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Creepy requests from patrons

Librarians who LibraryThing

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Dec 11, 2007, 1:05pm Top

Well, we've had funny requests from patrons. But what about creepy requests.

We recently had a student tell us (reference and circ staff both) to read the book of Ruth-and he'd know if we didn't (I still want to know how he'd know-were we suppose to uncover his feet or something?). This actually scared a couple of staff members and the patron is no longer allowed in the library.

Dec 11, 2007, 9:54pm Top

When I worked in the public library, we once had a creepy patron who told the other clerk at the desk that everyone in the building except her and him worked for the KGB. A short while later, when another patron asked us where he could find a certain video, the creepy guy replied, "In the pit of Hell." Needless to say, we were really, REALLY glad when the police finally arrived to escort him out of the library -- for some reason, even though we were in the city hall complex, it always took forever for officers to respond to calls.

Dec 11, 2007, 9:55pm Top

What was the video? :)

Edited: Dec 11, 2007, 10:02pm Top

>3 timspalding:


Dec 11, 2007, 11:17pm Top

A number of years ago, we had a foot fetishist visiting our library on a fairly regular basis. He'd ask to see everyone's shoes and sometimes, he asked to see our feet. We usually obliged, though I don't think anyone removed their shoes for him, but we drew the line at letting him touch!

Dec 11, 2007, 11:28pm Top

No requests, but for a while female students who had removed their shoes while they studied in the carrels couldn't find them when they got ready to leave. Seems someone was taking them from the opposite carrel!

Dec 12, 2007, 2:03am Top

Just the other day someone called the library and was talking to one of the other librarians. Apparently he asked when we closed, and if that was when the pretty younger librarians came outside. My friend and I, the only ones who would be referred to as the pretty younger librarians, were understandably nervous... the guy came in later in the day and was joking around about it. We wrote down his name and got a police escort out that night... and resent giving out our hours now!

Dec 12, 2007, 12:21pm Top

I ALWAYS use a fake name. There are too many weird and creepy patrons for me to want them to know my real name.

On a side note, our staff badges say "Phoenix Public Library" and I have had people think that was my name. "Oh, OK, thank you *squints at name badge* Phoenix! Thanks for your help!" 8)

Dec 12, 2007, 1:45pm Top

I don't remember what the video was (this was at least 10 years ago) but the patron had little kids with him, so it was probably a children's movie -- highly unlikely to be found in the pit of Hell. :)

Dec 13, 2007, 6:59pm Top

I once overheard a patron asking for the home address and telephone number of the actress who played Marcia Brady.

Dec 21, 2007, 4:36pm Top

Several years ago one of my friends (who was a vegetarian) was given paper bags of meat wrapped in butcher paper by a patron. He did this several times even though she told him that she didn't eat meat and wasn't interested in him.

No one dared to eat the meat so she just had to throw it away.

Jan 5, 2008, 4:42am Top

>8 weener:
You mean Weener isn't your real name?

Jan 5, 2008, 11:54am Top

No, but I wish it were. In fact, if my name were either Weener or Phoenix Public Library, it would mean my parents had senses of humor, which is not the case. :)

Jan 5, 2008, 2:15pm Top

My friend is a librarian and they have a real problem in her library because someone keeps using tipp-ex or permanent marker to wipe out offencive words or sentances in the books. Not all the bits they are editing are rude either but whoever it is leaves little notes in the margins saying the are protecting other readers from unsuitable writing.

Jan 6, 2008, 12:15am Top

Wow, that's really shitty.

Edited: Jan 6, 2008, 2:01am Top

Just experimenting because I though that spans we're no longer allowed in here. But I was wrong. they are.

Feb 21, 2008, 9:29am Top

Creepy patrons are no match for creepy staff members. I have a co-worker who regularly (and loudly) masturbates in the bathroom while on the job. When I complained, our reliable h.r. department declared said activities to be, "privacy issues."

Feb 21, 2008, 11:48am Top

Wowsers-that's fairly messed up. We have a creepy clerk, but he's just creepy because he looks like the Crypt Keeper.

Feb 21, 2008, 7:42pm Top

> 17 Ewww.

I'm trying to think of things you could do to embarrass him. Is it the public bathroom? Then make it part of a tour and say brightly, "and this is our masturbating co-worker". After all, if he wants to exhibit himself, make an exhibition out of it! Or you could try to weird him out by complain to him afterwards that the loud noises are off-key and request him to make harmonious noises from now on. It's a pity you couldn't somehow arrange for the big boss to be in the library at the same time as the exhibition, or the local pest on the city council.

Feb 21, 2008, 8:29pm Top

I was a bookseller, not a librarian, but these are my two creepy patron stories:

* I was in the children's section one night, and I found guy reading the Kama Sutra, and he was very... happy about the book. He saw me staring. My brilliant response: "Can you not do that in the children's section, sir?"

* At the info desk, a very nervous guy came up and asked for a book on sexual addiction. He kept stressing it was vital he got the book now. He also stood THISCLOSE to me while I looked, and kept muttering under his breath. I got him the book, and he just held it and grinned at me like he was going to go for my throat. He wouldn't leave, and told me I was pretty. I called security.

Mar 25, 2008, 11:44pm Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Mar 26, 2008, 10:14pm Top

I can't say I remember a creepy request, but we have at least a couple of male patrons who we always have to watch on the Internet. For years, they have been on mail order bride websites and constantly print off pictures. Apparently they have yet to find their special someone. The one time it really creeped me out is when one of the men had a small male child on his lap while he was looking at scantily clad women on the computer. As usual, we had to give him the "appropriate" lecture.

Another of our Internet patrons uses the bathroom at least three times during his visit to the library and usually comes out with his pants still unzipped. Gross!

Mar 26, 2008, 10:19pm Top

If you've ever seen the Far Side cartoon showing a bell ringing and buzzer going and a big neon light flashing "Didn't wash hands", then you could set up a similar alarm to say "Didn't zip up".

Mar 27, 2008, 11:55am Top

One of our regular male patrons asked for help filling out a survey online. Since we weren't busy, I thought--why not. Turns out he was on a dating service site and was being asked his views on intimacy (politely put), and he wanted me to explain what they meant by that.

Edited: Mar 27, 2008, 12:37pm Top

Having been in public library, private library and military and monastic libraries my entire life, I can tell you that working in a public municipal library with a high turniover rate of homeless and visiting tourists is a most exciting and sometimes disturbing work experience. We have...on a daily basis the creepy ones, the odd ones, the self medicated and the ones NEEDING medication. We have had murders in the parking lots, stabbings in the shelves and take-downs by the end caps, and we are a rather small location.

The most persistent problems are the homeless who are in need of hospitalization after having seizures, but refuse treatment! and then come back in repeatedly throughout the day...suffering from repeated seizures. The er teams cannot force them to go for treatment if the refuse....maddening to say the least.

But I love what I do and for the most part...the good in working in libraries far outweights the bad, any day.

Mar 27, 2008, 8:14pm Top

@ 25: Oh yes! Public libraries can be "exciting" that way!

This week I had to give testimony at a parole board hearing; I had discovered that one of our homeless patrons is a sexual offender who violated his parole by being in our library near children and by using our internet-linked computers, which he was also forbidden to do. The police & his parole officer hauled him back to prison and, after that hearing, he'll stay there for another year.

One library I worked at had gang fights every day, which made life adventurous to say the least.

And I'll never forget a homeless patron who came to that library who had a horrendous wound on his arm, that got worse and worse over time. Paramedics, when called by us (more than once), could do nothing as the man refused treatment. Our hands were tied. We were also informed by the city that we could not refuse him access to the library, even when he was a health hazard to all around him. Our only resort was to tell him he HAD to wrap the arm in plastic or other waterproof covering while in the library (the arm constantly seeped fluids, and eventually you could even see the bone!) and provided him with a washable chair that was "his." Then he stopped coming. It was so frustrating! He was obviously mentally ill but could not be forced to accept treatment. Local groups had tried to help him, too, but he just would not accept help. The so-called "patients-rights" groups of the 70's & 80's have a lot to answer for.

Mar 27, 2008, 10:29pm Top

Wow! After having read the posts on this forum, I'm thanking my lucky stars I work in a primary school library. The only problem patrons we have are the students who like to "challenge" authority. Hmmm....methinks to date, I've led a very sheltered library life!

Edited: Mar 28, 2008, 11:12am Top

I agree with the "wow!" And people think librarians are humorless automatons - or daydream material (one or the other, nothing in-between). One of the things I love about libraries and librarianship are all the characters we meet. Although I can't say I've personally met as... colorful... as I've read here! My hat's off to the aplomb exhibited in the face of some of the activity!

For #17 - maybe you could pipe in some appropriate music? Barry White, perhaps? Install a disco ball? Honestly....yick! Keep your "privacy issues" at home, right? And honestly, on a more serious note - how does that not fall under the "hostile work environment" section of sexual harrassment? It should have been taken more seriously, if somebody complained....

Mar 28, 2008, 3:43pm Top

"Is it against the law to blow up a federal courthouse" asked a year or two before the Murrah bombing.

Mar 28, 2008, 9:41pm Top

And then there are the questions that you don't know are creepy until later. I used to work in the library at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In 1981 we were subpoenaed by the FBI to search our records because John Hinckley Jr. had been in our library looking at the files on Jodie Foster...

