Library One-Liners


Library One-Liners 

Reading Jester

Reading Jester

On Sat, 27 Apr 2013 ~ Sana Moulder in Fayetteville, NC asked Publib:

I’m seeking library patron one-liners for a project. I’d like questions and requests such as:

“I need a photograph of Jesus Christ,” or “I need a DVD of  A Christmas Carol, one with Charles Dickens in it,” or (one of my personal favorites), “I need information on how Muslims celebrate Christmas.”

This is for a Staff Development Day program, and should be of a caliber guaranteed to drive a Zombie Librarian into a homicidal rage. TIA

And, the Publib chorus responds:

~ I’m looking for all your true books about time-travel~ Can you find instructions for me on how to build a guillotine? (magician).

Fords Theatre - 1865- NARA

Fords Theatre – 1865- NARA

 ~ Patron: I need a video of President Lincoln’s assassination. Me: You mean President Kennedy’s assassination? Patron: No. Lincoln. You know, the Civil
War? My teacher told me I could get extra credit if I could bring in a video showing the actual assassination.

~ I need to check out all your books on biomes so no one else in my class can finish their reports.~ Lynn Schofield-DahlBoulder City Library – NV

~ I’m doing a term paper and need information comparing and contrasting the 3 Stooges with the 4 Evangelists in the Bible. ~ I need direction on how to get to Valhalla, the home of the gods, on a bicycle. ~ Do pimentos grow in olives? ~  What is the average size of a lawn in Beirut?

~ 2 part question -(early 90s): Everyone knows AIDS came from Africa. It was transimitted by animals and carried over to animals in the US. At one point, everyone will die of AIDS except for small, furry animals that look like the Muppets.  How did Jim Henson know to design his Muppets to look like the small furry animals that will survive the AIDS epidemic?~ I saw a documentary on TV about a type of tree frog that is going extinct. This tree frog looks like Kermit the Frog, by Jim Henson. How did Jim Henson know to design Kermit so he would look like this type of tree frog?  Editor’s note: Ms. Piggy conspiracy?

~ I need film of Abraham Lincoln giving the Gettysburg Address. ~ Becky Tatar – Aurora, IL  

Annunciation - Dirck Bouts

Annunciation – Dirck Bouts

~ I was recently asked for photographs of angels. When I tried to clarify and see if paintings would do the woman got upset, called me stupid and asked for someone else to help her.  🙂 To my knowledge, she did not get any photographs out of the next librarian either.

~ I once overheard: “Do you have books on booby-traps? I need to catch the damned Mexicans who keep stealing my chickens. I heard those Viet-Gongs were real good at booby-traps.” I laughed too hard to help the poor librarian who was trying to explain that the man was responsible for anyone who was maimed on his property before handing him several references for web sites.~ Terry Ann Lawler – Burton Barr Library – AZ

Bayou Sacra Luisiana - Henry Lewis 1854

Bayou Sacra Luisiana – Henry Lewis 1854

~ Patron asks for an aerial view of local landmark, Nottoway Plantation. Peering quizzically at the GoogleEarth image, she asks, “What’s that brown stuff all along there?”   “That’s the Mississippi River,” I reply.   “Why isn’t it blue?”   “It’s called the Mighty Muddy Mississippi because of all the sediment.”   “Is there any way you can make it blue?”~ Audrey Jo DeVillier Iberville Parish Library – LA

~ “When was the first recorded use of the word ‘love’ in any language?”~ Ann S. OwensSacramento Public Library – CA

~ Do you have any books on Chanukkah and other foreign Christmas holidays? ~ My son needs a book for school.  The author’s last name is Chaucer–I don’t remember his first name. ~ What was the date that God kicked the bad angels out of Heaven?~ Kevin O’KellySomerville Public Library – MA

~ This one was over the phone: “I have a book about William Shakespeare that I would like to sell. It is very old, it even has photos of him in it!~ Terry DohrnFruitland Park Library – FL

~ I need a photograph, not a painting, of the meteor hitting the earth and killing off the dinosaurs. ~ Not exactly a one-liner but close: I need a picture of a Georgia Cherokee teepee. (Librarian: The Cherokees didn’t live in teepees.) I need a picture of a teepee that Cherokees would have lived in if they did make teepees.   ~ I need information on the war, you know, the one where everyone got killed. ~ Another close one: DO you have anything besides “Learn Spanish in 30 days”? I need to learn it by tomorrow’s test.~ Dusty Snipes GrèsOhoopee Regional Library – GA

Fool's Cap Map of the World

Fool’s Cap Map of the World

~ We had someone once ask for a photograph of a dragon. Not a picture or drawing or painting but a photograph. ~ I also had a high school student ask for the book Ibid. I asked her where she got the title from and sure enough she showed me a footnote in a book. She would not believe me when I told her it was referring to the previous footnote until I showed her the sample in a Turabian style manual ~ Meg Van Patten – Baldwinsville Public Library – New York

