Funny Requests from patrons

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Funny Requests from patrons

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Aug 9, 2007, 9:05 pm

Here are a few from our library:

Washing Elephants
The Lion With the Wardrobe
Less Miserables

The Hiding Place by Carrington Boone

Aug 9, 2007, 9:20 pm

I'm a teacher-librarian in a high school library. Occasionally, students will come in looking for a book which they had used in our library a few days or weeks ago. They can't remember the title, but they'll say things like,

"It was a blue book . . . "


"It was about so big . . . "


Aug 9, 2007, 10:40 pm

Try getting the request for "that blue book" from future librarians. It's kind of scary. lol

One that I get from one user is the request of the price of the print versions of the LC Schedules, DDC, and (today) Cutter tables. No one recognizes him, so I don't know if he's a retired librarian or just want cataloging materials to keep him company.

Aug 10, 2007, 12:56 pm

I work in a public library in Georgia. Here's one that I had a few weeks back:
" I need that book that's called Shakespeare, but it's spelled with a "Ch" and the author starts with M..."

Fortunately, I was in my groove that day, and it only took me a few seconds to figure out that the patron wanted the book Chesapeake, written by James Michener. *grin* Gotta love being a librarian!

Aug 10, 2007, 1:15 pm

lol, what a wonderful thread!

Aug 10, 2007, 2:31 pm

Not two hours ago,

"I want the Edwards book" Gave her the 4th ed. of Legal writing : process, analysis, and organization
"No, I want the blue book." which, we translated to be The Bluebook.

After a couple of minutes, we finally figured out that the patron wanted the 3rd ed. of Legal Writing. Why the patron didn't want the 4th is another matter.

Aug 10, 2007, 4:38 pm

I always loved the request for the Gutenberg Bible on cassette

Edited: Aug 10, 2007, 5:13 pm

>2 booksinbed:

I'm not a librarian, but I used to work in a bookstore. I could never get over how many people would ask for a book without knowing anything else about it other than the color. I had one patron ask me for book she thought had some red on the cover. The only other thing she could come up with after a few minutes of questioning was that she "thought there was a murder in it".

We used to keep a list of some of the real good ones, but sadly I've forgotten many of them. I do fondly remember "Who wrote Dante's Inferno?" and "Do you sell birthday cakes?"

Aug 10, 2007, 9:32 pm

>3 librarykitty:

The LC schedules cost about $40 a volume, and as there are about 42 volumes or more, some costing as much as $50 a volume, it can set you back $1700+. But there is a discount if you buy the whole set.

The DDC costs $375.

The Cutter tables, as used by LC, can be found in any good textbook on cataloguing, but the Cutter-Sanborn 3-Figure Author Tables are a book. I don’t know where to find how much they cost.

Aug 11, 2007, 9:08 am

My story isn't so much a request, but a funny question about our library. I work in an academic four story library. We have about four ranges of course reserve materials behind the circulation desk. One day a student stood there looking at those ranges and finally looked at me and said - Is that all the books you people have? Before getting serious, I told her that yes, we spent 1.2 million a year on just those few books - the other floors were simply where we kept all of the catalogued students. At first I am not sure she realized it was a joke - which may of course have had more to do with what I thought was funny vs what she thought was funny! Worst part of the story: she was a soon to graduate senior!
We also get the red book, green book, big book, small book questions A LOT.

Aug 11, 2007, 1:01 pm

Mine isn't a silly question as much as a determined patron. When she was asked to return her overdue she said she had (naturally). On furthur questioning (over a period of time) she admitted she had lost it. She paid for it, full cover price as it was brand new. A year later she came back with the book in hand sayin " I didn't see it on my shelf, I thought it was red" the cover was blue.

Aug 11, 2007, 4:59 pm

This is fun - I love those listening mistakes, like the story we were told in grad school (does it come from an article by Kuhlthau?) in which a student asks for the book "Oranges and Peaches." On being told nothing is in the catalog with that title, she grows indignant and argues that her teacher told her it was a classic, something every library would have, and it's by that guy Darwin...

My favorite from our library here:
A student was urgently looking for music by a composer known as "W.C." Puzzled, the ref librarian called the music librarian, who asked a few more questions. Eventually he worked it out: Debussy.

Aug 11, 2007, 5:02 pm

Working in a high school library, we get some interesting variations on book titles. Students have asked for:

Tequila Mockingbird
How to Kill a Mockingbird
We All Fall Down (for Things Fall Apart)
Lord of the Rings (for Lord of the Flies)
Lord of the Files

We also get interesting variations on "I want to renew my book". My favorite is "I want to make the fining stop."