Mar 29, 2008, 9:06pm Top

I had a patron who requested to use "al jazeera" as his library card password. He gave me the creeps.

Mar 30, 2008, 2:46pm Top

#31, that's creative! Despite that we in the West mostly hear about it because they get sent all the Al Qaida videos, AL Jazeera is a well-respected information chain (quite comparable to the major ones of North America).

Mar 30, 2008, 3:28pm Top

Back when I worked in a Public Library near DC , a man came in with an antenna on his head and announced that he had been told to kill the president by his "voices." Police came and he went, never to be seen by us again.

Mar 30, 2008, 8:08pm Top

Oooh... The antenna sounds classy! (yes I've been reading too much Narbonic these last efwdays)

Mar 31, 2008, 2:05pm Top

One of the more entertaining moments of working as a student employee in a large public university library was when the facilities and security manager ran through our Circulation department at a sprint, stopping just to ask us if we had been flashed and then continued on when we said 'no'. We never found out what happened with that whole situation.

We also had another student worker in our department who was in his 40s who claimed there was an drug ring operating in the library (actually just several students would meet outside for a study break/smoke) and that he was engaged to a famous figure skater.

Apr 11, 2008, 11:08pm Top

We have a regular caller we refer to as "body parts man." He usually wants to knows the weights of parts of the body when they've been separated from the body, e.g. a head, leg, arm, etc. The other day it was the nose. For variety, he's also into extraterrestrials and human-possessing, evil spirits.

Edited: Apr 16, 2008, 11:47am Top

We have a heavily tattooed patron (forehead, face, neck, arms, etc.) who, though he looks fierce, is usually very quiet and soft-spoken. Apparently he was off his meds for a while when he came in and announced "I want information on joining the Israeli army and I'm going to kill anyone who tries to stop me from joining!" He's still around, so I guess he changed his mind.

Apr 19, 2008, 7:50pm Top

I have a great big YES to my previous post. Our library board actually voted to ban our pervert for life from our computers. I never thought this would happen. So today is an wonderful day and I truly hope that I can be the one to deliver the good news to him in person.

Apr 28, 2008, 2:38pm Top

I was asked to provide the legal code for which the patron's business had been cited by a police officer from the vice department. The patron wanted to clarify for me the nature of the dances performed at his establishment.

Apr 28, 2008, 11:13pm Top

>39 durian:
I wouldn't call that creepy, but that's just me and my guttery mind *giggle*

Edited: Apr 29, 2008, 2:23pm Top

As a front desk-er for my university's library, I get a good amount of weirdos.

One in particular comes to mind. I was working the closing shift and watch a 20-something guy in a knock-off designer bucket hat walk back and forth a few times, staring at me. Eventually, he walked up, and without any sort of introduction proclaimed:

"You have amazing titties."

I stared, agog. How do you reply to that?! Anyway, the conversation ended with him giving me a business card, asking me to come to some club and guarenteeing VIP status and other bogus stuff. I thought it was hilarious, as did my boyfriend at the time.

Oh! Another, just a few months ago. It was during the crunch-time of final exams. A highschooler came in looking for artciles about Miller's Death of a Salesman. I pointed him in the right direction, and later ran into him while I was doing some pick-ups. He offered me $200 to write a one-page opinion essay on the play. Difficult to resist, but guilt got the best of me and I not only turned him down, but kicked him out (since we were closing for the night). I wonder what happened to him...

May 6, 2008, 3:11pm Top

I had this weird guy come up to the desk yesterday and ask if we had any "morbid" books, and then started telling me how morbid he was and how he used to sleep in a coffin with his arms crossed over his chest. The 299s are over there! Get out of my face!

May 6, 2008, 5:44pm Top

At the public library I worked at before joining LibraryThing, I had the following happen:

I got a phone reference question, which started as "I'm surprising my wife by taking her for a surprise vacation this weekend, and I know she loves to read, and I wanted to pick up some good books for her for the weekend, but I just know she loves romance novels, and I don't know any. Do you have some examples?"

I put the patron on hold, and went to the romance expert staffer. She made some general recommendations, then said that since romance is such a large genre, it might be helpful to know an author that the wife liked. I got back on the phone to explain this. The guy really wanted some examples, so I put him on hold again, and asked the romance expert staffer to take the call.

A half-hour later, she stopped by my desk. Apparently, when she talked to him, he got down to brass tacks. He was looking for someone to read dirty passages to him. She firmly told him that was inappropriate and hung up.

We agreed that it was an incredibly effective dirty phone call. It didn't even occur to me that that's what he was doing when I talked to him. Well played, creepy guy.

May 6, 2008, 6:00pm Top

On my first day at my current position, I was asked by a patron if I would go to his motel room with him to fix his laptop. After he was done with his anger management session, of course.

May 7, 2008, 8:17pm Top

> 40
It's all about how it was asked. And how many times he insisted that the girls just did dances, no touching. It was creepy.

I was also invited to research a country the patron and I could move to together, given that he had x, y, and z medical problems (pollen allergies and such). Er, no.

May 10, 2008, 1:47pm Top

Not as creepy as some of the things listed here, but I had a girl come in and ask if we had any books on epidemics. I brought her to the right section, assuming she needed the information for school. (We get tons of students in the library since there's a high school across the street and a middle school down the street.) As I was pointing out books that she might like she said, "I don't need this for school. I just really like reading about epidemics and diseases." I pointed out several more books to her. I still think it's an odd choice for pleasure reading, but to each her own...

May 10, 2008, 5:26pm Top

I'm a big fan of disaster fictionalizations myself.

May 11, 2008, 11:27am Top

She didn't want fiction; she wanted to read about the real thing. As I recall she ended up checking out several books from our heath section.

May 12, 2008, 2:23am Top

My co-worker was talking about the other day when a child came up to him at the Children's desk and announced "My father is 27, my dog is black, and my mom is dead."

Sounds like a great first line for a book.

May 12, 2008, 8:56am Top

I read a ton about bioterrorism, outbreaks, pandemics and such as a teen-I had it in my head I wanted to be a virologist for the Army (yes, I read Hot Zone one too many times)-I got really close to reaching that goal, too, until working in a lab just long enough to knock some sense into my head. She might get a kick out of A Field guide to germs-it is one of my all-time favorite bacteriology books written in a very funny manner.

Now I feel sorry for the science librarian at UTA-the only reference question I ever asked a librarian (until becoming one) was how to make crack. It was for a forensic toxicology class I was taking and I wasn't finding the scientific information I needed, just cookbook stuff. I always keep that interview in mind whenever I get really odd questions.

May 15, 2008, 10:35am Top

I was all about plagues and the like in my teenage years too! I read Hot Zone like four times. I just added A Field Guide to Germs to my 'to read' list!

May 16, 2008, 10:56pm Top

Not so much a creepy request but a creepy patron - did not understand personal space and reeked of garlic. He was a regular in the local studies section I used to work in. Now I'm at a school library - we only get the occasional creepy teacher!

May 17, 2008, 12:55am Top

We just found out the random patron we got to help move some furniture last week was a convicted sex offender. I wasn't working that day, but... creepy.

Jul 17, 2008, 7:16pm Top

There's a guy who used to call and ask us to list the main ten catagories of Dewey, and would then start talking dirty. We think that he's still doing it but has learned not to say anything that makes us hang up. So he'll call and ask us to explain it, and sort of set off a strange vibe, but there won't be any overt reason for us to stop the call as being "inappropriate." Is that heavy breathing, or is the connection just bad?

Jul 17, 2008, 7:58pm Top

Ick. Not quite library-related, but I had a friend who used to work in an adult bookstore, and she got pervs who were too cheap to call a sex chat line call the store and ask:

"Do you carry adult videos?"
"Was there a title you were looking for?"
"Um. Not really. But could you...list off some of the titles for me?"


Jul 18, 2008, 2:53am Top

A colleague was once approached by a patron in his twenties, wearing a large overcoat (type pencil vendor). He asked her if we carried erotic books. "Yes sir, we actually do"
"How many can I take home with me?"
"I'm sorry, but you'll need to consult them in the general reading room" (we're a consultation library)
"But,... but, ... I NEED to take them home! It's imperative!" (for ... well,... obvious reasons)

He finally took off, muttering and cursing.

I'm told by a fellow librarian, working at another library that he's been around there as well.

Jul 18, 2008, 3:45pm Top

46 - I'm not so sure that's really that creepy. I've always been really fascinated by the Holocaust. I believe there was an unfortunate moment in my life when i said to someone, "I love the holocaust," before realizing what I was saying.

The same thing goes for brutal dictators. (I'm still waiting for a good book on Hussein.) I just don't understand where that evilness comes from which makes it fascinating.

Jul 19, 2008, 12:13am Top

Ok, so in an urban library as an ugrad a really sick guy masterbated down the stacks from me while I was studying. Somehow, I over came that and still became a librarian. We get some really wacky characters in our public library. There's one guy that we would like to buy a pair of shoes that don't squeak. There's one guy who has been kicked off of the unfiltered internet b/c of porn surfing. He still comes to the library and surfs on the research stations. There are the parents who lose/leave their small children at the kids computers so much that 3 year olds know how to use the page system behind the children's desk. There are the patrons that you can tell are checking you out. We have an old lady who calls up and asks where she can buy the funkiest stuff like unfiltered goats milk. She doesn't even live in our service area. She leaves a few miles up the road. There was patron who once thought that I could find anything on the computer and got very angry when I could not locate the important doctor in Baltimore who "separates famous siamese twins." I love my job, but sometimes you just gotta laugh. One old guy asks me every time I see him "Does your mommy know where you are?"

