No such thing as a dumb question but … part 2

The following are courtesy of the collective mind of the PubLib Listserve January 2010 Archives

From the  Front Line Circulation Desks : featured article

Message: I cannot come in today to return a DVD. I tried to renew the DVD and the system will not allow me to because someone has put in a request for this DVD. It seems to me if I am allowed renewals on DVDs, this person should be expected to wait until I am done. I should not be penalized, with no warning, that I am suddenly not allowed to renew my movie. I should not be expected to pay any fine or even show this on my library record. 


… my favorite, although it was a telephone call, was the lady who called me about the overdue notice she had gotten on the book & CD set she had checked out.  We were wrong, it couldn’t be overdue, because she had only had it for four weeks and the title said, “Learn Spanish in Three Months.”  


Our Circ clerk just shared with me at lunch today that she had strong words from a patron who was also upset about renewals: we’ve had quite a bit of snow this week (with more to come tonight) and the patron cannot get out of his house and all the way in to town to drop off his books.  He is very upset that he is going to be charged 15 cents when it isn’t his fault it snowed . . . He tried to convince our new circ clerk that we have a  no-late-fees-when-there’s-snow-on-the-ground policy. 


I’ve witnessed a patron trying to tell a Circ clerk that she shouldn’t have to pay that late fee because she wasn’t going to *drive* to the library to return materials that were due on Earth Day. One supposes the energy demands caused by using the phone or web that day were simply too much for her to consider utilizing those methods, either. 


My favorite excuse for not paying late fees, is when the patron says I didn’t even read/watch/listen to it.


We recently had a patron come to the door before we opened.  He didn’t trythe door, just started banging, kicking, and swearing.   He repeated “Open the d at mn door” a few times and then left.

The next evening he returned and of course he had received a bill for the book since he’d had it since September.  He complained that he can’t get to the library when we are open.  I refrained from pointing out that he managed to get to the library to check the book out.

I politely stated that he was welcome to use the book drop if we were closed.  “Oh, where is that?”  ‘It’s to the right of the door you came in this evening.’  He looked startled and paid his fine saying thank-you to all the staff for their help as he left. 


I had a patron insist she returned the books she had checked out for six months. She remembered that the library was wide open and no one was there. (Tiny library inside a college, no book drop.) She said she left the books on the desk and walked out. She said it was a Saturday. The library was not open on Saturday and only a couple of people had the key.


Northern Nevada usually has very little snow that sticks around, but this year has had significant snow: a patron called to say that she couldn’t get to the library to turn in her books, so they went to California instead.  Huh?


From the Reference and Information Trenches : 

Diarrhea of a Wimpy Kid – I was told by a second grader that he read that long book……I tried so hard not to laugh.

My manager once was asked:  Little Boy:  “Do you have a book on Third-Grade Marshall?”

Manager/Librarian:  “Do you mean Thurgood Marshall?” 


True story: A lady approaches the reference desk. I am sitting behind the desk (under a big sign that says Reference/Information), with my county ID on. 

Lady: What’s your job? 

Me: I’m a reference librarian. 

Lady: Here? 


When I worked at a bookstore, someone came in and asked me “Do you make keys here?”  


I was once asked if we had any books on “Hanukkah and other foreign Christmas holidays.” 


“Did George Washington sign the Declaration of Independence after he wrote  it?”


I like, ” can you get me the book I checked in last week? It had a green cover”.


Once a patron asked “Why would they put two short novels in one book?”  She thought the novellas had been mashed together into one.  I could not make her understand that they were still separate.  Even saying, there’s the first novella, then the second one starts independently.  She just kept saying, “Why would they do that? It doesn’t make any sense.”  I said, “You’re right, it doesn’t.”  And walked away.


My best question was “Do you have books?”  asked about 10 years ago. It was difficult keeping a straight face.


“How much does it cost to rent books here?”


How about “Do you have the book with all the answers?”  I was about to suggest the Bible when I remembered I was interning in an academic library and they were looking for the answer book that their professor had left for them there.


I work in a small, almost rural, library. One day a woman called up and asked the director, “How did Mr. [Smith’s] prostate surgery go?”

The director was a little confused as we didn’t have anyone on staff with that name and said, “I’m sorry, but there isn’t any Mr. Smith here.”

