Advice for dealing with a creepy patron?
(God I submitted like two or three asks and a submission within the past two months I feel like I’m posting so much here I’m so sorry. D| ) This is gonna be long, and I apologize, but I’ve never dealt with this type of person or situation before and I’m entirely unsure of what to do. tl;dr at the bottom.
I work at a public library. There’s this woman who seems very well put together- dressed fairly well, straight posture, etc., but every single worker here has commented for me to be wary because there’s something “off” about her. I’ll call her M. And it took a while, but boy, did I start to notice it. So far, since I have started at the library, M has…
- Asked workers and volunteers questions by getting so close you can feel her breath on your face.
- Gotten angry with the circulation desk workers because we charge $3 for a replacement library card (your first one is free.) because she thought that they could write a new number on the back of her current one (numbers and barcodes are printed directly on the cards). She wanted them to write a new number because her crystals said it wasn’t a good number for her.
- Sits in one of our armchairs and literally stares at us for at least an hour at a time.
- Asked my coworker a question. Which was answered, no problem. M started walking to the front doors. Got to the doors. Stopped. Turned around and STORMED back to the reference desk, slammed both her hands on the counter as she leaned in really close, and demanded my coworker tell her exactly “how you got your hair like that!”
- Tried to come behind the desk to look over our shoulders and see if we were using the right websites to find information for her.
- We release the printed pages at the desk after people pay for them. They come out face down. M, at the time, had a cast on her arm. She kept looking at the cast and then at us, as if she wanted us to ask what happened. When no one took the bait, she decided to say that we better not look at her printed pages because they’re legal documents about her broken arm and it’s her personal business and she is not legally obligated to show them to anyone and we can be sued for reading them. :|
- Among various other incidents that weren’t like, “you need to get out of the library” disruptive, but have caused workers to become very uncomfortable.
- M also likes to try and trap librarians and volunteers into conversations when they are not on the clock.
Incidents that were specific to me include:
- On Halloween, we are allowed to wear costumes, granted they aren’t skimpy/gory. I wore my unicorn kigurumi to work, and also brought my unicorn head mask in case my boss or our public relations committee wanted pictures for our website (I’m not really a picture person.). I was sitting at the reference/info desk with only the hood to my kigurumi up and we got the same kind of “walk past and then rush back” reaction my coworker got for her hair, only without the slamming of the desk. M asked me if she could take my picture. I said “no.” Had that been the end of it, whatever. But she wouldn’t take no for an answer. I got everything from “you’re so cute though” to “my sister in law likes unicorns and [insert semi-coherent rambling here].” Finally, my coworker flagged one of our security officers and he started heading over and M left.
- When M had the cast on her arm, I was covering circulation one day. She asked if we had a bag, and I told her that we sell reusable canvas bags ($2). She asked if she could have one, I got the sheet out of the cash drawer to record the purchase, and she asked what I was doing. Then she said I was discriminating against her by charging her for a bag because “I have a broken arm and I shouldn’t be forced to pay.”
- Some time ago, on a day I wasn’t scheduled to work, I took the bus into town to stop at the local art store and grab some sushi. Our bus terminal is a quite large building with storefront-styled windows all on the front and most of the way down the side. It is a straight shot from one street to the next. Normally, I cut through the bus terminal. However, when I neared the entrance, I saw M sitting inside and reading a book. She hadn’t seen me, but I still didn’t want to risk it, so I went around the building. Note, I’m wearing my giant-ass bright green headphones, and looking at my phone while replying to an email. As I get about half through the walkway to the next street, I catch M in the corner of my eye. Unsure of if she noticed me, I turned to go to the opposite side, and she actually speeds up and makes a beeline for me, catches up to me, taps me on the shoulder, and starts trying to talk to me as if I’d hear her over my music. Not really sure of what to do as the woman already makes me uneasy, I just point to my headphones and cell phone like I’m on a phone call and walk off quickly.
- Today I had two incidents with her. I was assisting a student with her resources for a paper. She was having trouble finding non-reference books that she would be able to check out on the subject she needed, so I was discussing the online resources we offer with her. I’m a generally soft spoken person and she was right in front of me, so no problem. We’re quietly discussing them and I show her how to access them and then she leaves. Five minutes later, M comes over from her seat well across the main lobby, slams one of our database brochures and our bookmark that looks like the header of our website on the desks, and demands I tell her about the online resources “you told that girl about.” I’m just sitting here wondering how the hell she even HEARD me. There’s no way, unless she was either using a sound amplifier or she was hyperfocused on our conversation.
- The second incident today was when I was on my dinner break. I left the library because my grandmother had asked me to see if there were any Peeps on clearance, being the day after Easter and all. I get out of work, get to the local Aite Rid, and grab a few packs for her. Right when I come out of the store- BAM, there’s M, sitting on the bench near the exit and staring in the direction of the store’s doors. Again, I’ve got my headphones on (don’t worry! I wear them around my neck in stores and only put them back on after I’m done buying my things!). She notices me and picks her things up like she’s going to get up to come talk to me, and I just go right in the other direction and cut through a department store to get right back to work. Fortunately, I think she’s gone for the day.
I’m really unsure of what to do. She hasn’t done anything outright ban-worthy in the library. I also don’t want to sound like I’m being an asshole in case she has a mental illness, but she genuinely makes me uncomfortable- especially since I’m unsure of what do do if she approaches me when I’m on the clock. I can’t really say what I wish I could (Which would be: “Please leave me alone, you’re making me uncomfortable.” or something…), and I don’t know if she’s the type to like, come in to the library and try to start something when I AM on the clock. Other workers in both the circulation and reference departments are also creeped out by her and we’re really not sure what to do because she hasn’t done anything that we really needed security for or anything.
Does anyone know how to handle something like this? She seems harmless and all, but you never really know. Anyone can lash out physically. I don’t think she’s targeting me specifically- as other workers have had similar “off the clock” complaints with her.
Patron at my library is massively creepy. Invades personal space WAY too far (we can literally feel her breathing on us if we’re not safely behind a desk), tries to get behind desks, tries to trap us into awkward conversations, approaches us in odd manners when we’re off the clock, has asked to take pictures of me, has also accused me of being discriminatory when I was going to charge her for the bags we sell as one of our ways of funding the library, and various other incidents. I’m unsure of what to do because she legitimately creeps me out and I’m not sure if she would be the type to lash out physically.
I’m not sure if anyone here would have tips on how to deal with her, other than to stay within sight/earshot of a coworker or even a patron when she’s near.
Sorry for this being long, but having two incidents with her in one day kind of freaked me out.