Today someone came to the reference desk and wanted me to contact his partner for him. He had lost his cell phone and just replaced it and did not have the partner's phone number saved to the phone or memorized. I tried looking the person up in the white pages but he was unlisted. The man told me that this person is off his medication and he is really afraid for him, and insisted that I put him in touch with his partner by using the phone number in his partner's library card record--"I know he has a library card, even if you can't give me the number, can't you just call him and put him on the phone?"
I told him that I was very sorry, but I couldn't share any patron information for non-library purposes, no matter how urgent. I asked if I could check the white pages for a friend or family member who might have his husband's number, but he couldn't think of anyone (he was pretty distraught). I then offered that I could help him call his husband's doctor, who might be able to help, but he declined. I then suggested that he call the police or 911 and report that he felt his partner was a danger to himself, but he said his partner would never forgive him so he just couldn't. He asked me a few more times to disclose the man's number or call it and put him on the phone, but I reiterated that it was illegal and I just couldn't. Then he left.
I was not prepared for this. I think I did the right thing in refusing to give him the information, but that doesn't change the fact that the outcome was awful. How would you cope with something like this if it happened at your job?