Preparing for a Complaint Pt. 2

Q:  I read your advice on preparing in advance to respond to a concern or complaint. It all makes sense but I feel like I should be doing more, given everything that’s been happening over the past two years. Are there additional things I can do?

We appreciate that you want additional ways to be prepared in advance for a complaint. Since 2021, we’ve given presentations and workshops on this topic. We are happy to share a slide deck pdf for public librarians and, in collaboration with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, a slide deck pdf for school librarians providing more specific ideas for things you can do not only before a complaint or challenge, but during and after as well.

As you’ll see in the slides, there are many things you can do to be better prepared as an individual and as an institution. Much of what we share is related to policies and procedures, and communication (with other library or school/district staff, the board, and your community). We also suggest thinking about who you would turn to for  support — for you and your library.

Keep in mind that these elements are connected. Public libraries and school districts that are best positioned to confidently and matter-of-factly respond to a complaint or challenge understand how efforts across these areas strengthen their preparedness.  

Additionally, we encourage you to approach preparedness with the understanding that responding to concerns, complaints, and challenges is part of your job. In preparing for the ordinary, you are also preparing for what feels like the extraordinary in these times when public and school libraries have come under attack. As you prepare for complaints, remember that you are building positive relationships with your community members through the work you do each and every day. 

Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that the work you are doing in your library, and the work you are doing when you develop talking points and provide education and training (as we suggest), isn’t about forwarding a specific political point of view. It’s simply about outlining the role and responsibility of the library in service to your community, how that role is carried out in terms of collection development and responding to concerns, and the responsibility of the library board or school board as whole, and individual board members, to follow the policies set by the board, and related procedures. 

April 2024

Thank you to Monica Treptow for contributing to this response