ETSU librarian publishes book on ‘Trauma-Informed Approach to Library Services’

Published 1:58 pm Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...
JOHNSON CITY — An East Tennessee State University librarian has published a new book that focuses on applying the principles of trauma-informed care to the library setting.
 “A Trauma-Informed Approach to Library Services” by Rebecca Tolley was published this month by American Library Association (ALA) Editions. Tolley is a professor and librarian in ETSU’s Charles C. Sherrod Library.
 Trauma-informed care, which originated in the fields of health and social services, can provide empathetic service, positive patron encounters and a more trusting workplace to the library setting, according to Tolley.
 “The idea for this book cropped up as a recurrent theme as I helped students and faculty find library resources on the topic,” Tolley said. “At the same time, I’m part of the ETSU Women’s Studies Steering Committee, which received training to become trauma-informed.
 “It was really kind of a perfect storm because I also went through foster parent training through the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services and the social workers training us emphasized trauma and being trauma-responsive as a foster parent. Applying all these ideas to library services seemed natural.”
 In her book, Tolley covers the key principles of trauma-informed care; 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 shares the characteristics of a trusting, transparent library organization and provides discussion questions to promote a sense of psychological safety among library workers. She also describes how certain language and labels can undermine mutuality and suggests phrases that will help library staff demonstrate neutrality to patron ideas and views during information requests.
 Sherrod Library has implemented many of these trauma-informed principles and practices, including special training for new staff members.
 Tolley, who coordinates the Sherrod Library’s research consultation service, speaks and publishes on such topics as organizational culture, customer service, and cultivating empathy in library workers.
 She is the co-editor of “Generation X Librarian: Essays on Leadership, Technology, Pop Culture, Social Responsibility and Professional Identity” and “Mentoring in Librarianship: Essays on Working with Adults and Students to Further the Profession.” Her writing has appeared in anthologies, several library journals and numerous reference works.
 “A Trauma-Informed Approach to Library Services” is available from the ALA Store ( and major online retailers.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox