A trauma-informed approach to library services

For Immediate Release
Tue, 07/21/2020


Rob Christopher

Marketing Coordinator

ALA Publishing

American Library Association



CHICAGO — We are only now coming to terms with how common trauma really is; a landmark Kaiser study that surveyed patients receiving physicals found that almost two-thirds had experienced at least one form of abuse, neglect, or other trauma as a child. Though originating in the fields of health and social services, trauma-informed care is a framework that holds great promise for application to library work. Rebecca Tolley’s important new book “A Trauma-Informed Approach to Library Services,” published by ALA Editions, puts these ideas into the library context. Empathetic service, positive patron encounters, and a more trusting workplace are only a few of the benefits that this approach offers. Library administrators, directors, and reference and user services staff will all benefit from learning: 

  • the six key principles of trauma-informed care;
  • characteristics of a trusting and transparent library organization, plus discussion questions to promote a sense of psychological safety among library workers;
  • how certain language and labels can undermine mutuality, with suggested phrases that will help library staff demonstrate neutrality to patron ideas and views during information requests;
  • delivery models that empower patrons; 
  • advice on balancing free speech on campus with students’ need for safety;
  • how proper furniture arrangement can help people suffering from PTSD feel safe;
  • guidance on creating safe zones for LGBTQIA+ children, teens, and adults; and
  • self-assessment tools to support change toward trauma-responsive library services.

Tolley is a professor and librarian at East Tennessee State University. She coordinates the Sherrod Library’s research consultation service. She speaks and publishes on topics such as organizational culture, customer service, and cultivating empathy in library workers. She co-edited “Generation X Librarian: Essays on Leadership, Technology, Pop Culture, Social Responsibility and Professional Identity” (2011) and “Mentoring in Librarianship: Essays on Working with Adults and Students to Further the Profession” (2011). Her writing has appeared in anthologies, several library journals, and numerous reference works.

Many book retailers and distributors are experiencing service disruptions or delays, including Amazon. For speediest service, order direct from the ALA Store. ALA Store purchases fund advocacy, awareness and accreditation programs for library and information professionals worldwide. ALA Editions | ALA Neal-Schuman publishes resources used by library and information professionals, scholars, students, and educators to improve programs and services, build on best practices, enhance pedagogy, share research, develop leadership, and promote advocacy. ALA authors and developers are leaders in their fields, and their content is published in a variety of print and electronic formats. Contact ALA Editions | ALA Neal-Schuman at editionsmarketing@ala.org.