~ This one sticks out: when in academia I got this urgent call: “My son has read every book there is and now he wants to read The Clavicles of Solomon,  We can’t find it anywhere!” I told her that could only help with the Canticles (Song of Solomon)… I know we touch people’s spirits but I hope when still in their bodies 😉 ~ Shahin ShoarArlington Public Library Columbus, OH

~ I once had a patron complain because our color copier wouldn’t make color copies of his black and white Resume.  I never did figure out exactly what he was expecting.~ Michael GregoryCampbell County Public Library –  KY

~ My all-time favorite reference question was the Santa Fe kid who wanted to do a report on pirates in New Mexico. ~ Another fine one was the woman looking for a book on how to choose a lottery number.~ Miriam Bobkoff Peninsula College Library – Port Angeles

Old King Cole

Old King Cole

~ Several years ago, a young man called to find out if the library was a government suppository. ~ And there was a woman calling from Georgia wanting to know if we had any information about an Inglewood business, the Los Angeles Kings. (For the sports-challenged: the Kings are a hockey team, who used to play in the Forum, a sports arena a few blocks from the library. That year [and not last year] they had made it to the Stanley Cup finals. They lost.)~ Sue Kamm Los Angeles, CA

~ I was once asked for a color photo of Christ.~ Christine Lind Hage Rochester Hills Public Library

~ Not a question I received, but I remember a story from another librarian who was asked for a map of all the lost gold mines in the Rockies. ~ And the tale of a Black librarian with whom I worked, who was asked for a mailing list of white supremacist organizations. “I gave it to him,” the librarian said, “But ewww.”

Step Right this Way

Step Right this Way

~ And, for real, when I worked at Baraboo, Wisconsin’s circus museum, I was asked whether we might have a photo of George Washington at the very first US circus in 1793.

I gently mentioned that photography was not invented until about the 1840s, and because of that, the requester wouldn’t find any photographs of George at any event, let alone at John Bill Rickett‘s original one in Philadelphia. “Oh. Right.”~ Erin FoleyRio Community Library – Wisconsin

~ The library gods must have heard your plea because today I got a phone call. There’s some context to this but this question was asked: Patron on phoneWhat is Shakespeare? I’ve heard of it but I haven’t seen the movie. If you must know the context he called to ask about an actress and her career and when he found out that she was in Shakespeare he wanted to know what it was. ~ Katilyn MillerFrederick County Public Libraries

Joachim Patinir - Crossing the River Styx

Joachim Patinir – Crossing the River Styx

My friend was asked to “point out the River Styx on a map”. Seems the person asking wanted to your there.~ Liz McclainGlencoe Public Library

~ We had a patron wanting to know the time. The circ clerk answered his question gesturing to the large, roman-numeraled clock nearby. He replied he couldn’t read it because he didn’t know Romanian.~ Jacque GageJoplin Public Library – Joplin, MO

~ Famous one-liner: “Where are the stacks?”

~ Teresa: Mam, would you like to sign up for our winter reading club for adults, Cabin Fever?
Woman: What do I have to do?
Tersesa: Rate all the books you read.
Woman: But I didn’t like the last one.
Tersesa: That’s okay. You don’t have to like them all.
Woman: I only want to enter the books I liked…

~ Leah: I love my new WiFi detector t-shirt!
Scott @IT: We should give one to the director at North Pocono. Maybe then we can pin down the source of their WiFi problems. “Call us if your shirt goes on or turns off.” Come to think of it…that doesn’t sound good, does it?

~ I called our local printer to get a rough estimate on printing book marks.
Leah: How much would 300 book marks cost to print?
Printer: In color?
Leah: Sure.
Printer: Will they bleed?
Leah (baffled): I HOPE not…. It’s YOUR paper!~ Leah Ducato Rudolph – Abington Community Library

~ Several years ago someone asked me for a picture of a cross-section of a banana showing the seeds. I finally found one, but it wasn’t easy.~ Holly HebertThe Brentwood Library – TN

~ Patron – “I’m looking for information on the Sultana Indians
Me (after a long and fruitless search) – “where did you get this reference?”
Patron – “I dreamed about them.”~ Lisa RichlandFloyd Memorial Library –  NY


Beethoven looking a bit peeved

~ Two favorites from here… The High Rockies of need… (Hierarchies of need) ~ And that song, Furry Lace (Fur Elise)~ Karen E. Probst Appleton Public Library

~ I’d like a sound recording of real dinosaurs.  ~ If I make recipes from a diabetic cookbook, will it give me diabetes? ~ Susan Hunt Aboite Branch Library- Fort Wayne, IN

~ I once got asked where our gynecology department was. I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing out loud as I explained where our genealogy department is.~ Deborah BryanTopeka and Shawnee County Public Library

~ Not a patron one liner but….I had a staff member ask me one day, Where are the eBooks shelved?