Jul 22, 2008, 1:24am Top

there is more to the siamese twin story ... she was looking it up for her boyfriend who wanted to surprise his grandson ... who he hadn't seen in ten years b/c he was getting brain surgery. I took her to hopkins, to the Physicians speciality reference and could not locate the name of the doc her boyfriend was looking for. The senior center is right next door, so sometimes I think we may get the dementia patients. She was sure that her own doctor would find it for her. We at the ref desk wanted to tell her that brain surgery probably wasn't the best time for gramps to say "surprise I wanna see you!"

Aug 17, 2008, 3:41am Top

I had a teenage boy in the Teen section ask if he could leave flyers on the reference desk advertising his tattoo business. He showed me some contraption that he had rigged up with a ball point pen that he used to tattoo people.

Um, no.

Edited: Aug 17, 2008, 6:17pm Top

57: I definitely went through a 'fascinated by the Holocaust' phase when I was in high school. And as far as I can tell from reading Booklist, etc., a lot of publishers are still in that phase. Or maybe that's more 'fascinated by how much money can be made by publishing books about the Holocaust'...

My favorite creepy public library encounter also has a humorous element:

I was working on the circ desk and a patron with no front teeth asked whether there were any job openings. I replied that at the moment there weren't, but he could keep checking in because when there were we posted them at the circ desk. Then he asked if I would marry him. I declined. Maybe he heard we had good dental?

Aug 27, 2008, 5:11pm Top

When I was in library school I work in a library and once had to tell a 14 year old boy to leave the library as I looked up and he was masturbating 6 feet from me. That was bad enough, but when he father came in to inquire with the librarian (who happened to be my grandmother) why his son was not allowed to come into the library he asked "was it her?" pointing in my direction when told what happened.
Now I am a librarian and in my first few months at my current job I was shelving books in our children's area when I kept hearing this noise...Figured it out when I was walking up to our circ desk and noticed a HS kid at the computer with his chair turned awkwardly away from view. He is now banned from the computers, but has the guts (or lack of pride) to still come (ha! no pun intended) in the library.

Aug 29, 2008, 3:15pm Top

When I worked in a public library in the 1970s, we had one guy with Downs Syndrome who would come in to the central library nearly every day. He was about 30 yrs old but had a mental age of about 7. If you were wearing a dress with a belt which tied at the back, he found it very amusing to creep up behind you and unfasten it. He would do the same thing to shop assistants as well - he was well known in the town. He was very friendly and always smiling, and we came to the conclusion that it wasn't a sex thing, he just thought it was funny - like a naughty boy. Very disconcerting though - our boss always made sure that new female staff were aware of his behaviour.

Aug 29, 2008, 4:39pm Top

I had a lady tell me her library books were stolen by the people who ran the planes into the World Trade Center. ( I suppose it makes sense she did have books that were overdue since 1995.) They moved into her house and messed with her things. After I declared the books as lost in the system, she asked for a list of her overdues, in case the books had been recovered.

Aug 29, 2008, 5:54pm Top

If you were wearing a dress with a belt which tied at the back

Do such things exist? Clearly I haven't paid enough attention to women's clothes.

Aug 29, 2008, 6:01pm Top

>65 ShannonMDE:,
Oh my. That is one of the most, um, interesting excuses I've ever heard for not returning books.

Aug 29, 2008, 6:19pm Top

>65 ShannonMDE:

Wow. Did the FBI swarm all over you guys? I'd think every scrap of information would be useful.

Sep 1, 2008, 4:26pm Top

Tim, they did in the 1970s! :)

Sep 5, 2008, 7:05pm Top

to search our records because John Hinckley Jr. had been in our library looking at the files

This brings up something that I have wondered about for years.

During the debates over the Patriot Act there was disagreement over whether the Govt. should be able to check library records.

My question is, why do libraries keep records of who checked out what? If the material is returned in good condition then why does the library want to know who it was that had the material or what someone is reading?

Sep 5, 2008, 7:23pm Top

Personally, we don't keep those records. There's something called a Patron Privacy Act. The patron can turn on their own reading list so that they can see what they've checked out, but we can't. So, the credit card companies know exactly what I buy, but nobody can see what I check out at the library. Figures.

Sep 6, 2008, 10:59am Top

We don't keep those records, either. As soon as a book is checked back in, it's completely gone from the patron's account.

Sep 6, 2008, 11:16am Top

"My question is, why do libraries keep records of who checked out what?"

Speaking only for myself here, I'd imagine the main reason is for the convenience of the patrons. Say in a situation where a patron says "I returned a book a few weeks ago, but I can't remember what it was and I'd like to read more by that author." Or, for whatever reason, a patron might need the system to remember what they've taken out before and pop up a prompt if they try and take the same item out again, so they can know to leave that one and replace it with something else.

Also, in situations where a patron is disputing a fine, or saying they returned an overdue book already/never took a book out in the first place, having the records can help troubleshoot such situations.

In short, the main reason would be to help patrons make the best use of the library. Though I can see why, in places where the records may be misused, there can be times when they're better off not being used.

Sep 6, 2008, 1:49pm Top

Transaction records are usually deleted from library systems when there are no fees attached to them.

Patron records may be protected by state statutes that provide confidentiality. Then the Patriot Act happens and librarians are in the middle--state statutes, ethics, federal law.

(Patrons can choose to compile a Reading History in some library catalog systems, but the patron must make the choice. And when they do, most library staff cannot view it.)

Edited: Sep 6, 2008, 1:51pm Top

When I worked in a university agricultural library as an undergraduate, I once got a call from another library warning me about a guy they were sending over. I was told that he was sure to completely monopolize any female library worker's time, so to find the books for him before he even got there. Turns out, he wanted books on how to spay his cat. His cat was sick and he thought he would try to spay his cat himself. As soon as I found out why he wanted the information, I told him to take the cat to a vet or pet clinic, even if it was the university's vet clinic, which would be cheaper than a public veternarian. I gave him books that showed pictures of the process, but was not detailed enough to be a guide if he still planned on doing it himself. When he came up to the desk for the third time, I passed him off to a male colleague and shortly after that, we closed for the night.

Sep 6, 2008, 2:11pm Top

Certain varieties of misuse is a good reason for an emergency purge function.

Oct 15, 2008, 9:49am Top

A patron came up to the counter and asked for a pair of scissors. We gave him a pair of Fiskars and he went and sat down. A little while later, we noticed that he had taken off his shoes. He had also started to cut up his pants, and was in the proccess of trimming his toenails as well. It was disgusting, and disturbing.

Oct 24, 2008, 11:49pm Top

About a month ago, I was checking out materials to a patron who appeared to be "normal." After a moment of small talk she leaned in really close and said, "You're a young woman- you'll understand this." I have had plenty of weirdos, so I didn't say anything to encourage her at that point. I just kept checking her items out. Then she says, "Obama is the next Hitler. He's going to kill all the white people." Then she just grabbed her stack and walked out.

As soon as the door shut, my coworker and the nearby page just burst out laughing.

Oct 27, 2008, 7:54am Top

>75 aapike:

I had a similiar situation happen to me. I was standing at the circulation desk and a man came up to me and stated "AIDS is a conspiracy of the French government" and then walked off. That was my very first encounter with this man but I ended up having several more bizarre encounters after that. One time he came into the library out of breath and said that someone was following him. Another time he thought I was from the CIA and started to get really agitated.

Oct 27, 2008, 2:49pm Top

I just had a man in the library looking for books about alligator farms. He told me that he was going to start one and also get a tank because he saw a tank on tv that went from 0 to 60 in under a minute. Then he changed his mind and said that he really only wanted a gun to protect himself from predators. He then asked me if I had any children. I told him no. (Big mistake) He proceeded to get upset and told me that if I was any kind of American, I should be off making little Americans.

I'm sure that he (and maybe some of your other "creepy request" patrons) is probably some kind of mentally ill. I'm sure they're mostly harmless, but sometimes when you're working all alone they can sure make you feel uncomfortable.

Oct 27, 2008, 2:58pm Top

In a library I used to work in, there was one particularly creepy regular visitor who first asked me out, then when I politely declined asked two of the other girls one after the other (a week or two apart). We started taking bets on who the next target would be.