Aug 11, 2007, 5:07 pm

oh, and I can't resist added one I fielded myself: The student wished to have for her presentation "a photo of the underground railroad."

I explained that people rarely posed for photos when escaping slavery (nor did those illegally assisting them). I do think she had in mind that some sort of subway train was involved. In the end I think we settled for a reproduction of a newspaper lithograph showing slaves being guided to freedom.

15baconfreelibrary First Message
Aug 11, 2007, 11:49 pm

My recent favorite happened about a month ago. A woman and child came into the public library, after walking past at least four signs with our name, and into a room full of bookcases and books and asked "what is this place?" I just about fell out of my chair.

Aug 12, 2007, 2:01 am

A student asked me for:

How to Kill a Mockingbird


Aug 12, 2007, 2:04 am

I had a student (who was doing a report) ask me what was something that she was looking at online. I went to see what she was looking at and it was a phonograph. I told her what it was and that it played records. "Oh," she said, "I've seen those - my grandmother has some!"

Aug 12, 2007, 2:05 am


Funny Farm (For Animal Farm)


Aug 12, 2007, 2:12 am

Name of the person buried at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Aug 13, 2007, 8:12 pm

Explaining to a high school student that our loan period is three weeks, I asked if she would like a longer period, like a month. She said no, four weeks would be better.

Aug 13, 2007, 8:25 pm

You all might like this list (warning: includes rudeness)

Edited: Aug 15, 2007, 2:26 pm

I love this topic. My favorite mistaken title comes from the days when patrons had to fill out postcards for their reserves (this was around 1987) and I was the reserve assistant/young adult specialist. We got a postcard filled out for:

Bonfire of the Vampires.

Which sounded more interesting to me than the actual book wanted: Bonfire of the Vanities, of course.

Not a mistake, but thinking about the postcard days, I remember how hard it was to get the staff to remember to check that patrons filled in their names and addresses when they handed in the cards. One day, a woman complained to me (I was the branch librarian) that she never got her reserves and we had a lousy service. I pulled out a 2-inch stack of unaddressed postcards and asked if hers were in it. She looked through it and found about 10 of her reserves. At least she had the good grace to apologize. Computerized reserves have really helped.

Aug 15, 2007, 2:55 pm

Way back as a baby acquisitions librarian, I used to work at a medical library. One day, the library director came to our department, very upset that the local medical bookstore wouldn't let him charge something to the library account. (It was a weekend, he was in shorts with NO institutional identification, and they didn't know him from Adam.) He wanted us to go back and get him a copy of that "orange book". :-)

Aug 16, 2007, 12:29 am

My friend, as a young lass, once ran up to a librarian, very excited, and yelled out, "Do you have 'The Cat Who Shat?'"

Her older brother had given her an... alternate name for The Cat In The Hat. At least, that's what she says. The librarian was not amused. I still think it's funny.

Aug 16, 2007, 1:27 pm

Well, now if it were me, I'd give the parent/guardian the dog-eye, straighten the kid out, find the book, studiously read some shelves, and the minute no one was looking, slip into the back and pee myself laughing. So, how was this librarian not amused? Was there a big lecture? Did she look horrified and clutch her chest, stagger around, vomit? How do we know she didn't bide her time and then have a good guffaw?

Aug 16, 2007, 1:52 pm

The librarian, who we kids all believed was over 200, gave her a stern lecture on language and appropriate behavior. There was a lot of glaring involved.

Aug 16, 2007, 2:30 pm

It is no different at a bookstore!

Common ones are "I don't know the title or name, but it was blue & on THAT table at Christmas."

Or the customers who come in & just say "I am looking for a book."

My response. I am going to need just a little bit more information. :P

Aug 16, 2007, 2:37 pm

I'm a school librarian, so i don't get many strange questions from the kids but...

I worked in a record store all through my (many) undergraduate years and we would get many crazy folks into the store on a regular basis. The overall most common silly request was; " Can you help me find this song? I don't know what it's call or who sings it, but it's about love."

Aug 16, 2007, 5:12 pm

I've had a patron ask me for ice, and another patron ask me for a serving spoon. Perhaps they're mistaking me for a caterer.

I've also had a patron ask for "a book by Huckleberry Finn."

My favorite, though, was the ponytailed young girl who marched up to the ref desk and announced, "I want to donate my hair." We were very busy at that moment and I was temporarily completely baffled, until I remembered the Locks of Love organization that makes wigs for cancer patients.

