To honor the librarian aspect of this blog, I’ve decided to feature library stories, everything from the endearing, to the absurd, to the wacky. To start us off with a bang, I’ve collected some odd reference questions from friends and colleagues (most of which from the great Alison Kemper–Thank you, Alison!).

For your amusement (these are all true!):

PATRON: How much is a nickel?

PATRON: How do I get a mail-order bride?

PATRON: Do you have any books on those dead squirrels?
(Translation: Do you have any books on the Dead Sea Scrolls?)

PATRON: Do you have that movie The Whispering Horse?
(Translation: Do you have The Horse Whisperer?)

PATRON: I need books on a 20th century event, maybe the Civil War?

SAME PATRON (5 minutes later): I need a book with more color photographs of people in the Civil War.

PATRON: I’m looking for a picture of the armor of God.
(The librarian who submitted this to me quipped, “Apparently she missed class in junior high the day they discussed metaphor.”)

PATRON: Do you have any toenail clippers I could use while I’m in the library?
(I think a version of this guy is in every library in North America.)

PATRON: Would you like to see the video of how my bionic hand was installed?

PATRON: Did you know there is a dead guy in your parking lot?

LIBRARIAN: I poked him with my foot—he’s just drunk.
(This happens a lot more often than most people realize!)

PATRON: Can you find that brown book on the shelf I checked out a year or so ago?

LIBRARIAN: Do you remember the author or title?

PATRON: No. But you’re a librarian, so you can find it, right?

PATRON: Can you tell me which books I’ve read?

PATRON: My teacher says I have to do a paper on euthanasia, so I guess that’s books on, like, kids in Japan and China, right?

For more odd questions, you can check out Things People Said: Questions Asked of Librarians.

Any other stories out there? Please share! 

0 replies
  1. Angelica R. Jackson
    Angelica R. Jackson says:

    The euthanasia one is the best! And yes, the library where I volunteered had a lot of homeless people in various states of inebriation taking advantage of the air conditioning.

    At the bookstore where I worked, we'd get bored and play pranks on the other employees by calling one of the other store lines. Some of the ones I've done:

    “Oh my god, I”m reading this mystery and the last two pages are missing! Can you go get the book off your shelf and read them to me?”

    And my favorite one was the look on my really gullible coworker's face (I could see her from where I was sitting) when I called and asked in a heavy Slavic accent, “Do you have the book The Joy of Sex with Animals?” Her eyes got so big, but she very politely said, “Let me check” and put me on hold. Then she tried to wave me over so I could deal with the caller.

  2. Laura Hughes, MittensMorgul
    Laura Hughes, MittensMorgul says:

    When my daughter was in elementary school, I volunteered at the school library. I wish I wrote down all the priceless things the kids said to me over the years.

    Much of it was along the lines of:

    Me: Hey, didn't you check this book out last week?
    Kid: Yes, but it's the only book I like.
    Me: We have more than fifteen thousand books, I bet we can find another one you like.
    Kid: No, I just like this one.


    Me: You only want Where's Waldo and I Spy? Why don't we find you a good story to read, too?
    Kid: I don't want to read. I just want to look at the pictures.
    Me: *hands the kid a mystery chapter book*
    The following week, I asked what they thought. The kid didn't read the book. Sad. Luckily, a lot of kids did enjoy the books I recommended. 🙂

  3. The Writer Librarian
    The Writer Librarian says:

    @Jeff–Glad to be of coffee-spitting service! Makes my day to know this blog has made people laugh 🙂

    @Angelica–Hilarious! Did you actually deal with the “caller” or did your coworker figure it out?

    @Laura–Yeah, I wish I'd written down more too–I'm hoping to collect more anecodes and add them to stuff I plan to chronicle for later. But yeah, your examples definitely sound accurate (and public and academic libraries still get college-age and adult-level versions of those questions!).

    Thanks everyone for commenting!

  4. Angelica R. Jackson
    Angelica R. Jackson says:

    I was laughing so hard at that point that even she caught on!

    My favorite dumb question was when I was going through backstock and I'd be sitting on the floor virtually walled in by books. Someone would peer over them and ask, “Do you work here?”

    I'd have to be pretty OCD to re-organize a random bookstore's shelves! Oh wait–I have done that. Nevermind.

  5. B Ready to Read
    B Ready to Read says:

    Then there's the kid who would only check out the “books with shiny covers” (new acquisitions) or the one who entered the school library and demanded in an extremely loud voice “I WANT A DRAGON BOOK!” He will be forever embedded in my brain.


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