I don't normally blog about my workplace, but I'd like to share an experience that I had today.

This afternoon I spent four hours on the reference desk, and during that time I encountered what is often referred to in library circles as a "nutter".

Happily, not in person. My workplace is a special library, and is something of a closed shop to the general public. But we do have a phone number, and sometimes take questions from members of the public, as long as they are relatively easy and quick to respond to.

So, I got a phone call. Within a few sentences I realised that I had an aggressive person on the other end of the line, who was making an unreasonable request in unreasonable terms. After a variety of attempts to negotiate an acceptable outcome with this person (and after putting up with a fair amount of abuse), they demanded to speak to my manager. By then, I was very happy to comply!
The most interesting thing about this incident for me, though, was my reaction to the situation. By the time I got off the phone, I was shaking. Not from fear. Not from anger (okay, a little bit of anger!). But rather from frustration at not being able tell this person where to go.

It's very difficult to maintain a friendly, customer service demeanour in the face of unwarranted aggression. But of course I had to - to keep up my own professional image, and to protect my library's reputation.

I probably have it lucky compared to those who work in public libraries (or in other industries, such as retail). But it's still extremely unpleasant when it happens, isn't it?