Things Librarians Say

Holiday Greetings from ALB!

As we put the final touches on our “Best of 2014” list, Holly and I have made a list of statements we (or one of our co-workers) have made over the years. Show this to your non-library friends whenever they act like they know what library work is all about. We thought you might have some to share too. Please add yours to the comments!

Peace, Love, and Stable Funding for 2015,

Holly and Mary

cat meme“No, I am not hiding the tax forms. They haven’t come in yet.”

“Yes, you must wear shoes, shirt and pants in the library.”

“What do you mean someone found a butcher knife in the toilet?”

“Yes, when there is an ‘out of order’ sign on the printer, it means it is NOT working.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t call another patron and tell them to ‘hurry up and finish’ their book so you can have your turn.”

“What is that smell?”

“No, I don’t know President Obama personally and cannot get him on the phone about your tax refund.”

“Email is not pushing a piece of paper into the disk drive.”

“No, I don’t know your password for email.”

“Guess what I found inside this book?”

“We have no plans to train kids on how to mug people. Our ‘Mug Me’ program is about decorating a coffee mug.”

“Someone better check on Porn Guy.”

“We can get you images of PAINTINGS of Jesus, but there are no PHOTOGRAPHS of Jesus.”

“It’s your turn to move the dead deer in the parking lot.”

“I know you paid a lot in 1986 for your chemistry text, but I am sorry we won’t be able to use it in the collection.”

“No, I don’t need to look at the rash on your chest.”

“Sexkitten1994 is not a good choice for an email when you are applying for a job. How about we make another one?”

“I am going to need the gloves and bleach again.”

“I’m sorry, we don’t have a special summer reading program for the gifted.”

“I’m so sorry you misunderstood that Boogie Nights is a movie not appropriate for children. It is our policy not to comment on patron choices.”

“I’m sorry you are sad, but it is not appropriate for us to put a warning label on a book if the main character dies.”

“No, I am sorry, the library staff cannot watch your baby while you run to Walmart.”

“Is that blood?”

“I guess I am the ‘Head Bitch in Charge’. What can I help you with?


    1. I have trained myself not to say “What’s that smell” anymore, but this morning I did say “Is that what meth smells like?”

  1. Thank you, but I don’t believe any of our libraries can use your collection of old National Geographics.

    1. Years ago, I had a lady call not asking to donate her National Geographic Collection, but to SELL it to the library. Yeah, no thanks.

  2. You found what, in your library book?

    You probably shouldn’t eat that.

    Student: Does God have WTF moments?, My responses: I think that is a side effect of giving humans free will!?!

  3. 1. “There’s mulch in the bookdrop again.”

    2. Me: I can’t reshelve this book like this.
    Customer: Why not?
    Me: It’s wet.
    Customer: It was like that when I checked it out.
    Me: It’s *completely* wet. Like from cover to cover.
    Customer: Yeah, I checked it out like that.

  4. “I’m sorry, but telling you where the self-help books are would be defeating the purpose, wouldn’t it?”

    Actually got to say that as a bookstore employee one time.

  5. No, you don’t get to keep the book if you like it very much.

    No, your fines don’t go away after a few years.

    Your cat sprayed the book bag? And you brought the books back? Oh.

  6. Let’s see–
    A patron said the bathroom smells like meth, but none of the staff knows what that smells like. The internet says: expensive cleaner
    “I’ll be right there to get your vomit, and then I can help you on the computer”
    “I’m sorry our recycling bin was full when you came to drop off your recycling. Our recycling bin is for the use of the library, and not a drop off for patrons, so it is full of our things.”
    “I can’t tell the teenagers to go home and shower, they are kids, they smell like kids”
    “Excuse me sir, you were snoring so loudly it was disturbing other patrons.”
    “Do we give out food? Well I’ve seen patrons eat paper, do we have to fill out a form if we give them paper? I’m pretty sure the candy we hand out has the same nutritional value.”
    “I’ll be in the back calling the cops” (I say that a lot)
    “Every one’s a critic” in response to the patron who told me she liked my hair better before I cut it
    “I walked around the building twice, but I couldn’t find the dead bird”
    Just a few I can think of, off the top of my head. I love my job, but it usually is the patrons who say the strange stuff. I usually counter with “Can I help you?” “Is everything ok?” “what seems to be the problem?” For instance “Can I help you?” is what I said to the lady who climbed in our recycling bin, the lady who had moved behind the circulation desk to chat with a friend, the patron who climbed up on our windows, and many more strange circumstances.

