Responding to Students in Stressful Circumstances

The move to remote learning, coupled with the isolation of COVID-19 means that many are feeling stressed and this is especially true when exam and final assignment season approaches. On AskAway, we've heard that the overwhelming majority of interactions are positive but on rare occasions, a student or other AskAway patron may lose patience and openly express their frustration. As AskAway service providers, these interactions can be hard on our well being and resilience and having some scripts in our back pocket can help us be prepared with the aim of turning the conversation around.

AskAway does have scripts for responding to visitors who are rude (see the Scripts page for Problem - Rude and Problem - Threats, Rude End Session scripts) and as always, you never have to tolerate this behaviour. But in our current situation, where many are facing unprecedented changes and stress in their lives, and so much uncertainty about their future, there may be moments where there's an opportunity to turn the conversation around and where we can turn to empathy even while we care for ourselves.

To that end, here are two new suggested scripts to address these interactions that acknowledge students' particular struggles right now.

Suggested scripts

When someone feels that the service isn't helpful or the library in general does not help them, this script could help you turn it around:

"It may be hard to see from your side of the computer, but we/I want to assure you that everyone is doing the best they can right now. Can I ask you for some patience and teamwork? We can get through this, but only together."

If someone loses patience, this script might be helpful:

"I'm hearing from a lot of students how stressful the move to online learning has been. It's stressful for us too. We're all in this together, and I would like us to be kind to each other. Can you pull back a bit so we can work on your question together?"

Please note: These scripts have *not* been added to the list of service-wide scripts in LibraryH3lp. If you would like to have them readily available on your shifts, you can add them as a Personal script in LibraryH3lp (see this FAQ). You may also want to customize the wording to suit your communication style. Local coordinators may wish to add them as an institutional script (see this FAQ).

With thanks to Faith Jones, Head Librarian, Columbia College Library, for co-authoring the blog post and drafting the scripts.