Aug 16, 2007, 5:16 pm

Nycticebus wrote: "The student wished to have for her presentation 'a photo of the underground railroad.' "

Ha. One man asked me for a photo of Benjamin Banneker (b. 1731, d. 1806).

Aug 16, 2007, 5:24 pm

Also, not a librarian, but a former bookstore favorite was the parent who was looking for a book for her child. "Tess of the Ooba-doobas". I still can't see the book and think of it any other way.

Aug 19, 2007, 7:33 pm

Heard this one from a librarian at another library (not mine). A person called on the phone and asked what animal was naulghyde made from? I'm assuming you know what naulghyde is. Hope I spelled it right!

Aug 20, 2007, 11:46 am

Naugahyde, I fink. The chemical company that produced it had an advertising campaigndecades ago about the "Nauga" that produced this fine furniture cover. V amusing. So, I can see why that might confuse a stupid person. OMG, they're still doing it. I checked.

Aug 20, 2007, 4:14 pm

Reminds me what my mother complained about when I said I wanted to go to library school. Why had they moved that "red book" ??

I have always wondered if we should not add a "tag" that would include the color of the book....not just the stuff about size, which nobody every uses,,,even if the color might vary with new binding. Maybe binding should always be in the original color.

Aug 20, 2007, 5:18 pm

'The Cat who hated the Sun' - actually wanted The Curious incident of the dog in the night time !!!!

This is a brilliant thread :)

Aug 20, 2007, 8:19 pm

Fresh off the sheet tonight:
1. Do you have any candy?

Aug 21, 2007, 6:36 am

"Have you got any Shakespeare in proper English'??!!

Aug 21, 2007, 12:48 pm

I used to manage a local history collection in a public library.

One day a woman called me because a back yard that connected to hers was being excavated. She thought she saw train tracks being dug up, and was wondering whether the house had been on the underground railroad.

Not considering the obvious fact there, this was also in a geographical region where the underground railroad had never operated.

I also worked in a big urban medical center's archives, and was frequently asked which room so-and-so died in.

Edited: Aug 21, 2007, 2:41 pm

This happened to a colleague of mine who works in a photo archives:
A woman came in and wanted a picture "of people crossing the Bering Land Bridge". After my colleague had picked her jaw up off the ground, she explained tactfully that photography hadn't been invented then.

My fave back when I was working the reference desk at my local public library:

A young man came up to the desk where I was working. The reference desk was situated towards the front of the library and in back of us in all directions were bookshelves stretching away into infinity. He said:

"Do you have any books here?"

I didn't laugh, but I wanted to :-)

P.S. I would definitely read a book entitled "Bonfire of the Vampires" :-)

Edited: Aug 21, 2007, 3:54 pm

just today:

future freshman - "um, do you have the books for a class?"
me - it's possible, do you have a list of titles?"
ff - "no...."
me - "that's ok, we can usually look them up at the campus bookstore site. What's the name of the class?"
ff - "well, I haven't really chosen my classes yet."
me - ".....??....."
ff - "oh yeah, well, I guess I sorta thought, oh, well, never mind."
me - (laughing) "well, maybe browsing in the bookstore will help you choose your class!"
ff - "oh Yeah! that's it, great idea!!" (leaves happily)

moral of the story - if we can't answer the question, we'll try to answer a different question.

Aug 22, 2007, 1:32 pm

Just last week, I was asked for Canary Road. Luckily, I was fairly alert, and almost immediately offered, "Cannery Row?" which was indeed the desired item.

42kqueue First Message
Aug 22, 2007, 4:28 pm

OK, it's not a book title, but yesterday a patron asked me for help looking up some legal forms on the internet. She went on to explain she had a hard time seeing because of the 'immaculate generation' in her left eye.

I think I sprained a muscle in my face trying not to laugh.

Aug 22, 2007, 5:36 pm

"That book about Hotey the donkey"

44lauraleigh First Message
Aug 22, 2007, 7:09 pm

What a great thread! I'm sitting at home laughing myself into hysterics right now...

I am currently a librarian, but tech services so I rarely get asked the stupid questions.
But once upon a time as a bookstore employee, someone asked me for "a blue book, and the author has a funny name". Amazingly, I found it - it was the latest Kinky Friedman title.

Aug 22, 2007, 8:48 pm

>43 Proclus: Proclus - no fair! My parents owned a donkey that my sister named "Hote" - she thought she was original. They also had a pet llama named Salvador Dal(a)i...

(that's a thought - has anyone every had a patron ask for a book about a surrealist monk from Tibet...?)

Aug 23, 2007, 9:13 pm

These are all so wonderful. I'm laughing out loud here.

Today a gentleman asked me for mysteries by "that famous author, you know, Agnes Christine." I repeated it to be sure I heard correctly. Yes, he insisted. Do you mean, perhaps, Agatha Christie? I asked. Yes, that was exactly who he meant.

Sep 3, 2007, 3:12 am

I've gotten students wanting Shakespeare "in English" and How to Kill a Mockingbird. One that sticks in my mind was my fault, though:

Teen boy: "I need a book about steroids." I give him the call number. He comes back a bit later, saying he couldn't find anything. I sternly ask if he looked for the right number (mean librarian, I know) and it turns out he wanted.... books on Star Wars. Ooops.

Sep 3, 2007, 2:04 pm

There are catalogues where it is possible to search by colour, for example this one:

New England School of Law

And here is Dave Pattern's Perl script:

You must use hex values of colours there. Here are the hex values if you want to experiment:

Sep 6, 2007, 5:22 am

I had a woman come up to me at the desk a week or two ago, asking for books about how to call pigs. We went all over the library and all over the internet and she didn't find anything that suited her... I never did find out why she wanted it, either.

Sep 6, 2007, 9:40 am

> 49

Maybe she was planning on entering a hog-calling contest?

Edited: Sep 7, 2007, 12:41 am

> 50 That's always a possibility. I'll have to check the city event calendar. :D

There was also one time a man asked for "Hawthorne Heights," as in the band, instead of either Wuthering Heightsor Nathaniel Hawthorne. He couldn't remember which.

Sep 7, 2007, 7:28 pm

I had a student today say he needed to get the new edition of the Howard Stern book. He meant A people's History of the United States by Howard Zinn.

Sep 7, 2007, 10:11 pm

I work at the children's desk. The other day I had this question from a parent:

"Do you have any Berenstain Bears books? Sorry, I can't remember the name of the author. . ."

Edited: Sep 8, 2007, 12:53 am

This message has been deleted by its author.

55LewisTheLibrarian First Message
Sep 8, 2007, 8:51 pm

>45 Nycticebus:
sorry to disappoint, but i've had a pet Donkey Oatie for years!

56leadmomma First Message
Sep 8, 2007, 9:24 pm

I work in a special library and we had a request (w/a straight face) for the Kama Sutra....our collection relates to leadership & management...
Hummm, not part of our collection....

57mokelley First Message
Sep 9, 2007, 1:54 am

I once had a little old white lady ask me for a book on how to make Africans. I couldn't think of a single thing to say but luckily she began to elaborate that she wanted any kind of needlework or knitting book. It was then that I realized she was after books on how to make afghans. Whew!

Sep 10, 2007, 7:52 pm

>57 mokelley: - oh my! That anecdote just gave me my best laugh of the day - thanks! :)

59queenazura First Message
Sep 14, 2007, 4:18 pm

I just found this and had to add my two cents, as it were :)

Regarding the request for a photo of the underground railroad, I had someone ask me for a photo of Jesus. Not a painting, not an artistic impression (since I asked this) but an acutal photograph.

The other amusing thing I thought of sprang to mind when reading the comment about hog-calling. I had someone ask for a book on taxidermy, but he didn't want one for large animals, but for small ones, like squirrels.

Sep 14, 2007, 8:16 pm

>59 queenazura: Maybe he didn't have room for bigger animals? Nothing like a good stuffed squirrel in the living room to greet guests, that's what I always say... ;)

Sep 15, 2007, 6:24 am

What a funny thread!

Overheard in a bookstore today:
Customer asks for "some book, I dunno what it was but the movie was on Pay TV (cable) the other day". He couldn't remember anything else - no plot, no title, no actors. The 2 sales asst's were incredibly patient - much more than I would have been! - and gently suggested that if he could remember a little more then they could try and help. The man then walks away in a huff muttering to his wife "Maybe if they spent less time gossiping and more time reading they could do their jobs properly" Nice, huh.

I got asked (public library) if we had any books on propagating marijuana a little while back. Managed to stifle a chuckle and suggest he try the internet.

Sep 15, 2007, 1:31 pm

Sometimes when I report "funny" questions I worry that I've slipped over into patron-bashing rather than light-hearted amusement. These might fall into the former category.

At our college library, we often encounter students who don't want to read an assigned book. They'll ask if there's a book-on-tape version, a video, a plot-summary, etc. Once a student asked whether just reading the Amazon reviews wouldn't be good enough.

Over the summer a student stopped at the desk for help locating an assigned novel that had been stolen from the collection. I explained her options, each of which would have required either expense or time that she wasn't prepared to give up. Finally, she said, pen and notebook at the ready "can't you just tell me what happens in the story?"

Sep 16, 2007, 1:47 pm

Well, the book in itself wasn't funny, but about a half an hour ago a patron asked me to place a request on a book so that he could pick it up next week rather than wait five minutes while I got it sent up from storage in the basement. And he didn't leave immediately, so it wasn't like he didn't have five minutes to wait. He was also assuring me that he'd pay circulation $0.41 for the stamp if we'd send him a letter to let him know that it's here (sending notification by mail when a request is available is standard).

Edited: Sep 17, 2007, 12:39 am

This message has been deleted by its author.

Sep 17, 2007, 12:36 am

Slightly off topic . . . but . . . I was reading the storybook Diary of a Wombat (wonderful book by the way) to a group of children and after reading the title asked the children if they knew what a diary was. A hand goes up in the back row and one of the little darlings says "its when you have really runny poos".

Love it!

Sep 17, 2007, 1:06 am

We're a fisheries/aquatic sciences library for a scientific research group with about 120 staff. My favourite request was from a primary school pupil (about 5-6 Grade in the US) which read something like "Dear Sir ... Please send me all the information you have on fish ..."

Edited: Sep 29, 2007, 3:37 pm

Sometimes the joke is on us. I know at least one library that catalogued "The Life of an Iceberg" under Biographies.

68aesop First Message
Oct 2, 2007, 6:53 pm

The same man came in on consecutive days and asked me:

1 "How do you milk bats?"
2 "What kind of hinges should I put on my shed?"

The first query I made safe by finding out that it is in fact illegal to keep bats as pets in the UK. (I don't know if that implies that it's necessarily illegal to keep them as a dairy herd though.) However he is now duly informed.

The second one I had a little chat with him about what the door was made of, how big etc, and, um, what he was keeping in the shed. Crucial factors.

Oct 2, 2007, 6:57 pm

Just yesterday I was explaining that, in order to look for "Bach" on the OPAC, one had actually to type in the composer's name as well as simply look at the screen. "It was so much easier when you had the cards". What, Zenner cards?

Oct 3, 2007, 11:34 am

>68 aesop:, I a totally posting this over to the Amused_Library livejournal community.

Oct 3, 2007, 12:18 pm

>69 aesop: Maybe they were referencing the card catalog?

Oct 3, 2007, 12:26 pm

I work in a school library, and students seem to think we can answer any questions about anything going on in the school. Every day I get about 10 students asking when the I.D. cards will be in, for example. But my favorite FAQ is:
"I went to Mr. So-and-so's room, and he's not there. Where would he be instead?" Then they get irritated when I say that he might be at lunch, but he could be pretty much anywhere for all I know.

I also have lots of students asking for fiction where a kid dies.

Oct 3, 2007, 9:46 pm

Today some guy came into the bookstore and said, "I don't know the title or the author, but it had a number in the title. Where would I find it?"

I nearly cried. Seriously.

Oct 4, 2007, 8:14 pm


Yes, I think students assume that we know EVERYTHING in the library. Even though most of the time we are out of the loop...

The other day I had a girl ask for "that book that my friend had at the end of last year, the one about all kinds of facts and stuff." She thought it was blue. After quite a bit of questioning and brainstorming we figured out she was looking for Pick me up, which is RED.

75lmmvirago First Message
Oct 6, 2007, 8:53 pm

My favorite book request was for a book called "Angel Dust." I sent the patron to the illegal drug section of our library. With the help of a colleague I was eventually able to figure out she really wanted "Angela's Ashes."

My favorite non-book request was the person who asked a colleague if she would take her to a grocery store to buy a pork roast. The patron also wanted to know if she could cook it in the staff room when they got back. No and uh, no.

Early in my career I got asked a question by one of our long term homeless patrons. She wanted the UFO book that had a picture of her father in it because he was the first person to ever fly over the Antarctica in a UFO. Being young, I thought fast on my feet. I commented that she must be very proud of him. We never found the book, but she went away very happy!

Oct 6, 2007, 11:03 pm

We had a patron a few weeks ago asking if we had a spare plastic spoon. He prefaced it by saying he knew it was a weird question, which places him above most of our weird patrons, but still.

Oct 7, 2007, 2:39 am

We've been asked for a can opener for a homeless guy's can of beans.

Oct 7, 2007, 12:37 pm

I work in a law library, and I had a patron ask for a book on laws concerning psychics and ESP. I didn't think the request was too odd. At least I didn't until the patron went on to give his reason for wanting those books - he thought someone in the government was spying on him using ESP and he wanted to sue him. Not that he had any idea who this specific person spying might be. It was just "someone in the government".

Oct 7, 2007, 2:31 pm

Hey, 78, that's common. Take a look on and be amazed. They never met a conspiracy they didn't like.

Oct 8, 2007, 6:48 pm

Actually, they recently revealed the US secret services performed ESP-based operation during the cold war and several times since (Although I doubt Home spying was ever involved).

Oct 9, 2007, 10:29 am

The last time I worked on an issue desk (1998) I got a request from a student for "that green book with the dinosaur on it".
To my own surprise (and probably to my colleagues' detriment I reached back to the shelving trolley and pulled out the book (something on programming - C++ maybe) and handed it over!

Oct 9, 2007, 12:02 pm

That poor student probably wonders why all librarians can't do that trick!

Oct 9, 2007, 12:53 pm

Had to have been an O'Reilly book. Most have pictures of animals on their covers.

Oct 9, 2007, 1:49 pm

#83 -- "Had to have been an O'Reilly book. Most have pictures of animals on their covers."

... and, in the technical community, are frequently referred to by that animal. I have the "Polar Bear" book and the "Rhino" book sitting on my desk right now. The animal is also on the spine so that you can find the "Camel" book on a shelf.

Oct 10, 2007, 12:43 pm

76: Students come up and ask for plastic utensils all the time. Some of the more polite ones preface their questions with.. "I know this is a weird question, but..." Oddly enough, we usually have some in the back.

86mkayrice First Message
Oct 10, 2007, 1:22 pm

What is it with people asking for food in bookstores? When I worked at a bookstore we had someone ask for mustard! And this was a small independent bookstore that barely had enough room for books, let alone condiments!

Now that I work in a library, I've had the following requests:

A photograph of Jesus

A biography on Murray Currie (I guess that's Marie's less well-known brother)

A request for a pink book with an elephant on it about telling time (I actually knew which one she was talking about, but it was a hippo)

A guide book to help a patron identify the little people that she sees on her lawn (I swear I can't make this stuff up!) When I finally suggested a book called "Things that Never Were" I actually felt bad thinking the woman was going to be offended by that title! Boy, I had to have a my own reality check after that one.

A woman told me that God was telling her that she couldn't read The Witch of Blackbird Pond because she got a shock when she tried to take it off the shelf.

We also had a patron looking for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to share with her kids before seeing some kind of display at the mall. We didn't have the book, but when my colleague suggested the movie, the woman said, "They made that into a movie?" Proof positive that aliens walk among us!

Oct 10, 2007, 2:22 pm

I'm an assistant in a dental specality library. I once got a request for a movie of a certain orthodontic procedure. It tried to direct him to various lectures we have on videotape but he insisted the information was on film and ended up describing the box it was in and how long it was. Turns out he had donated some items to the library and was just fishing to see if they were in circulation.

Oct 13, 2007, 11:06 pm

I'm still surprised by my own response when a boy marched up to the ref desk, looked and me and said simply, "Where is the mouse book?' I sent him downstairs for Redwall which was indeed what he wanted. Since I'm neither a children's librarian nor do I have any children, I'm still wondering what mental depths I pulled that out of.
We kept getting requests for the birth certificates of famous people such as George Washington. After the first few times we realized that some educator had come up with an assignment where the kids were to collect information on their person and then make up a document that person would have if they lived in modern times. Clever idea. Unfortunately, the kids didn't quite get the point. Even more so, their mothers, coming in to get the stuff for them, didn't get the point.

Oct 14, 2007, 1:59 pm

Two people in one day came up to me and demanded blank pieces of paper. I offered them the scrap paper that I use, and they were very annoyed. I told them they could go down to the basement and buy a journal, but that was the only paper I had.

Also, someone asked for fabric to make curtains.

Oct 14, 2007, 4:22 pm

When the library first opened today, a woman handed one of my coworkers a twig off a tree outside, wanting to know if the pods on it were edible.

Oct 19, 2007, 12:34 pm

Dear lord someone just asked me for "some big books with colorful pictures, you know... so I can make photocopies. And that big red book... with the donkey. You know what I'm talking about, right?" AHHHH

Oct 19, 2007, 7:30 pm

I've enjoyed reading through these posts. Here's one from a patron this summer, not a book request, but a patron requesting to use the internet with his pet birds perched on his shoulders. I kid you not, at least he stopped to ask first.

Oct 20, 2007, 9:32 am

We had a patron come into the local history department and ask if we had any materials about the history of the town.

Oct 21, 2007, 10:13 am

I get this sometimes:

Me (on the phone): Hello, reference. May I help you?
Patron: Is this is the reference department?

Edited: Oct 21, 2007, 6:11 pm

Heh. My husband owns the green book with the dinosaurs on it, and it is indeed referred to by computer-science people simply as "the dinosaur book". (To make it even weirder, they're sitting drinking coffee - Java, I suppose!)

I remember two particular conversations from my bookshop days.

A lady thought she wanted "Pole Star" or maybe "Northern Star" as a present for her father. Did she mean "Northern Lights" (aka The Golden Compass? She thought so. I described the setting. No, no, she wanted a book about a ship.

Fortunately I could work that one out: Star of the Sea. (Though I later found out there's a short story by Arthur Conan Doyle called "The Captain of the Pole-Star"... but I'm pretty sure we got it right.)

Another time: "Do you have 'Around Human Women'?" Who was the author? The lady didn't know, but the book had been mentioned on Women's Hour on Radio 4 - she was sure about the title, but hadn't caught the author's name. Nothing came up on the computer.

We went through various possibilities, but nothing sounded right to her. I was baffled. The next day, we got a delivery of lots of copies of Jane Juska's A Round-Heeled Woman. Sigh.

Oct 22, 2007, 12:52 pm

One day I was doing some shelving, and a lady came up to me and asked me where the teas were. I was slightly confused, but took it in my stride and told her

"Well, we don't serve any tea in here, but there's a coffee shop just outside."

Turned out that she was looking for where the section with authors with surnames beginning with the letter 'T' were. Whoops. She saw the funny side, though.

Oct 22, 2007, 2:17 pm

This thread is making me laugh so hard. I have a few to share as well.

1) Just yesterday I got the hard candy question, prefaced by, "This might sound weird, but do you have any..."

2)Once, a woman came in doing research for a class. She had to write a paper about Mexico. When I searched our card catalogue, it brought up results for New Mexico as well, and as I was scrolling past them, I said, "Oh, these are about New Mexico, so you won't want those." To which she replied, "Well...what's NEW Mexico?" I felt like I deserved a medal for explaining, very calmly, "A U.S. state?"

3)A young girl came in the other day for a school paper. She said she'd just read a book called Night by Elie Wiesel, and she thought this holocaust thing was fascinating...did we have any more books about that? How about movies?

4)An older lady came in and asked me for "that book by the author with the bald head and the beard." I informed her that, sadly, I had no way to search by physical description of the author in my catalogue.

5)A gentleman coming in telling me that he was looking for a 'big thick book' by an author whose last name was 'Michaels' and that he's written lots and lots of books. Fortunately, I was on my game that day, and after a little probing, we discovered he meant James Michener's Chesapeake.

6)A patron asking why we couldn't have a bell dinging when a ticket number for the computers pops up. I said, "Well,'s a library?"

I'll probably think of and add more later. I get a few every day. :)

Oct 22, 2007, 3:54 pm

Some of my favorites from the Reference Desk at a university...

There was the patron who wanted to know where to find a book about gods. After about 15 minutes, I weedled out of him that he needed a book that compared Buddhism and Jainism.

Another patron wanted to know why he couldn't find obituaries for James Dean on Proquest Historical Newspapers, even though he had so dilligently set the the day James Dean died. I had to explain that generally, obituaries don't come out until at least the next day...thank goodness he said it before I did..."I'm an idiot!"

And of course, the patron who needed an explination in a sentence or two as to why God allows bad things to happen (I am not exagerating) for her Intro to Theology class. I tried to explain as calmly as I could that that is essentially what her entire class is about.

As one of my friends (a highschool librarian) points out to me...this is the cream of the crop.

Oct 23, 2007, 1:14 am

#97 --

Could the answer to 4 possibly have been Shel Silverstein? IIRC, there's a big picture of him on the back of most of his books, and he is bald with a beard...

Oct 23, 2007, 2:05 am

From a part-time bookseller: A woman wanted a new book but she didn't remember the title, author or what it was about. It was science fiction and it was the author's second book. I went over the new table with her and scanned through the hardcovers in science fiction. Then I went over to literature and picked up Ken Follett's World Without End (it's sort of his second nonspy thriller) and that was it! She opened the book and read something in the front that she recognized, apparently a character's name. She knew almost nothing about the book, and what she thought she knew was wrong, but we found it anyway (that's why we get the big bucks!). Happy searching!