    1. You can’t tell people they need to shower? We can. More specifically we can give them a list of places they can go take a shower. But only if another patron complains. Which sucks for me because I have a sensitive nose and the people with BO or who smoke love hanging around me like they want to see me vomit.

      1. Oh we can tell people they need to shower, when they need to shower. But teenaged boys always kind of smell like teenaged boys. A little normal BO and junk food smell–not the smell that means you’ve not had a shower in days, but more the smell of a boy who walked from school, played a few games of basketball, and then came to get on the computers. The kids didn’t smell bad in particular, the patron just didn’t want kids in the library on the computers.

        1. Ah, okay. Makes sense.

          I get a lot of male patrons who think that having BO is a “macho” scent, sadly. They think stinking is somehow attractive to women cause of pheromones or some nonsense like that. And a few female patrons who believe the lie that antiperspirant causes breast cancer.

          And they all love to hang near me.

            1. Not for me. Sensitive stomach and all. Between the BO and the smokers smell, it’s amazing I don’t throw up constantly. It gets to a point where I’d rather smell that damnable Axe.

              I swear, if I ever take over the world, after I get rid of the statue of limitations on rape and lower taxes, I’m going to have rest areas with showers and laundry facilities built every three miles so people who stink can be forced to take a bath and wash their clothing.

  7. Me: I’m sorry but we have to charge you for these books. They smell like cat urine.
    Patron: No my cat didn’t pee on them. They were on the bathroom floor when my toilet overflowed.

  8. “I didn’t earn a Master’s to babysit your children.”
    “I don’t think you understand the difference between a printer and a photocopier.”
    “No, I won’t help you complete a job application/take an exam.”

  9. No, sir, no one else has reported hearing aliens speaking to them in our stacks, but I will make a note to bring it up in the next staff meeting.

    Sir, Thank you so much for thinking of the Library. But I’m afraid that storing your grandfather’s textbooks in your garden shed all these years has compromised their, uh, physical integrity. No, sir, that’s not smell of fine old books-it’s mildew.

    Who urinated in the arm chair?

    Uh, oh, dog poop in the book drop. At least, I hope it’s from a dog.

    Sir, I am not, in fact, denying you access to the information in our our genealogy room. You may copy anything in there, but you cannot remove the items themselves. Actually, sir, I would have enjoyed meeting Johnny Cochrane if you feel he could shed light on your complaint, but I’m afraid he died several years ago.

    No, I don’t know what that is smeared on the walls in the men’s room, but I’m hoping it’s chewing tobacco. Please use the ladies room for now. Just lock the door while you are in there.

    1. OMG, I got that once. She called it gang related sneezing. People were coughing and sneezing every time she tried to do something on the computer.

  10. Helping a patron on the computer.

    Patron: “I need to send an email”
    Me: “Okay just go and sign in to your email account”
    Patron: “I don’t know what the website is.”
    Me: “Well, what is your email address?”
    Patron: “I don’t have one. Can’t you email for me?”
    Me: “Sorry, we don’t use our email addresses to email for patrons.”

    1. We get that ALL the time too. Or they’ve put their email address in the address bar and can’t figure out why it won’t open!

    2. It’s amazing how often patrons assume we will do this for them. And how many assume they can use our email account to run their ebay bids.

  11. Thanks for sharing, was a great read! My contribution is “Call 911 and where is the fire extinguisher?”

  12. Sir, you can’t get your coin in the photocopier because that’s the storage heater. The photocopier is over there.

  13. “Sir, I can understand how listening to that YouTube video makes the song ‘get trapped in your vocal chords’ and that you need to let it out, but your singing is disturbing the other patrons, so you’ll need to save your singing for after you leave the library.”

