A great article helping you move forward after a tough situation in addition to shedding great light on the effects of stress.

10 Smart ways to Deal with Rude People: This article helped me a bit more empathetic to Difficults in addition to put my frustrations into perspective.

Overall I’m very happy that I got this out of my system and set-up a nice routine to follow when I’m feeling stressed about work. As someone who has proudly been a library patron since my adolescence I often hold onto that feeling of perfection  and admiration every library offered. However, now being on the other end of the circulation desk I also need to remind myself that like a sailor whom will encounter stormy and dangerous nights my library journey will also encounter the enchanting, blissful, calm seas that would make anyone cry of pure joy.


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