Wednesday, October 5, 2011

BUSTED. Big time.

This one reminds me of a time back when I was still shelving at the public library. I made the mistake of going to use the public ladies room (it was so much closer than the staff bathroom) and walked in on two gross-looking girls getting all hot and heavy in the middle of the bathroom! They couldn't even be bothered to go in a stall! (I say that as if it would somehow have been better?)
Or there was the time I found a used condom in the stacks.
Oh, or the time a teenage girl was sitting in her teenage boyfriend's lap and they were making out on and off for about an front of everyone. Lovely, people. Just lovely.

Now on to our story from Ed in Melbourne:

I was on a date with a lovely young lady - it was our third or fourth date, and things were going along very well and it was pretty obvious that we were getting to the point of being crazy about each other.  So, we went along to the Supreme Court Library (where else do you take a hot date?)
We found our way up to the top floor where there are wonderful views across Melbourne - it's a domed roof with windows looking out in all directions.  Coming off this domed roof are surrounding rooms, filled from floor to ceiling with shelves, and we found ourselves in a room surrounded by old, massive volumes of legislation from the 1800s.  There was nobody in sight, and it looked like there hadn't been a soul in the room for years.
So, being the passionate couple that we were, we started our affection for each other.  Which involved clothes being left on the floor, and both of us enjoying each other's company. Very much.
And we were into the moment, into each other, and for several moments didn't notice the judge, and the supreme court librarian who had turned up (who knows for how long?) at the end of the aisle who yelled out at us.
Suffice to say, we were both banned from coming back to the supreme court library.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Puppet show preview?

This one from Kathleen in Texas. Pretty sad that sometimes the parents are worse than the children.

When I managed a small branch library, a young, over-earnest (and very entitled) mother came to me before the puppet show scheduled for that afternoon. She wanted to know if she could pre-screen the show for appropriateness for a 2-year-old. With a very straight face, I explained that this was a live performance and therefore could not be previewed at all. I also explained that this would be a capacity crowd and that it was not appropriate for a 2-year-old, and more suited to a 5-8 year-old audience. She was adamant that she pre-screen the puppet show until I had to just say “no.” I was busy handing out tickets to children and explaining to parents that the show would be very full and that if they could, please send the child in alone.

Most parents were very understanding and went to sit elsewhere in the branch. As I was helping another customer just before the show started, I saw uber-mom sneak into the show with her 2-year-old who promptly began to scream when the lights went out. The puppeteers actually had to stop the show and ask her to remove her child before they could be heard over the poor toddler’s cries (and these ladies had some good lungs on them, too). Of course, no one involved in this got an apology from the mom; not the staff, the puppeteers or the other members of the audience. Some folks got no ‘couth.  Nope, no ‘couth at all.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Chat rooms @ the library.

Another one about the Facebook stalker I've mentioned previously.

Long before the Facebook stalking incident occured, when I was still a fairly new employee, she came up to me asking if I could help her with the chat program on her computer, as it wasn't working. At this point I wasn't familiar with her antics and figured she was trying to use the Ask A Librarian feature. As I get to the screen I realize it is in fact one of those creepy hookup/dating/"meet your soulmate" chat rooms (I can't remember the name) with some flashy graphic featuring all kinds of nice, lurid pictures.

My response? That the university has probably disabled the chat room because the computers are meant to be used for research and studying only (not 100% true, but whatever). To which I get the incredibly displeased and snarky reply of "OH, WELL THAT SUCKS."

I've never understood why so many people insist on looking at porn or doing other similar weird stuff on public computers...maybe its time to invest in your own computer and internet connection at home so the rest of us don't have to watch in horror. Oh, and not to mention all the other hundreds of people waiting in line to use the computers for legitimate purposes.

I've seen it all: porn and sex chatrooms (men have actually been busted masturbating under the table at our city's public library!), gambling (and other similar scams), and of course the ever-popular farmville addiction.
What kinds of strange/gross computer usage have you all had the pleasure of witnessing?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Canadian Government = Nazis?