    “Yes, I did see the stray dog who walked through the library. I thought someone took it outside already.”

    “You’re right, that toddler is a bit young to be drawing with chalk without someone watching him. I gave him the paper to stop him from eating the chalk.”

  14. The “porn guy” at the library in my home town used to look at child porn and always had his pants unzipped. Unfortunately the librarians were afraid to confront him so he got away with it until a kid complained to his dad who was a cop.

    1. Tapping the local pornography guy on the shoulder, and telling him he can’t use the Library computers to access that really gross pornography he was currently enjoying, prompted him to scream, “Freedom of Information! You can’t stop me, because my tax dollars support this place!” “Well, surprisingly, sir, turns out I can. Congress just said I have to, if we want to continue to receive Federal funding. So get your ass out of here and don’t come back!” There was no one else around, and he had been a really creepy nuisance. Felt great.

      1. I’m always surprised at the little differences.

        Child porn we can call the police.

        Adult porn we can’t stop them from looking at it unless another patron complains. However, they’ve put heavier filters on our internet and people have to request the filters be turned off for their card. Therefore most of the porn people have left and not come back.

      2. Yeah, this particular episode occurred right after the Senate had tied Erate funding to requiring the filters. We (and the ALA) had been been fighting the censorship that we felt the filters imposed. Everything was so up in the air, we were having demonstrations by the local church congregations, some of whom who wanted to get rid of the internet entirely. When threatened with the loss of Erate, we decided that we could live with “Community Standards” as our guideline. And, I didn’t actually say, “Get your ass out,” although in my head I did, and I didn’t ban him. He just didn’t come back.

  15. “You can’t make people sit on the floor with you.”

    “I can’t promise that Kim Jong-un will write you back.”

    1. The ongoing HS library saga, the quarterly reading assignment, is reminiscent of “Who’s on first?”
      “Do you have a copy of Whatever?”
      “Er, yes…let me see if it’s in. Ah, right, YOU signed it out.”
      “Right, it’s for my reading assignment.”
      “So, you have it.”
      “Yeah-and I left it at home. Do you have another copy?”
      “Sorry, just one copy and you signed it out.”
      “(**half-inappropriate expletive!!*) This school sucks! I need it for quotes in my essay today!!!
      “Like I said…” {**unspoken expletive** evident in eyebrow raise}
      And here’s what I WISH I could say: “WTF, we need to purchase, process and shelve TWO copies of every freaking book in the library so you morons can keep one here and one at home????”

  16. My director mentioned planning to weed all the old bound periodicals and the Nat Geos. I have no problem with getting rid of the old Times and Newsweeks, but suggested we keep the Nat Geos just so that when people call and offer us a run of them we can honestly say “We have a complete set of those from the present to 195whatever.”

  17. Lol, too funny! And mildly disturbing! The dead deer thing reminds me of when I was a kid in school and someone left a deer’s head in the parking lot for some reason. I can still see it staring at me with those big frozen eyes… *shivers*

  18. I only need 80 pages to finish up my outside reading project for ELA. Can you recommend a good book that is only 80 pages?

  19. “No, ma’am, it is not possible to preview a live puppet show to ensure that it is age-appropriate for your toddler.”

  20. Oh, I got the photograph vs portrait question a lot years ago in VA, when some elementary grade assigned “Famous Explorers.” The teacher said a photograph, they wanted a phtograph.

    1. Not only did I have someone looking for a photograph of Cleopatra, I had a patron who insisted the photo of the female soloist on the cover of a Beethoven CD was, in fact, Mrs. Beethoven.

  21. “No, I don’t know your password for email.” — That’s what I want on my headstone. Or maybe a tattoo on my forehead would get the point across?

  22. “The Accordionists are in the Community Room again and they won’t leave.”

    “Thank you for telling me your daughter peed on the rug/computer chair, I’ll get you some cleaning wipes… No we don’t have a person that “handles” that… Please come back and clean this! I don’t want to touch your pee!”

