To the editor:
I do not know where to begin in responding to the editorial headlines "Sheltering homeless can't be accepted as a library task," (the Times, Tuesday, June 19) But I will do my best.
To begin with, I would like to say that the list of duties and obligations of the future assistant director of the Sawyer Free Library is very long. Staff training is an important duty on that list.
But your editorial seems to imply that "training the library staff to deal with social problems" should not be one of those duties. I believe that Library Director Carol Gray is capable of making that decision.
Now I would like to ask you if you understand Carol Gray's reasoning for staff training in addressing situations involving any patron. The staff must be taught the signs of sudden illness, some form of impairment, drug use, or inebriation, so they can best handle a situation with care, caution, and respect.
Not all problems with patrons require police intervention. When a situation becomes overwhelming or dangerous of life-threatening, which can happen very quickly, the staff does call the police to assist.
But there has to be an immediate response to the problem. The staff member cannot "freeze-frame" a situation until the police respond, which can take several minutes.
I think it was unprofessional of Police Chief Lane to label Carol Gray as "too good a soul." Believe me when I say she takes on some very difficult situations. She does it in a way that is respectful and preserves the person's dignity. She reserves her right and obligation to call the police when she has determined that's what's needed.
Calling the police when she or a staff member can successfully ask a patron to quiet down, or in some cases to leave the building, does not make sense. When it becomes a greater problem, or when someone who is a repeat offender comes in after being told not to, it is time for police intervention.
Staff training helps staff members to recognize what may be happening in any number of situations and to determine the best way to handle it while keeping themselves safe and those around them safe and well. Staff members, on occasion, have called the police when needed.
Truth is, when you work in any public agency and facility, you are dealing with social problems every day. You are face-to-face with the public and should have some training as to how best to evaluate and respond to difficult situations.
Director Gray has a full plate and then some, and is sorely in need of an assistant director. Yes, one of her responsibilities, from a long list, will most likely be staff training — a duty that benefits all who use the library.
Rebecca Dexter Aliberte