~ Patron: Where can I find the books on um, you know motivation and stuff? Me: (looking on the catalogue), I see there is one here, shall we go over and have a look? Patron: Nah, I can’t be bothered just yet, maybe tomorrow. I swear – true story. ~ Lisa Pritchard – New Zealand

~ At my previous library out west, we once got a call from a patron asking if we had the “Anals of Wyoming” in our periodical collection. ~ Stephen Sarazin – Aston Public Library – PA

Gutenberg Bible - Epistle of St Jerome

Gutenberg Bible – Epistle of St Jerome – Patron Saint of Librarians

~ Henry Huntington, railroad millionaire, established the famous Huntington Library and Art Collection in his estate in San Marino, California. It’s home to many rare books, including a Gutenberg Bible. About 50 miles away is Huntington Beach, California, named for Henry Huntington when he put a rail line through to the town.I used to work at the Huntington Beach Public Library, and for years confused tourists would come to the desk to ask to see our Gutenberg Bible. Best one-liner ever? Look at the computer screen and say, “Sorry, that’s checked out today.” Maybe a little too much background needed for this to be a great one liner, but we loved it.~ Roger Hiles Library Services Manager Arcadia Public Library – CA

Et tu, Granny?

Et tu, Granny?

~ Just saw a written information request: “About epilepsy or Grandma Ceazer. Just been diagnosed.”~ Anne FelixGrand Prairie, TX

~ I have one from when my son worked at a grocery store. A woman requested “bee honey” so they escorted her to the honey aisle. “But which one is bee honey?” They told her that only bees make honey, and she didn’t believe them. In fact, she thought they were making fun of her. (Which they did, in spades, after she left the store.)~ Cheryl Coovert  – Lexington, KY

Reading Jester

Reading Jester

Clover honey is made by clover.
Wild flower honey is made by wild flowers.
Spelling bees make word honey.
And WHERE do you think quilts come from?~ Chris Rippel – Central Kansas Library System –  Kansas

Editor’s note: Everyone on Publib knows that the best Quilts come from BiblioQuilters such as Nann Blaine Hilyard and Sana Moulder.


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43 Responses

  1. I need a copy of the anointed code. (She meant annotated.)

    Is this the emergency desk? (Reference desk.)

  2. I need the anointed Code. (She meant annotated.)

  3. I need a 10W40 tax form.

  4. I had a customer ask me for a book of whores. I showed him what we had on prostitution. He was unhappy with the choices and told me he wanted to find a whore “real bad” and phone numbers for them. I referred him to the Police Dept.

  5. I am an “adult reference librarian” and actually had a young man ask me what kind of services we offered in our back room offices!!!

  6. Just the other day I had a patron ask for the address for the “President of North Korea”

  7. I once had a boy ask,” Do you have a copy of that Eerie book?”
    Reply ” You mean like Eerie Indiana the tv show?”
    Boy, “No, my sister needs it for school.” “How old is your sister?” answer, ” 15.” I stop and think for a second “Do you mean Jane Eyere?”
    ” Yep, that’s it!” and we went and pulled the book off the shelf.

    • I was asked for a copy of Mein Kampf so that a patron could prove that Adolf Hitler was not anti-Semitic.

  8. I need a book that has photographs of the pioneers of Washington-on-the-Brazos building their cabins. When told that there was no photography at that time, the patron asked for the original blueprints and didn’t like the explanation that pioneer cabins were, generally one room.

  9. I need a book on how cotton is processed from the cottonwood tree.

  10. Not a reference question, but I once received a call asking to speak to the librarian whose picture was in a newspaper article about summer programming. I transferred the caller to her. It was an obscene call.

  11. I had a tv reporter ask me if I could show her where we kept our e-books in the stacks…

  12. While working in a bookstore, we got a request for “the book about the eagle by John Steinbeck”. It was Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

    Then there was the carefully spelled-out request for “Lame as a Rob”. Read it out loud. (That tale came from a Signet sales rep.)

    I took a request for “Free the Jews” by Milton Friedman. That’s “Free to Choose”.

    And there’s always my favorite: “Do you have any good books?” I tell them all our books are good. (In a high school library.)

  13. I once had a patron esquire about “those fuzzy apostles”. After some procedural puzzlement, I realized she actually wanted material concerning those “fuzzy opossums”.

  14. I had a patron ask me for a photograph of angels and dinosaurs. In the same picture.

  15. My colleague had a patron ask him, “This book on secret societies, does it have all of them in it?” When my colleague explained that, “no, some of them are still secret,” the patron was not pleased.