The woman said, “Oh, no! He isn’t *there*; he lives down on Main St. I’m just calling you to find out how his prostate surgery went.”

The director thought that maybe the woman had her confused with one of the other staff members who perhaps COULD give her that piece of information and she said, “I don’t have that information. Are you sure you meant to speak to *me* about this?”

And the woman answered brightly, “Of course I did! You’re the library. You know everything!”


I had a little boy ask me once for “gay magazines” – i.e. “game magazines.”


On a different topic, I once saw a patron go to an OPAC terminal to access his email account (which has happened several times). The screen was already set for an author search. He typed something in the search box, hit “submit,” scratched his head at the results and walked away. I walked up to the terminal and this was on the screen:

“no author matches found for bigstud99 at;  nearby matches are..”


When I worked as a circulation assistant at an academic library, a student asked for a “Non-fiction book” for an assignment. Just any Non-fiction book…

I was just sitting at the reference desk a few minutes ago and got that exact same request, but mine was followed up by “I want something that isn’t boring.” She went off to look at some titles to try and see if she was interested in any of them. Then my shift ended. Hopefully something appealed.

“Do you have any books with photographs of real dinosaurs?”


My most interesting ones actually happened in a bookstore that I worked in during the early 90s:

A customer asked me “Where are the red books?”  After she clarified that she wanted to know where the books with red covers were, and that she didn’t have a particular one in mind, I told her that we don’t shelve by color.  She said: “Why not?”

Another customer asked me where the “book on the table” was (we had dozens of display tables).  She couldn’t remember the author’s name, the title, what it was about, what the cover looked like, whether it was paperback or hardback, or any other detail about it.  She thought that she had seen it a few weeks prior, or maybe a few months back, but at least within the last six months…maybe.

Another time, a customer walked up to me and asked me where books with “pictures of dead things” were.  He didn’t care if they were human or not, how they were killed, where they were killed, etc.  He just kept reiterating that he wanted a book with “lots of pictures of dead things.”  We tried True Crime, but the books there had “too many words.” We went to the Photography section and found a book on Vietnam that had lots of pictures of dead people, but (sadly) there was a one sentence caption at the bottom of each page.  “Too many words,” he said.  In the end, I sent him to “Forbidden Books,” an interesting bookstore in Dallas(now defunct) that carried the books that most bookstores wouldn’t touch.  😯

At the same bookstore, a customer walked up to me and told me a sad tale about the murder of her mother-in-law.  Evidently, after visiting the customer’s family, the grandmother got on a plane, flew home, and was picked up in the airport by one of her other sons, who then gunned her down on the spot.  The customer said “Where are the children’s books on that?”  She didn’t want books about dealing with murder, books about the death of a relative, or general books about grief.  No, she specifically wanted a book about a grandmother who is shot by her son, and nothing else would do.  At that point, I fell back on my stock answer for that type of situation: I told her that it was a shame that the publishing industry had ignored that issue, and it would be great if someone wouldstep forward and write a good book about it.  She said “I’ll do that!” and left happy. 😦  – Jesse Ephraim

Or the patron who looked at me with disbelief when I told him that fiction was organized by the authors’ last names.  “Well, why don’t you put them by title?”  As in, all fiction in alpha order by title.  When I explained that some people want to see what else an author has written, and that many people like an author but don’t know the titles of books they’ve written, he looked at me as though I were mentally deficient. 


A favorite of mine…  I *believe* I read about this one years ago in Booklist, probably in a Will Manley article, but I’m not exactly sure.  This has stuck with me all these years – namely for the tactful manner used by the librarian, if anything.

It went like this:

Patron:  “Do you have a life-sized atlas of the world available?”

Reference Librarian:  [With an incredulous look upon her face] “Yes, but its in use right now.”


Customer (Direct quote): : “I need some books on booby traps.” 

Librarian: “Sure! Are you looking for hunting traps?”

Customer: “Hell no!  I’m lookin’ for human booby traps, those d at mn wetbacks
keep stealing my chickens!” 👿

Editors Note : The best resource may be ACME, but some of the products may not create the desired results.


One Response

  1. One of my favorites: A mother, helping her son work on his history project, came to the front desk and demanded that we help her find a ‘real’ photograph of Cleopatra. She didn’t want a picture from the encyclopedia. We had to explain there were no cameras back in that day. She finally got it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: