Tales from a Library Wonk

Over the years, I’ve been asked on numerous occasions by my non-library friends to share some of the weird things that have gone on at my place of employment, particularly patron encounters. So I thought I’d write a few of them down for your amusement and bemusement. Some of these happened to me and some have happened to my co-workers. For those of you, by a freakish quirk of fate, recognize yourself in these little notes, I hope you don’t take offense…but thanks for the laughs!


  • I get this question repeatedly. A patron will come up to me while I’m sitting at the Youth Services Desk, look at my name tag, look at the giant sign above me that says “Youth Services Desk”, and then ask: “Do you work here?”


  • We were having a problem with one of our internet stations one day. So we turned it off and put a bright orange sign over the keyboard that said “Out of Order.” Soon after that, a patron came in to use the internet. Of all the stations that were working, he chose to sit at the broken one. He looked at the “Out of Order” sign, then moved it off to the side, and attempted to get onto the internet. It took him a little while, but he eventually figured out that it wasn’t actually going to work for him.


  • One day, a high school age girl came to the Youth Services Desk and requested a DVD copy of Alice in Wonderland. This in itself was not strange. The fact that the girl was dressed like Alice was.


  • This past December (2011), we received a patron request for “today’s newspaper” to check on information about the upcoming Bears game…So we gave him the obituaries. (Insert rimshot here)


  • Recently, one of my co-worker had a patron come up to her at the Youth Services Desk and ask “Where are the children’s book?”


  • I had a local middle schooler ask me with a straight face “What city do we live in?” Either this student was a remarkably good actress or the educational system was failing her very badly.


  • A mother of a student requested a copy of The Heroic Life of John Paul Jones for his report. She was genuinely shocked when I told her that we didn’t own it, despite informing her that the newest copy of the book was from 1902 and only a few copies were even in existence. She still insisted on obtaining a copy. Wanting to share the joy of this seemingly endless transaction, I bucked the question to the Adult Reference Desk. I know when to admit defeat.


  • A parent made a request for I.Q. test prep books for his child. I neglected to ask why a person would study for an I.Q. test anyway. No Child Left Behind indeed!


  • A 10-year-old patron made a request for “funny DVDs-preferably with swear words.” What a cute kid…


  • With a wink and a nudge, a fifth grade boy once asked me for books with pictures of “hot women.” I gave him a book about menopause.


  • A request by a little girl who wanted “pretty” videos. Believe it or not, I found one, to which the little girl replied “It’s my favorite!”


  • A young patron made a request for Harry Potter and the Goblin of Fire. I explained to him that it was Goblet, not Goblin. He insisted that it was the opposite. Finally, I took him to the shelf to show him the book. After acknowledging that the title was indeed Goblet of Fire, he then asked me if we were going to get Goblin of Fire.


  • A male patron (I’m not sure if it was a boy or a man) asked one of my co-workers for “fairy tales for boys” because he “doesn’t do well with the ones for girls.”


  • One of my former co-workers shared a story with me about an adult patron who was asking for videos. The librarian suggested to him that he check out the adult video section. The patron then became flustered and stated that he didn’t want to. The librarian couldn’t figure out why he reacted the way he did until she realized that the man thought she meant “adult” as in pornographic films!


  • A mother came in looking for a copy of Moby Dick…for her seven-year-old. Not too ambitious, are we?


  • This story was passed along by one of the Adult Reference librarians. A mother wanted to sign her son up on one of the internet stations in the Adult computer lab. But according to our library policy, the son was too young and needed to go the Youth Services Department and sign up for a computer there. Apparently, this did not please the mother. She asked that the librarian change her son’s birth date on his record so he could get on. The librarian flatly refused. After a brief stare-down, the mother left in a huff.


  • A boy was looking for books about Vietnamese New Year (Tet). I asked him when Tet was celebrated. His response: “About 1:00.”