  16. I was once asked by a child for the book “Never on Sunday”. She was sure she had seen it on our shelves before, but this was the Children’s Dept. Turned out she wanted Edward Fenton’s “Once upon a Saturday”

  17. […] Library Patron One-Liners @PubLib – Oh, how I miss working with the public “I’d like a sound recording of real dinosaurs.  ~ If I make recipes from a diabetic cookbook, will it give me diabetes? ~ Susan Hunt – Aboite Branch Library- Fort Wayne, IN” […]

  18. I was once asked by a patron specifically where, geographically, man was created. I entertained the idea for a moment and considered where to begin whether from an evolutionarily and religious perspective. While I was pausing to think, the kid said “I can probably just Google that, huh?” and walked out.

  19. Student: “Do the computers work?” Librarian: “No unfortunately half of campus had an electrical outage just a few minutes ago. The power is out in the whole library.” Student: “Oh. Can I still print?”

  20. […] case you missed the discussion or the post on LISNews, there have been a flurry of great "library one-liners" on the publib email list. Nothing I could come up with can top these, to please check them out. A few of my favorites […]

  21. “I need a book on Malcolm the 10th” ..;. You mean Malcolm X?

  22. “I need a book on Priscilla Smith My teacher assigned her as my Colonial biography” After checking everywhere, I asked what she was famous for. “Oh, nothing. I think she was just a housewife. She was my great-great-great-great-great grandmother.” Neither child nor mother would accept that there wasn’t a book written about EVERY SINGLE PERSON who lived in Colonial times. (“But there must be a book. They lived way back then!”

  23. I had a patron call and say to me: I want to know the name of the person who was in the car accident last night.

  24. Girl: I want to read a book with drama.
    Me: Do you mean drama relating to acting or the arts?
    Girl: No. I want a book with people arguing and fighting, somthing like that.
    Me: Ok.

  25. Patron: Who is the woman who plays Jeannie in I Dream of Jeannie?
    Me: Barbara Eden.
    Patron: No it’s not Barbara Eden.
    Me: Barbara Eden is the only actress that has played that character.
    Patron: (Irate) I know who Barbara Eden is. She’s old. I want the name of the young girl who plays Jeannie.
    Me: Barbara Eden was young when she played that character.
    Patron: You don’t know anything. (And hangs up the phone).

  26. I’ve had a patron call and ask, “What is the weather like today?”

  27. […] been reading through these Library One-Liners  (found via Swiss Army Librarian) and some of them made me smile – on a manic day when I […]

  28. Our library has a large beautiful open spiral staircase in the center of our main floor directly in front of our circulation desk. Every so often we have a patron ask, “How do I get upstairs?”

  29. Teenager: I need a book about culture
    Me: What kind of culture are you looking for?
    Teenager: [huffs] Just culture
    Me: OK, is that ‘culture’ in the sense of anthropology, festivals, art, biology…?
    Teenager: [eye roll, further huffing] I just want a book on CULTURE!

  30. Several years ago I was working in the library of the state university’s medical school. A community member came in one day, wanting to find really, really graphic photos of the rashes/ulcers etc. that one *might* get from an STD, so he could show them to his daughters to scare them into celibacy.

  31. I was working in a public library. Guy comes in and wants a photo of a Victorian barber shop, because he wants to decorate his bathroom to look like one. Believe it or not, I found such a photo, but then the guy got mad at me because it wasn’t a very attractive place!!!!

  32. I had a hard time keeping a straight face when asked where the books on the penile code were!

  33. “Do you have a recipe for placenta soup?” (question asked of a medical librarian)

  34. I was working at a large university library and opened a letter from a high school student. It said, “Please send me everything you have about the universe.”

  35. […] Library One-Liners On Sat, 27 Apr 2013 ~ Sana Moulder in Fayetteville, NC asked Publib: I'm seeking library patron one-liners for a project. I'd like questions and requests such as: "I need a phot…  […]

  36. […] See on […]

  37. British visitors: Where can we find The Round Table?
    Me: The Round Table? As in King Arthur?
    British visitors: No, no. The Round Table – we were told to go to the cirque desk.

  38. Teen: I need to talk to that lady who was helping me.
    Me: Do you know her name?
    Teen: No.
    Me: Can you describe her?
    Teen: She wore glasses and had big hips.

    Unfortunately, that didn’t narrow it down much.

  39. Just a quick note on the bleeding bookmarks—the printer would’ve been referring to “bleed,” a printing and design term dealing with whether or not the design goes all the way out to the edge. “Full bleed” or sometimes just “bleed” means that the design goes all the way to the edge–there’s no empty border.

  40. Reblogged this on Miss Sokal and commented:
    Pretty funny!
    I’m looking forward to having a few stories of my own!

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