A patron just compared the Canadian government (asking him to provide details about the equity in his recently sold home) to the nazi's pulling out gold teeth in extermination camps during World War II. He went on to give an incredibly graphic and detailed description of this. This somehow relates to him seeing me at a bus stop several months ago (this was his conversation starter), but I have no idea how and am now just thoroughly confused.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The day a patron CLIMBED THE LIBRARY

I should start with a description of the library: my city's main branch has 4 floors. One wall is composed almost entirely of windows with a type of design similar to scaffolding that extends outwards on the inside of the building over the reading terrace. Similar to this:

One day last year I came to work and shortly after the entire building was being evacuated. I looked up and there was a young man STANDING ON THE SCAFFOLDING on the fourth floor. Hence why we had to evacuate; one misstep and he could have fallen four floors down as around the reading terrace it is an open design. Shortly after the building was emptied the police and emergency services showed up and had to climb up and rescue the guy.

Apparently he and his girlfriend had gotten into an argument in the library earlier that day and she had broken up with him and told him "he should kill himself". So he climbed the scaffolding intending to jump off. But of course once he got up there, he decided that he wanted to live, but couldn't figure out how to climb back down!

Crazy library patrons: at least climb the OUTSIDE of the building. Or even better: avoid having your crazy break up arguments inside the library altogether.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Feces @ the library.

Has anyone ever been walking around in the stacks only to come across a steaming pile of human feces on the floor? Not even far from the public washrooms?
I have.

I also once had a mother come up to me while I was shelving and ask if it was okay to change her baby's diaper on the floor inbetween the stacks. I informed her that there was a changing table in the ladies room that she could use. She said she didn't want to do that because "he might fall off". But she was also worried that someone might walk by and see her changing her baby (duh). I told her she could do whatever she was most comfortable with, but that I couldn't guarantee that no one would walk by. I am almost 100% sure it wasn't in my job description to "stand guard" over mothers who don't want to use the proper changing tables provided.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Always check the shrubs

From Dee in Iowa:

Today we had a group of community service in and I had them washing the windows on the outside. They came back in with three of our cake pans that they had found in the bushes. I called the patron who said we were closed when he tried to return them last night. He added that the Rec. Center side of the building was also closed and that the pans would not fit in the drop box (not true—we tried and they fit) so he had no choice but to “hide” them in the bushes. He was going to call today to let us know where the cake pans were “hidden” but “forgot”. I was so flabbergasted that I “forgot” to remind him that he could call/e-mail or even return them to his local library and they would mail the pans back to us. I am going to do that now so he won’t need to “hide” library material from now on. Anyway, the moral of the story is always check the plantings around your library for “hidden” treasure. We are still shaking our heads in wonderment.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Talk about a privacy issue!

This is a story that I was told by a co-worker of mine a while back. To give some background on the issue: I also work at a hospital library that is also open to the general public and patients. The woman in this story comes in on a fairly regular basis and is known to get very moody and approaches library staff with some very strange requests - including this one.

One Saturday afternoon she came up to our reference librarian requesting that the librarian log on to her personal Facebook account to see if some man was "really dead". Apparently the man had blocked/deleted the patron from his Facebook for whatever reason and so she wanted to see the dates/times that he had last posted status updates because he, or someone else, claimed he had died recently (probably to get away from her). The librarian said that no, she could not do that, as it's a matter of privacy. (AKA: if you were meant to have access to information on his Facebook, you would still be on his friends list!)

The patron then proceeded to get very belligerent and told the librarian she "probably didn't know how to use Facebook anyway". She then went around and asked each of the circulation staff to log on to their Facebook accounts to spy on this man for her. None of them would do it for her either and she left very unimpressed.

I wonder if anyone else has had an experience with this issue in their own library? I can totally see creepy and "out there" people trying to use reference staff to spy on ex-partners and ex-friends.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Puberty @ the library.