Even creepier (though not library related), I used to work in a photo lab, developing the photos. One particular set of photos stands out in my memory - let's just say six men and the photographer. When the customer came to pick up the photos, he insisted on knowing why I wouldn't give them to him, in front of a queue of about ten people. How does a 17-year-old explain to a 30-year-old that we're not allowed to sell pornography? I bet my face was purple. Ok, so digital cameras were relatively scarce at the time, but had he never heard of polaroid? :/

Jan 27, 2009, 1:43pm Top

I used to work at a pretty affluent public library in the 80's and 90's...so we didn't get as many *colorful" characters as our counterparts in the city did. But, we too, had a few...there was the Shoe Guy ("I like your shoes" no matter what you had on your feet, or if he could actually see your feet under the desk). The Gagged Lady--she would call up, ask for the definition of the word "gagged", only she would pronounce it gag-ged, 2 syllables, and then read a passage from The Hardy Boys--"Joe was tied to the chair and gag-ged". She asked the same question every time. She was a regular caller to all the area libraries. We had the giant man who wore sweat pants with a sock or something rolled up to emphasize a certain part of his anatomy. There was also the regular patron who was featured on Unsolved Mysteries as a wife-murderer. REALLY creepy was the perv who tried to molest a little girl in the ladies room during one of our summer programs--the ladies room was only about 10 feet away from the programming room which was swarming with kids and their moms, what an idiot. We also found panty hose in the stacks--we liked to think they just fell out of some teenager's gym bag.
Not creepy, just funny--one night at closing, we had an unattended child left no picked up. He was about 11, totally unconcerned his dad had forgotten him. After trying to reach a parent, I called the police as per our procedure. When the cop came, that was when I found the boy had had his ferret with him in the library all evening--and no one noticed. Always wondered how long it took for the dad to track down his kid, though.
I've been in the school library now for 11 years, where while the children sometimes do/say cute and amusing things, but it's just not the same...
But, I did go to the public library last fall as a patron, and had a homeless man demand of me why the mall did not have trick or treating this year. It made me kinda homesick...

Jan 27, 2009, 2:19pm Top

One of our regular 'coulorful' characters recently returned from a trip to the States. We kind of wonder how he got in, because he's an anarchist (though he denied it) and pro-Castro (he even has a Castro beard). He now wears an *extremely* colourful hat. We warned colleagues who hadn't seen it yet, so that they were prepared for the chock.

Colourful in this instance means: comes every day, doesn't wash at all (out of principle), is quite friendly, and frequently donates the strangest books, some of which are actually relevant to our collection.

Jan 29, 2009, 9:09am Top

I once had a patron ask me for a date. Aside from the obvious issues, he deliberately dressed to appear tough and was reputed to be a wife-beater and violent to his neighbors. His son attended one of my programs and afterward said to his dad, "Can we take her home with us?". Scared me witless. I told him I had a very jealous partner.

On another note, I had a three-year old keep trying to masturbate in story hour one day. It was really tough explaining to her mother why she couldn't stay, and she never brought her back. Never heard the backstory to that one.

Then there was the backwoods type who informed me one day that the Beatles were responsible for everything that had gone wrong with America since 1964. He had just lovely things to say about minorities (and the Dutch!), and used to threaten to take a townsperson who was Dutch out into his many acres of woods, tie him to a tree and let him scream till he died.

And this was in New Jersey!

Jan 29, 2009, 11:47am Top

auntmarge64, I've never had a patron ask me on a date before, but a lot of my older female patrons seem to want me to date their sons. A few even bring in pictures and give me the whole run down of their likes, dislikes, educational background, the whole nine yards! One lady even brought her son with her so I could "check him out" (her words). While, on one hand, I'm quite flattered, on the other, I'm a little unnerved.

Jan 29, 2009, 12:47pm Top

#84 and 85: I've been asked out by patrons twice now, both times quite politely and with no drama when I informed them that I'm married, but thank you.

However, I also had a patron start rhapsodizing about how lovely my breasts are....THAT was a creepy one, for sure.

Jan 29, 2009, 2:50pm Top

#86 - perhaps you misunderstood and the patron was just commenting on your rack of nicely shelved books? :-)

Jan 29, 2009, 2:54pm Top

#87 - Nope! He quite specifically used the word "breasts." Nice library pun, though. :-)

Jan 29, 2009, 3:05pm Top

This thread reminds me of a joke.
A guy walks into a library and asks the librarian: "Do you have a copy of 'How to Cope with Disappointment Without Stabbing Everybody in Sight' - or do you not?"

Jan 29, 2009, 3:39pm Top

>88 kmaziarz: Ugh. One of our homeless regulars used to go on and on about my body. He thought he was being complimentary and didn't understand why I insisted he was being inappropriate.

Jan 29, 2009, 3:46pm Top

Way back 'when I was constantly getting obscene phone calls at home--he called by by my name. After talking with some co-workers, we found that several of us got those calls. We decided that the guy was getting our names from our desk name tags. Ugh. I got an unlisted number.

Jan 29, 2009, 7:14pm Top

I work at a very small town public library with 2 main employees. One day an aide filled in for me so I could take a lunch break and while I was gone she got a creepy call. A man told her that he didn't have internet access at home, but needed to know some (sex related!) information. She replied sweetly that she didn't feel comfortable looking up that information for him. He got quite upset and said that our (male) director always does internet research for him, SO... she suggested that he call back when the director was available. She was freaked out the rest of the day! No word on whether or not our director ever got his phone call ;-)

Jan 30, 2009, 5:38pm Top

I worked at my university library's circ desk for four years, filled with dozens of incounters with "creepers". The one that sticks out in my mind at the moment was Ackmed. One evening in my second month on the job, he came in (wearing a horribly knock-off Gucci bucket hat), and strode confidently up to the desk.

"Can I help you?"

"I hope you don't hate me for saying this, but you've got great 'titties'."

Blank stare. Blush. Speechless.

Ackmed leaves, but comes back 10 minutes later.

"I mean it, you're sexy."

"I... er... well... thank you?"

"My dad owns ((some sleazy club I no longer remember the name of)), and you've got to come tonight and be my date. Here's my number, or ask for me at the door and they'll take you into the VIP lounge. Bring as many friends as you want! Really, I mean it."

Needless to say, I didn't take him up on that offer. :D

Jan 30, 2009, 6:11pm Top

I want to know what happened to the scissors used as toenail clippers.

Jan 30, 2009, 6:32pm Top

Oh God. Audacity, your post reminded me of something that happened to me that might have been even skeezier.

I was shelving books as a page, I was probably 17 or 18, and this patron comes up and starts talking to me about my hair. I had a mohawk or some other weird hairstyle.

He's like "Yeah, so are you in a band? Like that all-girl metal band Kittie. Yeah. Awesome. Hey, check this out. I just got to this city in my R.V., and this church down the street is letting me park in their parking lot. Later, when I'm richer, I'll get into an R.V. park with electricity and everything. You should come by when you're done with work, over to my R.V. Just knock and I'll let you in. It'll be awesome. Yeah. See you later."

I remember the guy's name. It was Tibor. And he had this picture of his R.V. on a lanyard around his neck. It was painted up in stripes, like big green, black and yellow stripes. I had seen it around.

But what idiot teenage girl would actually go to some stranger's R.V. after work? How foolish does he think I was? That was one of the weirdest exchanges I'd ever had at work.

Jan 30, 2009, 6:40pm Top

#95: For some reason while reading that, all I can hear is "I live in a VAN, down by the RIVER!"

Feb 10, 2009, 1:02pm Top

One of our regular patrons insists that she is Elvis' sister. She's not particularly creepy, but she does have paranoia issues, and checks regularly to see if anyone from the government has called here for her.

Feb 10, 2009, 1:48pm Top

--A guy who wanted a list of all the local places that buy cadavers.

Feb 11, 2009, 12:09am Top

The proper response would be to put him in a small conference room while you "go check." Then ask #17's masturbathing co-worker to relay to the patron that unfortunately the library doesn't carry the book he was looking for.

Feb 11, 2009, 4:54pm Top

>98 jlane:

Do you have such a list? (And, um, can I get it?)

Feb 13, 2009, 5:37am Top

"Can you read out your library rules to me in a stern voice?"

That was my favourite.

Feb 16, 2009, 10:04am Top

"Can you show me how to search for Internet sites aimed at adults who like to dress up like babies?"

My worst one. I pointed out that while I could certainly provide him with hints on using search engines he would not be able to access the sites in the library as, being on the site of a school, we had restricted access to...er...certain sites. I suggested he used an Internet cafe.

Feb 16, 2009, 3:53pm Top

Better than adults who like to dress babies up like adults.

Feb 16, 2009, 5:11pm Top

Well, it finally happened. I knew it couldn't just be religated to public libraries. We had a patron getting a little to happy with himself in the periodicals section. Sigh. And we all thought he was just socially inept. Now, everything he's done or said in this library takes on a whole new tenor. I am not looking forward to dealing with him again (policy-that joyful thing-says he has to have one more complaint before he's banned from the library all together; no mention of what it'll take to expell him).

Feb 16, 2009, 5:23pm Top

What periodical?

Feb 16, 2009, 6:18pm Top

Right by the British Journal of Anesthesiology.

Feb 17, 2009, 10:40pm Top

Hee! When I was 19, a 35ish patron, who often came in with his 13-yr-old daughter, "courted" me - waiting for me to be free before checking out, searching me out in the stacks to wish me a Happy Thanksgiving, etc. - for weeks before apparently getting up the nerve to ask me out ("Um, wow, that's flattering, but, um, no thank you."). One of my coworkers chatted him up later, thinking he must be friends with my father (whom my coworker had never met). When the patron corrected her, saying he didn't know my dad, my coworker immediately said, "ah, yeah, well, he owns lots of guns." Hilarious, especially since my dad's the world's biggest pacifist...

