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Communication in the Workplace

Hello all! I am in somewhat of a predicament and I need some advice. My coworker and I run a nonprofit literacy program in a local public school. Our bosses are the folks in the main office for this nonprofit—we are not school employees, but we work at the school every day. We have been granted certain spaces in the school at certain times of day by the school administration, and this is always getting thrown into craziness when there’s testing happening in one of the rooms or whatever. For the most part, we figure it out!

My problem is this: our main space is the school library, and the librarian has been acting super weird towards us lately. She was being really nice a few weeks ago and I thought to myself, “why was I worried about her? She is being so nice!” But now she does all these little things that interfere with our program. Her actions and tone are very passive aggressive, like she is mad at us but won’t come out and say it. IT DRIVES ME NUTS.


For example, she won’t tell us ahead of time if she is going to have a group of students in the library during our program, even though space is limited and our program essentially can’t function with a class of kids in our main space. When this happens, our volunteers complain to us, even though we have very little control over the situation. If she would tell us in advance, we might have time to find another location in the school (or possibly not—sometimes we are really screwed on that front), but even though we are in the same room together every day, she won’t mention a word about it until it’s too late for us to do anything about it.

She does a lot of other little things too. The other day I told a student whose mentor had to cancel that he could sit in the library with us and read for that time anyway, since we were supervising him. The librarian was right there when this happened. It turns out that the she was not okay with this, but how did she respond? She waited for me to leave the room, yelled at the student to leave, and at my coworker that it’s important that we’re all on “the same page.” I would never have told him he could stay if she had just told me it wasn’t okay. And why the hell would she yell at my coworker when I am the one who told him to stay? My coworker was not even in the room when this happened. Why won’t she just tell me directly that he can’t be in there? She also made some offhand remark about our volunteers moving the chairs the other day, then changed the subject and started talking to a teacher who was in the library about something else. She did not give me a chance to address whatever problem she sees happening with the chairs. How can I fix the problem if she won’t be direct with me about it? I do what I can to keep the chairs tidy and put them away once the volunteers leave, but if she would like me to do something different with the chairs than what I am doing now, SHE NEEDS TO TELL ME.


I need to talk with her about these communication issues and clear the air. But I am intimidated by her because she is kind of mean, and she has a “this is my library” kind of attitude, and I am scared to confront her. All I want to say is, “Whatever problem occurs, I am happy to deal with, if you will just tell me directly what is bothering you. And we can figure out ways to have our students read somewhere else when you have a class in here, but only if you tell us directly and in advance when there will be a class in the library.”

Can I say something along those lines to her? Or will she get offended and just keep being even more passive aggressive? All I want is for her to just say it to my face. She creates so much unnecessary drama and it is bullshit. I wish that she would just come out and tell me she resents our program for being in her library, rather than act obstructively towards us in a hundred little ways.


Advice? I have also considered asking my supervisor for advice, but I don’t want anyone to go over the librarian’s head and talk to school administration unless it is absolutely necessary. I have a feeling that would just piss her off.

Edited to add:

This program has been at this school for a decade, while the librarian is in her second year here. I have only been coming in since January, but after nearly two years she ought to be used to our program by now. Especially since the program has been here longer than she has. We never let the kids eat or have gum, and I always clean up after them. Me cleaning more will not fix this problem because I already clean. What I need to know is exactly what words to say to her.

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