A short one, but a sweet one, submitted by a public library staff member in the United States:

A 4th Grade boy comes in and very matter of factly tells a co-worker and I "You're going to be seeing me with some zits. I'm starting the puberty!" And I kept a straight face all the way back to my desk! I LOVE my job.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Skippin' school

Our first patron submission! I thought this was very cute. From Rachel in San Francisco:

I love libraries. I love the hunt for information and the discovery of great books. My fondness brings me to the library so much that I've collected a few stories of my own even though I don't work there (but I sometimes wish I did).

My love affair with libraries began when I was little. So little that I had to reach above my head to access the top row of the card catalogue. Every trip with my mother I would go to find more fairy tale and folklore books to absorb. When I got older (my teens) I started to look at symbolism and Wicca. I went through every single book available at my local branches and school library which was easy because they were so limited.

It was around my 7th grade year that my friend told me about the new main library in San Francisco. I had never been and was so thrilled at the prospect of a 6 story building dedicated to books. Needless to say my friend and I decided we would go ASAP, only we decided to go right after homeroom. Anyone who has ever been to the SFPL main branch can tell you that the neighborhood is not the place for 13 year olds. The journey down there is a story unto itself.

We spent the rest of the school day perusing to our heart's content. When I got home later, my mother asked "why did she get a call from the school about my truancy". I explained to her that I felt I would learn more at the library than at school. My mother, understanding the many holes in the public education system here in San Francisco, replied "Oh. Well, don't get caught next time."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Funny phone calls #001

This one submitted by Glenda, at a public library:

Ring, ring, ring….

Glenda: **** Public Library, this is Glenda.
Caller: *High-pitched cartoonish voice* Hello...who am I talking to?
Glenda: This is Glenda.
Caller: Well, Linda (This is when I knew I was in for it!) this is Mary Smith.
Long awkward pause...I never know if I’m expected to say something here
Glenda: Hi Mary, what can I help you with?
Caller: Do you deliver books?
Glenda: Sure. We have a book basket program that is delivered every other week.  It went out the end of last week, so if you need something now, we’d be happy to get it to you.  What do you like to read?
Caller: Well, I’ve been hearing quite a lot about Shakespeare and I think I’d like to read it.
Glenda:  Which one of Shakespeare’s works would you like to read?
Caller:  He has more than one?
Glenda: Yes, he wrote a lot. (The other librarian in the office is now almost rolling on the floor while I try to maintain a professional voice.)
Caller: I’d like the first one.
Glenda:  OK, I can find that for you. What’s your address?
Caller: *Silence*...Don’t you know it? I have a membership at your library...I get a little confused with all the medication I’m on...
Glenda:  I can look that up. *checking in computer* Do you still live at 123 Main Street?
Caller:  No, I don’t live there anymore. *Silence as she waits for me to guess again*
Glenda: Wait a minute let me get the phone book. *Frantically flipping pages to find it while trying not to laugh out loud.*  Is it 321 First Street?
Caller: *excited, as if I had the right answer on Jeopardy!* That’s it!
Glenda:  I’ll bring you a book this afternoon. See you then.

I hang up, burst into laughter until the tears are rolling down my face.
So, naturally I delivered  “Collected Works of Shakespeare, Vol. 1 to her. Think she’ll enjoy it??

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Returning library books 101

Yesterday afternoon, right before close of course, I had a patron come to check-out who had an extremely overdue library book. I explained to him the situation and he insisted that he had returned the book (we get this all the time).

Eventually my supervisor also came up to speak with him, and then we soon found out that when an employee had previously told the patron that he could return his books to any public library, he thought it meant that he could return his books to anywhere in the city - so he had put his library book in a mailbox!!

His checkouts for that day were all for EAL/ESL books and he is obviously new to the country, so I'm not surprised at the communication breakdown. But I'm still not sure that he completely understands that the books need to be placed in a library book chute, not just any random chute in the side of a building. I start laughing every time I think about this. You really had to be there for the conversation.

Hopefully one of the employees at the post office will be nice enough to bring the book back to us!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

No fun allowed!