On a creepier note, a couple of years ago I helped out a 94-yr-old patron with a microfilm project. After thanking me, outta nowhere he says, "I've got ED. You know what that is? Erectile Disfunction."

Holy Jeez.

Feb 18, 2009, 6:10am Top

I'd completely forgotten about this, but reading the messages about being courted has reminded me.
When I first started working in a university library in London in 1978, I had to deal with the new students and enrol them as library members. There was one Korean guy who looked very lost and confused, so I spent a bit of time explaining procedures in detail for him. BIG mistake. He thought I was 'interested' in him, and stalked me for the next couple of months. Stalking wasn't listed as a crime here in those days, and nobody took me seriously when I said this guy was really annoying me, until one day he followed me all the way home (even though I tried to dodge him and walked about a mile out of my way to confuse him). My boss finally took it seriously and spoke to his professor and the guy didn't come into the library for several weeks. Shortly afterwards I found he'd got himself a girlfriend and he no longer took any interest in me. I think he was just lonely and latched on to me as the only female who had smiled at him, he didn't seem to understand that following me about wasn't endearing him to me!

Feb 18, 2009, 12:32pm Top

107> I understand that a lot of people lose their inhibitions as they get older (as in over 80).

Feb 19, 2009, 11:02pm Top

I had a guy once ask me to help him spell check messages he was writing to random women on the internet about how beautiful they were. The kicker was that all of his messages WERE IN ALL CAPS.

Feb 19, 2009, 11:42pm Top

I've been fairly lucky, but it can definitely get creepy around here with the porn-watchers and whatnot. We have a mentally challenged patron who likes to giggle and admire staff's boobies, though he's harmless (unless you don't know him, then he's kind of scary). He loves to check out dance and exercise videos with scantily clad women on the cover. And once he returned a porn vid in a children's movie case!

Apr 12, 2009, 3:19pm Top

Not a creepy request, just a creepy interaction, but a number of patrons feel the need to tell me about their health issues, in graphic detail. The concept of too much information is unknown to them.

Apr 15, 2009, 10:17pm Top

When I was working at a University library, I remember helping a mature age female student (with some hygiene and behavioural issues) with a computer problem. She stroked my hair and told me how pretty it was. Shudder.

May 28, 2009, 1:50pm Top

When I worked at an academic library, I asked an older professor if he'd like a bag for his books. He said yes, and as I was sliding the books into the bag he said, "Oh yeahhh, slide those books right in there. It's like a book condom!"

May 28, 2009, 4:29pm Top

That's hilarious. I love it.

May 29, 2009, 8:14am Top

Well to be politically correct we shouldn't discuss patrons' book choices should we?? - but this is interesting. Our public library had a woman who requested a book about psychotic drugs over the phone - she wanted to make sure she "was on the right medication". Apparently the conversation between this woman and my colleague was bizarre, to say the least.

I just happened to be on the desk shift when the woman came in to collect her request. I am not going to comment on her appearance, her behaviour or her vocabularity, suffice to say that if you think dealing with a psychotic person over the phone is scary, wait until you have to serve them at the circulation desk.

Makes me realise how lucky I am to be normal (I wish)

Jun 2, 2009, 1:05pm Top

I work for a library that mails books to the disabled. Here is a note we received from a nursing home on behalf of patron.. "She is over 80 yrs of age and is a Christian lady and doesn't appreciate the petafile books that have been sent to her." (ends note by ordering raunchy romance books.. and leaves me wondering what sort of petafile books we've been sending)

Jun 2, 2009, 1:32pm Top

petafile book.....perhaps you sent a vegan cookbook?

Jun 6, 2009, 10:29am Top

some years ago I and lots of other patrons noticed a person who underlined and made notes in mystery books about the clues/ hints. This was pre computer but we were just going on a system, i took great joy in telling everybody that after that we went on line, we would be able to tell who was doing this, and the person stopped.

different patrons also corrected grammer and underlined all mentions of smoking but that didn't bother me as much.

Jun 9, 2009, 10:31am Top

In an academic library : A colleague got a complaint from a female patron about a male patron who was looking at pornography. When the librarian went over to talk to him, the patron quite happily admitted that he was looking at porn and said "I was in a really bad car accident yesterday and need to blow off some steam." The librarian replied that it was inappropriate and once it was confirmed he was not a student here, asked him to leave. Then he noticed that the keyboard was sticky.

Jul 16, 2009, 9:41am Top

We have a guy that comes into the library most days (although he disappeared for a few months - sadly he made a re-appearance last week). He sits somewhere with a commanding view (of the reference desk, circulation desk or center of the library). And sits and stares with a frozen half smile. Occasionally he does gets up and carefully circles around where he's sitting. He does this for hours! If you're working at the ref desk, he will sit and stare at you (with head tracking and all). He does this to any and all staff, male, female, young and old. Creeeeepy!

Jul 16, 2009, 10:14am Top

When I worked in our university library, restacking books, we would find used condoms in the most unlikely places. At the end of the shelves, on a chair- and especially in the stairwells. Lots in the stairwells. I mean: get a room!

Jul 17, 2009, 1:37pm Top

I mean: get a room!

Provide one!

Jul 17, 2009, 10:19pm Top

re: 123

I can only imagine managing the waiting list for that one!

Jul 18, 2009, 2:48am Top

...Wow. Okay, so I may never visit a public library in the U.S. again. :P

(Kidding. I think. I'm not in the U.S., anyway...)

I don't think I've ever seen anything that creepy here.

Oct 7, 2009, 3:49pm Top

One of our circulation clerks mentioned the other day that there's a regular patron, a late-middle-aged man, who delights in bringing up books with titles like How To Please a Woman for her to check out, making very sure that the title is facing her. We all agreed she should ignore him, but the idea of showing him how to use the self checkout did come up!

Oct 7, 2009, 8:42pm Top

but the idea of showing him how to use the self checkout did come up

Sheesh! The things they teach in libraries these days.

Oct 8, 2009, 9:50am Top

We have an irregular who wears nasty tight tight pants to show off his package and likes to stand next to seated females. We had a patron complain about this days after it happend so we couldn't do more than warn the staff to keep an eye on him and write up an incident report.

Oct 8, 2009, 12:21pm Top

^104, I would think that health issues and sexual harassment issues would trump policy as to how many complaints you have to have. Your employer is obligated to provide you with a workplace free of sexual harassment, and I think this would count.

Nov 12, 2009, 11:28am Top

Young female library staff in my workplace seem to suffer the most creepy requests.

Twenty years ago, back in library school, I was working the university reference desk as a grad assistant. Shortly before closing, a couple of young guys approached me very sheepishly, holding a piece of paper with an LC call number on it, and asked for help finding it. We had to walk quite a ways together, climbing stairs, etc. They kept giggling like idiots. I found their book, which turned out to be called "The Female Orgasm" -- and they kept thanking me in a weird giggly way. Completely grossed me out. One nice thing about being middle aged, is that nobody pulls rude crap like that with me anymore.

Nov 12, 2009, 11:48am Top

#101: secretly, they were filming a new Monty Python episode. That's my only explanation.

Edited: Nov 12, 2009, 9:18pm Top

127 - Ha! I just got that one now, Tim! That's a euphemism I hadn't thought of before!!!

Nov 12, 2009, 11:10pm Top

Re: # 14: to all; As a patron, would I be banned from a library if I broke the fingers of someone doing that? It's bad enough when books are stained or stink of cigarette smoke.

Edited: Nov 13, 2009, 7:16am Top

I work part-time in a university library, and we have a handful of "original" patrons. Most of them are pretty harmless - one man just keeps printing, apparently random, stuff from the internet, page after page... he pays for it, but the sheer volume sometimes bring our entire printer network down.

There's one patron, however, who is seriously creepy. Almost everybody in the university knows him - he frequents all the libraries and public institutions in the area. His repertoire is endless: he awkwardly hits on any and all female staff, especially younger ones. He's paranoid and sometimes goes into long rants about how "executives" are sabotaging his life in a conspiracy to keep him down. He once complained about the injustice of him not being allowed to hit people that annoyed him, and he has told me about his plan to get a girlfriend who's in junior high since all the older women is apparently taken. He also asks the strangest questions and asks for help on an endless variety of subjects, like how to get hold of a spanish copy of Microsoft Windows, or where all the student parties are. A friend of mine once stopped by the library and chatted for a while, and the patron later kept asking questions about him - apparently he wanted to keep tabs on everyone who was visiting "his" library. Finally, he complains loudly anytime the local newspaper is missing (he also puts this down as "sabotage"), although I'm fairly sure that he's the one who steals it in the first place...

Sorry about the long rant, but this particular person is such a bag of endless fun it's hard to stop talking about him once you've started.

Edited: Nov 13, 2009, 9:51am Top

Not so much creepy patron, but perhaps if he could have given me more information with his reference question our encounter wouldn't have been so awkward.

I work for a mail order library that assists people with disabilities. A patron called in looking for gadgets that would assist him since he is a new triple amputee. I start looking around for books to send to him about adjusting. Turns out he was looking for some info about lovemaking with his wife.. we had a book about that, but it was my understanding he was looking for other kinds of assistance and didn't want to suggest that book because I didn't know his romantic situation.

If I order Playboy on audio for people, and find erotic horror novels for patrons to listen to with their significant others, and find the mailing addresses for other erotic magazines to pass them along to patrons, finding an Amputee's Guide to Sex is a far less awkward request but you have to ask for what you're looking for.