  • A woman came in looking for books about dealing with the death of a pet. The family dog, named Jack, had died earlier that day and her children were feeling horrible. We found a picture book called, believe it or not, A Dog Like Jack. The patron almost started crying. She wasn’t the only one.


  • A patron’s disgusted response upon learning that the library didn’t have Rick Riordan’s The Red Pyramid in our collection even though it hadn’t been published yet: “I can’t believe you don’t have the book!” To rectify this horrible error, the staff member went down to the library’s dungeon and poked Riordan with a sharp stick until he finished his book.


  • After being in the library for about ten minutes (I counted), an adult patron came up to the reference desk and asked in all seriousness “What library is this?”


  • I was sitting at the reference desk, minding my own business, when I heard a couple of kids say “Eww, there’s poop on the floor!” It turned out that a toddler, not liking what she had produced in her diaper, was reaching in and dropping little deposits all over the floor. I added a new library work experience by cleaning it up. And yes, we thoroughly cleaned everything in the department-germ phobs need not fear!


  • A little girl and boy were playing in the children’s department one morning. After a while, the boy and his mother had to leave. To say goodbye to the girl, he started to wave, but the girl abruptly stopped him. “No!” she said “We have to be pounding!” She then made a tiny fist and attempted to give the boy a fist bump. He formed his own little hand into a fist and attempted to connect with her hand. The coordination wasn’t quite working for either child, so they repeatedly jabbed their fists towards each other, never meeting once. They looked as though they were having an invisible sword fight. I about fell out of my seat laughing.


  • Had this conversation with a young patron:
    Him: “Hi!”
    Me: “Hi,”
    Him: “Did you take a shower?”
    Me: “Yeeess…”
    Him: “That’s a good thing!”
    Me: “Yes,”
    Him: (pointing to another boy) “That’s my friend.”
    Me: (waves to friend who waves back)
    Him: (to friend) “What’s your name?”
    Friend: “Tyler,”
    Me: “You’re friends, and you don’t know his name?”
    Him: (Smiles and shrugs)

It’s situations like these that make me glad I get out of bed and go to work 🙂


  • A young boy came up to one of my co-workers and requested “The Life of Pi,” pronouncing Pi as “Pee.” When she tried to correct him, he insisted that he wanted “The Life of Pee.” Perhaps it’s a potty training book…?


  • As he tried to leave, a boy managed to tangle himself in the wires of one of our preschool game computers. A little girl was standing nearby, and as he fought to free himself, he began to plead to her: “Help me, my friend! Help me!”


  • A three-year old was really excited for Halloween, as she explained to one of my co-workers: “I just love your Halloween decorations. I love Halloween. I’m going to be a mermaid…like Ariel…you know that big mean Ursula? I don’t like her…”


  • Two little boys discussing marriage in the preschool play area. Boy One is insisting that he had gotten married (much to Boy Two’s disbelief).

 Boy Two: “Was it yucky when you kissed?”

 Boy One: “Well, SHE said it was yucky.”

Little do these kids know that this similar conversation is played out by men in bars all over the world.


  • When asked not to sit on our Duplos play table, a boy replied “I was sleep-sitting.” (Incidentally, sleep-sitting was how I got through some of my college classes…)


  • In overhearing a conversation between two children at our department’s Duplo table, one of the children blurted out “He’s dead! He’s dead, honey! He’s dead!” I’m not sure what precipitated this outburst. I just hope it wasn’t some sort of confession.


  • A little girl talking to one of my co-workers: “Librarian? I am very good. I am like a butterfly. I like to twirl. Watch! Librarian? I think the library is lovely. I really like what you do here.” Who could ask for a higher compliment?


  • A fifth-grade boy asking for a particular DVD (see if you can guess which movie): “This really old movie. It starts with the letter ‘P.’ It has dinosaurs. And the guy on the cover is wearing a pizza. And it’s old. I watched it on Netflix & my aunt said it was old. Oh, they drive cars with their feet.”

3 thoughts on “Tales from a Library Wonk

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