    To the Director: “We have a serial pooper and they’ve targeted the elevator 3 times this month. We’ve all taken turns cleaning and it’s your turn now.”

      1. Or “we’re not actually computer we can’t set up your new tablet/install your antivirus/load some games for you!”

  23. “I’m sure you do know your name and address. I still need to see identification with your current address,”

  24. “I’m sorry, the public internet is down system wide. No library has access. No, I don’t know when it’ll be up.”

    “The copier takes dollar bills. See that black thing sticking out? That’s where they go.”

    “I’m sorry, I can only go by what the computer says and it says you still owe this fine from 1989. I can’t waive it without my branch manager’s permission.”

    “Please don’t climb that.” (We have these old security gates that kids like to climb.)

    “I’m sorry, we’re closing and the public computers are off.”

    “The bathroom is along the back wall. No it’s inside the building. No, you don’t need a key.”

    “I’m sorry but the drinking fountain has been outside since this building was put up in 1965. I don’t think they’re going to change it any time soon.”

    “The library was built before the Americans With Disabilities Act, so no, there’s no elevator. But we can go down/upstairs and get something for you.”

    (Please note, I believe in God.) “Yes (patron who keeps asking me this), I HAVE read the Bible. But today I feel like fiction, not non-fiction.” (I really need to tell him that I’m not allowed to talk about religion or politics at work but he makes me so uncomfortable I can’t confront him.)

    “You don’t need to check in with me to use the computers.”

    “I don’t need your card for returns.”

    “Yes, you can put DVDs in the book drop.”

    “The book drop was open during the holiday.”

    “I’m just a clerk and I’m not allowed to recommend children’s books. You really need to talk to the librarian. No, I’m sorry, I could get in trouble with headquarters because I’m not trained to recommend by reading level. Ma’am, I’m not being lazy, I’ve explained this to you repeatedly. Please go talk to the librarian.”

    “We have ALWAYS charged for holds.”

    “No, I’m not new. I’ve been here 14 years.” *internally sobs*

    “I’m sorry, you need to ask the librarian for computer help. I can’t leave the desk because of the cash register and I’m the only clerk on duty.”

    “Sir, it’s story time, story time is always loud.”

    “The kids did the chalk paintings outside. No, it was a library activity. It’s not vandalism, the librarian led them in it. It’ll wash away over time.”

  25. I had no idea one is able to sell books to the local library. I should check to see if they have a “desired books” list. I will not expect to see nat geos or antique textbooks on said list, if it does in fact, exist. 😉

  26. The thing I say most often is ‘the same thing that the female librarian said, but in a deeper voice.’ Which suddenly the patron will accept even if I don’t ACTUALLY have more authority than my distaff counterpart, but by golly my particular set of chromosomes makes me more legitimate. Apparently.

    1. I and one of my coworkers are both blondes. Coworker also happens to be Polish. It’s amazing how many people won’t believe either of us, but get one of the other women who have brown hair saying the same thing and suddenly it’s the gospel truth.

    1. And yet I know from all my years in library work that everything here is absolutely, 100% fact. This should be required reading for LIS students with a warning: “True experiences of library employment ahead! Proceed with caution.”

  27. “You can drink the water from the toilet tank — if there is an emergency, and you don’t have water, but I don’t think you should ever drink out of the toilet bowl.” — response to the reference question, “Is it okay to drink out of the toilet?”

  28. A lady was banned from our library for having an offensive odor. Later that week, a child caught her defecating in our courtyard. The librarian called the police. When told to leave, she said, “but I’m not *IN* the library!”

  29. Things I have learned in my 30 years in a public library:
    I am happy to report that vomit CAN be removed from a public computer keyboard. It takes some patience and a screwdriver.
    Yes, I can find you a picture of a two humped camel topiary. Give me a few minutes.
    The electrical closet in my Bookmobile is not large enough to supply a public restroom…you will need to cross the road to Hardee’s.

    1. FYI, you can put a keyboard in the dishwasher. I couldn’t believe it at first, but yes it comes out clean and usable.

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