Nov 13, 2009, 12:08pm Top

112> I was once accosted by someone who really really wanted to tell me about their colon problems.

Nov 13, 2009, 1:46pm Top

Not as much recently, but when the internet was in its younger days, I had people asking me to find their long lost children who did not wish to be found. I can't really not give information out that is public information and if a person has a distinctive name, they are typically pretty easy to find.

Nov 13, 2009, 2:03pm Top

Re # 135:

This is an interesting point - questions that aren't creepy, but patrons think are.

There were something about this in a Swedish library periodical a while back: a feature on questions patrons were ashamed to ask, specifically titles they didn't dare request. The prime example was one of last years best-sellers, which had the Swedish equivalent of the c-word in the title.

Most patrons apparently solved this by pretending to misremember the title, requesting a similar-sounding one and hoping the librarian would correct them.

So, my point is, here we are sharing anecdotes about creepy questions and patrons, which is fine, but I think it would sadden me (to a limit at least) if patrons refrained from asking their questions because they're afraid I might find them creepy.

Then again: "at what time do you leave the library" will always be seriously wrong...

Nov 16, 2009, 6:00am Top

Then there was the patron who asked for a book that that would help him get blood stains out of his car's upholstery!

Nov 16, 2009, 9:35am Top

How did I forget this one?

"Where do you keep the lists of dead babies?"

Nov 16, 2009, 4:37pm Top

Looking for a new identity, are we?

Nov 16, 2009, 9:53pm Top

>141 mamzel:

Precisely! I directed the gentleman to the obit sections of our microfilmed newspapers; I also pointed him to Loompanics Press works on changing identity.

Nov 22, 2009, 3:56pm Top

I can't quite recall the details, but I had a guy call up a few years ago and he wanted info on either breast cancer or testicular cancer from a specific issue of a health magazine. He sounded legit, like he really needed the info and knew about the article, but he got agitated when I told him he'd have to come in and print it out from the online database. Turned out he wanted me to read it to him over the phone, and his voice was getting that strained sound to it, so he just wanted to hear a woman say the names of private parts to him. Ick.

Nov 23, 2009, 9:31am Top

Re: 138.. I cited an article in a paper I wrote in library school that did reference research regarding how up to date and comfortable reference librarians were answering questions based on GLBT issues for teens. They dressed a college student up like a teenager and sent her to the library to ask for resources for setting up a GLBT program at her school. The reference librarian was rated on how comfortable they seemed answering the questions, how fully they answered the question, whether or not they did follow up or gave her the quickest answer possible then shooed her away.

I don't have the particular citation with me now and quick search isn't producing the article, but I can look it up later for people if they are interested.

Nov 23, 2009, 12:20pm Top

>135 ShannonMDE:: 'If I order Playboy on audio for people'

Huh? How does that work?

Perhaps it's like audio description: 'Page 38, Airbrushed picture of blonde woman with big knockers which are obviously false.

Page 42, airbrushed picture of brunette wearing too much makeup and nothing else.'

Nov 23, 2009, 12:20pm Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Nov 23, 2009, 1:59pm Top

#145.. I believe it really is just reading Playboy for the articles.
Although some of the children's books I've listened to do describe the pictures.

Nov 23, 2009, 2:19pm Top

Playboy used to be transcribed into Braille by the Library of Congress. I think it was under the Reagan administration that funding was cut off. Go figure. They cut off the only group of people who really did read Playboy just for the articles.

Nov 23, 2009, 3:49pm Top

#46 - I liked epidemic/disease fiction and nonfiction very much as a teen, just for fun, and still occaisonally indulge, even after being a librarian in public libraries for over 10 years. I even created a "end of the world as we know it" booklist for teens a few years ago. . . which also included epidemics! Printed copies of this list went quickly in my library!

I've experienced very creepy requests and situations over the years, too.

Nov 23, 2009, 4:13pm Top

@149 I'd like to see that list. This is one of my long-standing dark fascinations. I read Laurie Garrett's The Coming Plague when I was about thirteen, along with about every other work of non-fiction I could get my hands on (even appreciated at about that age how not-exactly-non-fictional The Hot Zone is). I could have been that girl in post 46.

Incidentally, my interest in these subjects led me to an undergraduate degree in biology, graduate school, several years of independent research in an HIV lab, scientific publications and a master's degree. Warped as my interest may have been, it seems to have led down a constructive path, eh?

It makes me sad to think that adults when I was that age (librarians no less!) would have thought I was just some morbid little freak.

Edited: Nov 24, 2009, 9:19am Top

#148.. I think there are fewer blind people learning braille and relying on audio versions of books. The magazine was changed from a braille format to a cassette format.

Nov 23, 2009, 8:55pm Top

I was talking on the phone at the reference desk and told the patron on the line that my name was James if they needed any more help. When I hung up a crazy guy behind me said, "James?, I hope not James the Lesser.....they called him that because they cut off his head....ha ha ha" (in a creepy laugh).

About six months ago a different crazy guy who always read medical and anatomy reference books kept staring at me and then eventually came over and said, "I'd like to pick your brain" -then he walked away.

Nov 24, 2009, 4:47pm Top

I have many creepy patrons at my library. My two most recent ones were:

A lady who I thought was pretty normal informed me that a fellow patron on the computer and a friend of his were controlling her TV, Phone and internet use at home as well as her computer use at the library.

One of our creepy regulars was harassing a girl on our visitor computer because he missed his turn to use the visitor computer (he wasn't even on the waiting list-he didn't sign up) so he didn't miss his turn. When I suggested he sign up on the waiting list he accused me of questioning his integrity.

Jan 21, 2010, 3:21pm Top

As Reference and ILL Librarian I field a lot of mail requests.

I once got one from a man in prison asking for pictures of boys dressed up in clothes from the 1950s.

Seemed a bit ... off.

Edited: Jan 22, 2010, 8:17pm Top

I had a patron ask for books about voodoo or magic. He stood studying one at the circulation desk for a few minutes, then pointed to a spell "recipe" to place a curse on someone, and asked what such-and-such an ingredient was, and where he might get it.

He came back the next week looking for books about witchcraft and Satanism. No ingredient questions that time.

Jan 22, 2010, 9:50pm Top

155--That reminds me of a customer I overheard at Chapters (the Canadian version of B&N) . . . she asked the sales clerk where to find books that would teach her how to put a spell on someone. Because she was speaking loudly, I found out she had a neighbour that was bothering her (based on how she was dressed and acting, I think the neighbour probably would have said the situation was reversed). The sales clerk handled it really well--without blinking, he walked her over to some section. He acted like she had asked for an accounting book or the latest Dan Brown best seller.

Edited: Jan 22, 2010, 10:20pm Top

155, 156 I led him to the books, no problem, that's my job.

I suggested he Google the ingredient he was curious abut. I hadn't a clue, and he was holding the only books we had on the subject.

Edited: Jan 23, 2010, 2:01pm Top

I'm still wondering what the patrons in the Posts 1 & 2 actually did to warrant expulsion from the library. What rule did they break? I don't hear an actual threat. I would think those libraries might be open to a ADA complaint. You can't eject someone just because they are mentally ill, unless they pose some threat or disruption, or violate a law or a posted library rule. And there are religious speech issues in those two cases, too. Is there more that the posters didn't include?

Perhaps with more education, the staff members wouldn't be frightened by these people. We have several patrons with mental illness or developmental disabilities whose behavior can be odd and who sometimes say strange things. Unless they make an actual threat or are truly disruptive, they are welcome just like everyone else.

The fact that my son has a developmental disability makes me very sensitive to these issues.

Jan 24, 2010, 2:59pm Top

We have a responsibility to keep our staff safe and they have the same rights to a safe work environment as anyone else does. There are lots of issues that I didn't post in mine--a number of other instances where he threated other staff memebers, sexually harrassed one pretty badly, and scared a few other patrons. But there's also the fact that we are an academic library and are not required to allow the public to use our library; we generally do as an act of community service. But our university can be sued for sexual harrassment if we allow a patron to constantly harrass an employee.

My son is autistic, so it has fallen to me to educate much of our staff about autism; we have several regular patrons with autism or an ASD, so making them comfortable using our resources is important. I'm also in charge of working with our international students' department to make sure students from various cultures get the most use out of our library and that our librarians and staff can make them feel welcomed.

Jan 24, 2010, 2:59pm Top

We have a responsibility to keep our staff safe and they have the same rights to a safe work environment as anyone else does. There are lots of issues that I didn't post in mine--a number of other instances where he threated other staff memebers, sexually harrassed one pretty badly, and scared a few other patrons. But there's also the fact that we are an academic library and are not required to allow the public to use our library; we generally do as an act of community service. But our university can be sued for sexual harrassment if we allow a patron to constantly harrass an employee.

My son is autistic, so it has fallen to me to educate much of our staff about autism; we have several regular patrons with autism or an ASD, so making them comfortable using our resources is important. I'm also in charge of working with our international students' department to make sure students from various cultures get the most use out of our library and that our librarians and staff can make them feel welcomed.

Jan 24, 2010, 3:02pm Top

#159 OK, if there were actual threats and sexual harassment, then of course he didn't belong there! Just couldn't tell that from the original post.