I laughed out loud at this one. Totally a tale about that "cranky librarian" all of us remember running into during our childhood at one point or another.

LibrarianJessie's tale:

When I first started out as a department head of a small public library, I grappled with the problem of managing a very small town staff…

Dress codes: Please wear shoes, no halter tops or short-shorts.
Censorship: No, you can’t toss out that book because it deals with a religion or political stance you don’t approve of.
Theft: No, you can’t have this week’s TV Guide because “the other librarian always let me have it”.

But what really stands out in my mind? One afternoon, one of my older, straight-laced library clerks came to me and asked, “What is your policy on children having fun in the library”. I thought she was joking. When I realized she really expected an answer, I told her I hoped the kids would have fun and grow up to be adults who would remember how much they loved libraries. And that perhaps they would bring their own kids to the library – and might vote YES on that library referendum and tax increase.

I like noisy libraries and noisy patrons.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


I especially loved this submission because we had a very similar incident occur at my own library not too long ago. At first I wondered if the patron described below was dressing up for dress like a pirate day (talk like a pirate day?), but then realized that it probably did not exist 20 years ago when this story happened.

Last year we had an employee at my library come in to work dressed up as a pirate for what he claimed was dress like a pirate day. Staff and patrons were equally freaked out and amused! Our dress code was (and is) so slack and undefined that the supervisors couldn't even find grounds to send him home to change! So for the whole day we had a pirate sitting at our circulation desk! He had even requested to talk like a pirate as well, but that was decidedly "too much" and the supervisors wouldn't give him permission to do it.

Now, on to the story from Kerry From Everywhere:

This happened in NYC almost 20 years ago and stands out as one of the definite highlights:

I'm originally from the Midwest and this was in my first year as a librarian and in NYC. A customer walks in with a pretty standard reference question. However, he is dressed as a total pirate. And I don't mean a Long John Silver generic pirate - an actual crusty, salty pirate. And he has a similarly-attired monkey on his shoulder. Still green in the profession and not sure what to do, I shook the monkey's hand and fully answered their reference question. It was only as they walked away that I noticed that he was also sporting a full sword and scabbard attached to his hip. He had broken two rules of the library - no pets and no weapons...but he and the monkey were both such gentlemen, I'm glad that I handled it the way that I did. My parents still remember the phone call I made to them that night.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The aliens are on their way!

This one is from Becky in Illinois and is a great example of the smile and nod technique that I find myself using quite frequently:

I work in a moderately large public library in Illinois.  I have one regular patron, approximately 80 years old, who comes in to read the newspapers and magazines daily.  He has a strong interest in fusion, cyanobacteria, stem cell research... anything that he can find in an issue of Discover, Science News, National Geographic and Popular Science.  He usually spends about 30-40 minutes at my desk telling me all about the articles he's been reading.

Lately, he's been reading a lot of Ruth Montgomery books, particularly the ones about enlightened beings from outside of our solar system.  Out of a staff of roughly 23 people, he has chosen me to go with him and colonize a new planet.  We are just waiting for the earth's axis to shift 90 degrees.  When it does so, the enlightened beings are going to step in and help us out.

I can't rightly tell him that my eggs are creeping up there in age and that he might want to consider taking my much younger genealogist with him for this purpose.  Until I can relay these things, I just smile and nod.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

FBI and CIA approved

From Heidi in Australia, who can't get away from the crazies no matter which branch she's at!:

Several years ago I’d been working in a small, one person branch library but did a six month stint acting in a higher position at one of our main library branches. I’d not been long back at my little branch when a patron broke in to the branch, leaving a copy of a book I’d recommended to him in tiny little shreds and the door wide open.

Badly frightened, I was moved back to the main branch for a few weeks while the dust settled.

A regular there quizzed me on why I was back. I told him I’d had some trouble with a patron at my own branch. When he’d established that the patron was the trouble-maker, not me, he told me he could “take him out for you, mate.” “It’s OK,” I told him, “xxx (Library Manager)’s got it all under control.” “No really, mate,” he replied, “I’m FBI and CIA approved. I can take him out for you.”

