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Answerland Staff Toolkit

Help, information, and resources for library staff participating in Answerland, Oregon's statewide reference service.

Crisis Calls

Although they happen rarely, we occasionally receive crisis calls on Answerland. These may be suicide calls or calls that indicate some sort of abuse or threat to personal safety involved.

Examples:

  • “I am going to kill myself.”
  • “My boyfriend punches me.”
  • “There is a bomb in a locker.”
  • “My father was touching me.”

Some of these calls may be pranks, but we should always assume that the call is real and take the situation seriously.

The following guidelines are intended to help prepare librarians for the possibility of a crisis call and provide appropriate steps to take in the event of a crisis call.

  • If you aren’t sure if there is a crisis or not, ask yourself the question, “Is someone in danger?” If that answer is YES, or if someone was in danger recently, or if someone will be in danger soon, it is a crisis call.
  • Do a reference interview. It’s possible that the call is coming from a student doing research. One or two clarifying questions will determine if the call is personal in nature or not.
  • If the question is personal, refer the patron to an appropriate hotline. As librarians, we don’t have the necessary training to assist a patron in crisis, but we can find resources that will help. Links for hotline resources are listed below.
  • Strike a balance between professional behavior and supportive behavior. If the patron is in trouble, we want to be friendly, supportive, and approachable, as with all of our patrons. However, remain professional and give resources rather than advice.
  • When the chat is ended, mark the question with the Descriptive Code “Crisis Call.” Then report the call to the Answerland Coordinator with the Question ID if possible, and if not, about what time it happened and which librarian was online. If the call originated in a school or library, the Coordinator will pass information on for follow up.
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