Jan 24, 2010, 3:05pm Top

Also, we have any number of patrons who come in here (again, we're a university library but we generally let the public come here) who have various mental disorders. There's one woman who speaks in tongues while reading and crying over the Bible, but she does so quietly and then leaves. We have another who has been researching how to open a school for the past two and a half years, but when I peek over her shoulder, she never writes anything. She makes calls in our vestibule (where there is a public phone), but only speaks into the phone, she never takes her finger off the hang up button. Right now, I have a patron sitting in the reference section who is clearly coming down off of some pretty heavy seditives and is trying to read a law guide. I directed him to the books he requested and offered to hook him up with our law school, which does pro bono work. I think we still have a resonsibility to ourselves, our staffs, and our other patrons to make sure they are safe, though.

Jan 24, 2010, 3:11pm Top

Like I said, if there were threats and sexual harassment, I fully agree that it was time for that patron to go. That just wasn't clear in your original post. From what you've written today, it sounds like you are very accommodating of folks with special needs -- within totally reasonable limits, especially as a university library!

We have needed to exclued some patrons, too, when they've posed a genuine security threat, harassed people, or caused blatant disturbances.

Feb 2, 2010, 11:21am Top

Security had to call the police into our library today because they saw a young lad (17 or so years old) on their CCTV while he was sat at a computer engaged in what I believe the French don't call a menage a un.

I almost felt sorry for him when the coppers slapped the cuffs on.

Feb 3, 2010, 4:24am Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Feb 3, 2010, 7:45am Top

I wonder how many of the people making weird requests are writers? The one about the guy who wanted to know the weight of various body parts reminds me of Stephen King's short story Survivor Type where, by way of research, he had to ask his doctor exactly how much of one's own body one could eat and still survive. That kind of information has to come from somewhere!

Feb 4, 2010, 12:13pm Top

>166 Booksloth:: I sometimes wonder that too. If I can see a way during the reference interview to ask, I do. I had a patron ask for all kinds of information on incest (consensual, between grown up relatives). She was writing a paper for a sociology class. By asking her "Is this for a class?" and getting her answer, I'm able to find all kinds of information she didn't necessarily know how to ask. Plus, I know a few patrons have been bashful about asking what they know is a weird/creepy question. Part of the reference interview is sometimes having to find delicate ways of asking why they need the information--it makes a difference in where we look for answers.

But the creepiness factor for me generally comes from the patron himself, not so much the question asked.

Feb 5, 2010, 5:07pm Top

>164 IanFryer:

Had to ban a teen the other day for doing the same thing...while watching hentai!*

*Anime pornography, to the uninitiated

Feb 10, 2010, 4:52pm Top

We still don't know what our chap was watching - it's in the hands of the police now (a.s it were!)

Feb 10, 2010, 4:52pm Top

We still don't know what our chap was watching - it's in the hands of the police now (a.s it were!)

Mar 7, 2010, 2:25am Top

Creeps at libraries?
Ok, where should I start?

1) Guy who sits(and sits and sits) on a couch in the library lobby smiling at all the women working at checkout.
2) Patrons who call the women librarians by their names.
3) There was this guy who would use the computer in the childrens room. He would be on the computer for a few minutes, stop, then get up and go talk to the librarians about whatever. He'd then go back, sit on the computer some more. EVERY time a mother with her kid(s) would come in, his eyes would follow the mother from the door, to the info desk, to the section she and her kids walked to, with a big, creepy grin on his face.

Mar 8, 2010, 7:19am Top

#171 Creeps at libraries? . . . Patrons who call the women librarians by their names.

Sorry, what are they supposed to call them? "Ms. Librarian?" "Book chick?" I've been called a few things at work that gave me the creeps, but my name wasn't one of them.

Mar 8, 2010, 12:17pm Top

Perhaps the problem was that he didn't extens the same courtesy to the male librarians. We have a guy currently who seems a little too attentive of one of our female librarians (who is lovely, but fifty years of age and married) and has tried to speak to het in the street outside the library. There is a blurry line between being friendly and stalking.

Mar 8, 2010, 12:28pm Top

Sorry, what are they supposed to call them? "Ms. Librarian?" "Book chick?" I've been called a few things at work that gave me the creeps, but my name wasn't one of them.

Arrive. Shove card at librarian. Wait for them to divine what you want.

Mar 8, 2010, 3:03pm Top

Our public library sees some colourful characters - one is the Rain Man: a man of about 50, quite large built, who always wears a screaming purple coat in winter and summer. He occasionally wears a triangular hat made of newspaper. One day shortly after I started working at the library he came in and wanted to use the photocopier. He was making copies of a piece of wood, claiming that he had cured a fellow patient at the local mental hospital by making copies of the piece of wood, and pasting a photograph of the man's face onto the images. With each enlargement of the copy the other patient's tumor grew smaller. Then he proceeded to give me an astrological reading, based solely on the fact that I spoke to him. Now I know why my colleagues all remembered urgent things to do in the office/stacks/anywhere else...

Mar 8, 2010, 3:37pm Top

We have a number of patrons with developmental disabilities and mental health issues. Since my own son is autistic, I think I'm probably more comfortable with some of our patrons whose behavior is a little unconventional. Every time I read a post where a librarian is "creeped out" by what, to me, is understandable behavior for someone who isn't neurotypical, I feel a stab of pain at how badly my son is going to be misunderstood by the world when I am gone.

Mar 8, 2010, 4:31pm Top

I met a lot of people with mental disabilities when I used to work at a public library. But, they weren't the people that "creeped me out." I get used to people quickly. Sometimes I act like nothing is any different even before I actually meet them. That is just who they are and they can't help it. So if, for example, a man talks to someone else they see but the rest of us don't, I won't show any reaction. But another person who might see him will look at ME weird because he or she wonders if I do notice the man talking to an invisible person.

The people that creeped me out working at the public library were those who hit on me, those who appeared to be watching children (that weren't in their care) a little too closely, and those who looked at porn on the computers knowing that others could see them.

Mar 13, 2010, 12:11am Top

The library I used to work at had its share of weirdos. We had a man who used to come in with his two sons almost every night and use the computers. His boys would go into the children's room and built guns out of little plastic blocks we had in there. The boys would then wage loud and violent war between the stacks. Their father would only do something about it once he heard us talk to them two or more times. He was so busy doing their homework for them that he was reluctant to step in. He also did not have the same personal space requirements as we did. The two full time staff members at this branch were both young women (myself included), so the fact that he would lean across the counter until he was almost on our laps was very unsettling. One night he was in the corner by the DVDs talking to a female patron who was not interested in speaking with him. A little while after she left he said he would be back for his boys after running to the store (boys about 8 to 11, somewhere in that age range). He returned a bit later. Then the phone rang. The female patron had seen him at the store and was afraid he had followed her and was scared to leave the store. One evening when my supervisor was the only one working, he came in to ask if she would like to share some pizza with him. He also wanted her to bring in her vacation pictures from a few weeks before.

That was longer than intended. I will tell you all about the "happy couple" another time. I still work for the same library system, just a different branch now. So I still get the occasional update on our "favorites".

Mar 14, 2010, 6:11pm Top

This was a regular occurrence at the public library where I used to work. Men viewing pornography and masturbating at the computer. (that one was thrown out) however, the "bride shopping" is the new gambling since that has been stopped to some extent. I also worked in a bookstore and with the creepy sex book requests. They didn't just ask for the book they wanted to discuss what was in it and whether I thought it would help them. Ick! I have too many stories to share, but have worked in libraries and book stores for over 15 years. It's getting worse, but I don't want to bore you all.

Mar 20, 2010, 9:02pm Top

Some of the teen boys call me Library Lady. I think it's hilarious! I can see them trying to remember my name and failing and you can see the wheels in their head working as they try to think of something to call me that's not rude but not too "uncool" either.

Mar 24, 2010, 10:23am Top

>178 bookymouse:
(Full disclosure: I'm not a librarian, just a grateful patron.)

Personal space is, well, personal. Someone I used to work with would encroach on my space causing me to back up, sometimes until I was cornered. I finally had enough of it and intentionally stood my ground as she got closer and closer, not moving towards her but refusing to move away.

All of sudden she realized how close she was, said, "wow, you get close to people when you talk to them," and walked away. I was too astounded at her reaction to respond.

Mar 24, 2010, 3:10pm Top

>181 TooBusyReading:

Some people I work with at school get really close to me. They don't seem to be aware of what they are doing. If I did what you did, they would probably see ME as encroaching their space as well. I'm only 4'11" and I am used to having to back up from someone (adult OR child) anyway! It hurts my neck sometimes to look up at somebody. One teacher at the school invades my "space bubble" so much that I feel like a rodent being hovered over by a cat or owl. She's nice to me, but still...

Mar 24, 2010, 3:46pm Top

>181 TooBusyReading:/182

There are always barely-avoided collisions between staff at my library, because our working space is sort of a big curve and we can't see when people are coming around a corner. Anyway, if I saw/heard someone coming I would always move out of the way and remove my hands and their contents (usually a few books at a time) from the area directly in front of me, so as to avoid a collision.

My boss got offended because "it was like she had the plague or something." I never had the nerve to just stand there and run into her, but apparently her personal bubble was substantially smaller than mine.