More urgent demurring from me . . . my manager has it under control . . .

Monday, June 27, 2011


Why do some people insist on stealing materials from the public library when they can be checked out for free?

I do not know of any library that doesn't have at least a short list of "lost materials" at year end. Granted there will always be a few items that slip through the cracks or are misplaced at some point during the year, but patrons who intentionally rip off barcodes, covers, and/or magnetic strips have always irked me to no end. Or there are always the books that are destroyed or removed by a patron who, in their infinite wisdom, has decided is not suitable for the collection and therefore no one else should have access to it. Replacing things time after time gets costly.

Just come on down to the circulation desk people - we will be more than happy to lend you the items! Really!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Another one from back in the days of shelving...

This one is from sometime back in January of 2010.

As I'm walking back to my cart to grab another handful of books for shelving, the following conversation ensues:

Creepy Male Patron: Hey ma'am!
Me: *Turns around, with my ever perfect "ready to serve" smile* (I always initially expect the best from everyone.) Yes?
Creepy Male Patron: I know you from somewhere! *weird sideways look*
Me: No, I don't think so?
Creepy Male Patron: Really? You're my age aren't you?
Me: *blank, unimpressed stare*
Creepy Male Patron: 29.
Me: Haha...nope. (At this point I'm thinking "okay buddy, I know what game you're playing at, just give it up already.)
Creepy Male Patron: Oh! University of ****?
Me: ...No.
Creepy Male Patron: Well, there's never a bad time to be introduced to someone! I'm ****.
Me: And I'm ****, nice to meet you then.
Creepy Male Patron: *Starts to walk even closer to me, yabbering on about something I don't quite remember at this point*
Me: *Walking away to maintain my special box of personal space* Sorry, but I have work to do.

After the first few times, it becomes very annoying when socially awkward men come to the library seemingly for the sole purpose of creeping on a girl. Things like this happen all too frequently to myself and many of the other girls who are shelvers at my city's main public library branch (which is in the heart of our downtown, of course).
I can see why some of our more seasoned staff who work in reference and circulation prefer to remain behind the desk; working out on the floor affords too many opportunities for what I refer to as full contact librarianship.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Adventures of a Library Page #001

So there I am, minding my own business, filing books back on the shelves in proper dewey order when a patron comes up to me and asks if I can show him some books on giving speeches. "Well sure!" I say. We walk over to a computer terminal and I start a quick search for books on the subject. Then to my surprise he pulls out some random CD (which is now at home in a trash can) and insists I check it out along with his flyer. He starts going on and on about a great business opportunity where you "can be a customer but sell things too"! It reminded me very much of pyramid scheme propaganda and trickery. The icing on the cake? I was encouraged to attend a super secret, exclusive meeting that I would have to pay for!

I'm guessing the patron was researching public speaking for the so-called "business meeting" he was so fanatic about. Finally I cut him off and gave him my best "no nonsense" look and asked if he still wanted to know where the books on public speaking could be found. He did and I quickly showed him to the area and recommended a few titles.

Poor, mislead guy - I have a feeling that he is going to be a very poor man soon. Perhaps instead of researching public speaking, he should be reading up on how to recognize pyramid and get rich quick schemes and why they rarely, if ever, work. (Speaking of which, as a result of this incident I discovered that there is actually an entire website devoted to calling out such scams: Pyramid Scheme Alert.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

First Post

After working in a public library for several years I have accumulated all kinds of crazy stories to tell. After my animated re-tellings, friends and family often joke with me about how I should create a website to share some of my funny, crazy, and touching experiences from work - so this blog has been long overdue!

Please feel free to submit some of your own "tales from the library" - whether you are a patron or an employee! The good, the bad, the unexpected, scary, hilarious, horrendous, enlightening, and of course the crazy - you can email them all to me, along with your name, at
(Neither your email nor your last name will be published - only your first name or screen name.)

I look forward to hearing from you all, and to sharing some of my own experiences with the world as well!