Edited: Mar 24, 2010, 4:14pm Top

People have widely varying concepts of personal space. Some of it can be cultural. Also, it's worth noting that those on the autism spectrum (whether high or low functioning) tend to have very little sense of personal space -- a part of their difficulties with the nuances of social skills! And many folks with Aspergers Syndrome & high-functioning autism tend to be drawn to the library field -- the work can fit nicely with their need for structure and order!

Mar 24, 2010, 6:31pm Top

This whole thread has been so interesting and so many posts crack me up! I've been inspired to recall some of my own. One is from just the other day, only marginally creepy compared to some of the other stories.

I work at a small university and a professor had phoned saying she had forgotten something in one of the other classrooms. I step away from the ref desk to investigate and walk into a dark classroom and turn on the light only to find a student hunched over a computer at the far end of the room. I apologize for having to turn on the light when he launches into a session of 20 questions. He says he's seen me around, wants to know my name, where I went to school, why I'm a librarian and how long I've wanted to be one. I try to imply that I'm down here for a reason and need to get back to the desk, but he just keeps attempting conversation. I move towards the door and ask if he would like the light turned off again or left on, to which he responds "If you must know, my girlfriend of a year and a half decided to end our relationship yesterday and that's why I'm in the dark". Well, I didn't need to know, but thanks for the information? I just said I was sorry to hear that and turned the light back off.

Formerly, I worked at a library for sex research. It was closed stacks and open to legitimate research only, so I never knew of any creepy requests. But... try telling people about your job and you open up a whole new world of creepy.

Mar 25, 2010, 5:00am Top

Just expanding on the whole Autism factor in some sectors of Library staff. Our course for Library Information services at the Local college has on average attracted at least two people on the Autistic scale per year
I have always found they have an interesting take on things as they dont clutter their perspective with emotional attachment etc particularly when analysing and gauging performance. They are exceptionally good at getting to the point.
As for creeps - Safety first second and last.

Mar 27, 2010, 3:10am Top

Creepy Patron (though unintentionally) - not Librarian

I think I creeped out one of my local librarians a few years ago. I belong to a Freecycle group for my area and had posted some curtains on it, they were brand new in the package but just didnt work in the rental I was in at the time.

Anyway I was at the front desk filling out a form to get a new card when I heard the one librarian telling the other that she was picking up some curtains after work... which just happened to be mine! Small world! Anyway... when I told her I was the one she was picking them up from she looked startled and perhaps a bit scared. Not quite sure why but it was rather awkward.

Mar 27, 2010, 9:52pm Top

187, it shouldn't, but it always kind of freaks me out if I see a patron outside of the library. I'm always friendly in the library, but it's a professional friendliness, entirely different from the kind of friendly I am outside of work. I guess it just seems a little stalkerish to run into people elsewhere, even when it's entirely coincidental, and I can never figure out how to behave when I see people in the store or whatever, since I don't work there.

Not to mention the fact that people are always startled when they realize they're being overheard, even when they're speaking loudly in a public place.

In short, it would've freaked me out too, although I like to think I would recoup quickly.

Mar 28, 2010, 3:41pm Top

#188 Let me guess that you are probably not a librarian in a very small town. Where we live, everyone sees everyone on the street and in public buildings and shops all the time, and almost everyone is friendly and says "good morning" or "hi" even if they don't know each other. I actually enjoy running into library patrons when I'm out and about. Some remember where they've seen me, and some don't -- especially if I'm dressed casually.

Mar 28, 2010, 7:03pm Top

189, Yep, biggish city, although I'm in the southern united states, where you say "hi" to everyone. That's kind of my point... That kind of friendly is different from my professional friendly. As long as it's just "hi" it doesn't matter, but if someone tries to start a conversation with me based on our library acquaintance, I flounder. (Even though I shouldn't.) Kind of depends on the person's attitude, as well. Some random encounters are creepy, some aren't.

Mar 28, 2010, 9:58pm Top

I suppose I can think of a few patrons who might be creepy to encounter on the street -- or especially in a dark alley . . . ;)

Mar 29, 2010, 12:35am Top

>178 bookymouse: We have a lovely older man that comes in and he always likes to have a chat, but he has no sense of personal space. I've had to tell him more than once "One metre in the country". But he's forgotten by the time he comes in next, so now I just make sure there's a desk between us before I start chatting.

We seem to have lost all of our weirder patrons. One was banned for 'poo painting', another for growling/swearing at staff and customers until they gave the daily newspaper up in fright.

Another we dubbed 'quick draw', as he used to watch the kids in the children's area and play with himself, very icky, we could never catch him in the act (hence the nickname), but in the end we told him we knew what he was doing and that we'd be watching him and he stopped coming in.

We have a number of patrons with mental disabilities come in, but I don't consider them creepy - I just know not to head down the same row as one man, as he thinks it's hilarous to pass wind when you're near him :) But aside from that he's a very funny guy, his ritual is to show staff the items he's picked out and get our opinions. I guess seeing him for the last 15 years, I forget he may not be what is considered normal, but I love seeing him and having a chat each thursday.

Edited: Apr 5, 2010, 7:35am Top

>59 Nycticebus: regarding this creepy request: There was patron who once thought that I could find anything on the computer and got very angry when I could not locate the important doctor in Baltimore who "separates famous siamese twins."

The answer is actually Dr. Ben Carson, an African American pediatric neurosurgeon at John Hopkins. I have 2 books written by him in my library. Cuba Gooding, Jr. portrayed him in a made for tv movie a few years ago (excellent if you can catch it). When he was a child, he had lots of anger issues and was a horrible student. His mother in an effort to turn his life around, required that he read 2 library books a week and provide a written report on each (even though she could barely read herself). He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from George W. Bush.

He was the first to successfully separate conjoined twins.

May 30, 2010, 8:24pm Top

We had an interesting fellow that liked to spend an inordinate amount of time in the men's toilet, preferably with an armful of 'Gay Times' magazines which he would hide in a basket attached to his Zimmer frame. After being alerted to the appearance of peepholes in one of the cubicles after one of his visits, a sting operation was undertaken, but only managed to yield a condom, hosting half a carrot, hastily stashed behind the cistern.
Haven't seen him in a while.

May 31, 2010, 11:08am Top

With us its the "Olfactory Factor" (Sounds like a Robert Ludlum book) We are pretty villageish to begin with so a lot of the patrons come from the surrounding area where they don't have running water (read "showers"). The library does have a shower and I am thinking of charging, say $4 for the use thereof. Though after reading some of the above postings I'm not sure that it might not lead to more problems. Like, how many patrons at a time? eek

Jun 7, 2010, 3:41pm Top

I once saw an ex-library book for sale on eBay. Part of it's description (presumably a selling point) was that is was signed out twice by Jeffrey Dahmer, the serial killer who sometimes cannibalized his victims. The title of the book" "Gourmet Cooking". Honest. I'm not joking.

Jun 8, 2010, 12:52am Top

This is sort of why we no longer have cards in our library books. Sort of. eek

Jun 8, 2010, 6:36am Top

#196 Well, someone has to ask - any recipes for human flesh in it? Or did it just say 'cook as chicken'?

Jun 8, 2010, 9:04am Top

#198 - Shouldn't that be 'cook as pork' - as in 'long pig'?

Jun 8, 2010, 11:22am Top


I've had a lot of patrons who still miss them, because they were able to use the cards as way to find books that had been read by people with similar reading interests. Horrible confidentiality though.

Jun 8, 2010, 11:34am Top

#199 You're probably right - I was thinking more of the way everything that isn't 'usual' to eat is always described as 'a bit like chicken'.

Jun 14, 2010, 12:46pm Top

We also got a heavily tattooed man who, to judge from the scary demeanor and pale complexion, had just come out of the local nick. He wanted the phone numbers of local tattoo parlours who might take him on as a trainee artist.
Needed help with the phone books though as he had terrible dyslexia. Made me worry about his future customers as I wouldn't want to be the one to question his spelling.

Jun 14, 2010, 12:59pm Top

Hmmm -- was this a while ago? Maybe he did get that job. I know someone who got his wife's name tattooed on his arm and they spelled it wrong. How does someone misspell "Karen"?

Jun 14, 2010, 1:34pm Top

How does someone misspell "Karen"?

I've know a "Karin" or two. Perhaps the tattooist did also :)

Jun 14, 2010, 2:33pm Top

I recently commented on a patron's tattoos and got a mumbled reply about how she was much younger then. Almost remorse.

Jun 14, 2010, 2:58pm Top

I've know a "Karin" or two. Perhaps the tattooist did also

Yes, I've known a few with that spelling too. But in proportion to "Karen", it's a rare spelling. And not the one the tattoo guy went with (he preferred Keren).

Jun 14, 2010, 3:43pm Top

> 202

Awww, there was a prime chance for community outreach. You could have lead him to the art section while he was there and asked him if there were any artists in particular he liked or maybe some drafting books. ;) Maybe he would even defy the stereotypes and actually return the books.

This reminds me that I still need to add The Mammoth book of Tattoos to my wishlist/to read.

Jun 14, 2010, 11:17pm Top


"Patrons who call the women librarians by their names."

When I call the library, be it circulation or reference, they almost always say this is _____, how may I help you. I'm usually referred to by my name, not as "patron".

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