Oct 23, 2007, 9:16 am

#99 - Ha, no, and actually, we managed to find the book by a stroke of luck. She said she was looking for a diet book, but I tried searching nutrition and ended up finding a name that sounded familiar to her: Dr. Weil. When we went to the section, it turned out that Dr. Weil does, in fact, have a beard and a bald head! Sometimes I'm amazed at the stuff we're able to find with such little information...

Oct 23, 2007, 10:37 am

101, differentbeat: Oh, I'm so glad you responded with the answer to this, because Dr. Weil was the first person I thought of when I read "with the bald head and the beard," even though I wasn't actually sure if he had written any books. Of course, I work with Origins a lot in my current job.

Oct 23, 2007, 11:58 am

That's so funny -- I was debating between Weil and Silverstein in my head as I read down this thread too -- glad you figured it out!

Oct 23, 2007, 5:14 pm

I have had a lot of students the last few days asking to "use a library" when they meant to ask if they could use a computer. Don't know what's up with that :)

Oct 24, 2007, 5:52 am

Years ago a relative of mine used to work in a medical library, and part of her job was to photocopy parts of books on request from library users. Often they would need a particular page or picture enlarged.

On one occasion, a young doctor approached her desk with a book contaning a picture of a male reproductive organ. With the ability of the young to unwittingly tempt fate he handed the picture over and asked "Can I have it enlarged ?"

You can hardly blame her for making a joke, though I gather it wasn`t well-received !

Oct 24, 2007, 9:24 am

#97 Did you take a look at my earlier post (posting #4, I believe)? What is it about this book by Michener that nobody can remember the title or author? *GRIN*

Edited: Oct 24, 2007, 7:27 pm

The patron who wanted the names and addresses of federal and state agencies who were in control of alien plants. The local police "refused" to give her the info and the city kept cutting down the plant but it kept growing back and was making alien pods to spread all over the city. She knew it was an "alien" plant because someone told her so, and she understood "alien" to refer to beings from other it should be destroyed. Apparently, she had no idea that "alien" could mean foreign or not native.

A patron who wanted the book that said that SHE (Mary) was the mother of Jesus.

Photographs of obscure African American Inventors from pre-1860.

Oct 24, 2007, 8:34 pm

50 Cent signed his 'book' at our store yesterday and we had a plethora of idiotic questions.

'Why is the book 35 dollars?'

'Is Fifty there? Can I speak to him? I want to say hi!'

Then, when we closed off the section for the signing, and people were PISSED.

'I'm sorry, the section is closed. Can we find a book for you?'
'I just want to browse.'
'I'm sorry, we can't let anyone in.'
'What about me? Can't I go in?'
'No. Nobody can. Only Fifty.'
'Well, who is he?'

Oct 29, 2007, 12:57 pm

I am often asked where the fiction by African-American authors is kept, as if perhaps we segregate our books by the author's race.
A teacher's aide came in looking for a specific book for a student who was at a low reading level. I helped her find it and told her that we had it in both hardcover and paperback, so it was up to her which she wanted. She asked me which version was a higher reading level.

Oct 29, 2007, 1:03 pm

LOL regarding the reading level -- that is a new one!

I think maybe the first question may have been related to how some bookstores arrange their sections. I worked at a bookstore outside of D.C. where we had an African-American section that included books (both fiction and nonfiction) by, for and about African-Americans. It made it easier for the salespeople to do this because we had such high demand for these items. This may lead to the expectation that libraries would do the same.

Oct 29, 2007, 3:41 pm

>109 bibberly: My library has a sticker on the spine for books of African-American interest, because there is a high demand for them, but we don't have them in their own section...

Oct 29, 2007, 3:57 pm

> 111

My branch library has both the sticker, and a separate section in the "New books" area, for African-American interest.

The branch library in a part of town with a large gay population has a separate section for glbt books.

Oct 29, 2007, 4:00 pm

>109 bibberly:

at my library we have a section just of african american authors because it is part of a special collection that was donated to the library many years ago. we frequently add new books to the section as well.

Edited: Oct 30, 2007, 8:31 am

I just wanted to point out to all you librarians with great senses of humor--the rest of us obviously think you know everything!

Thanks for being so helpful and long suffering.

And thanks for sharing in this thread. I've enjoyed a laugh.

By the way, do you have the book, "The Mixed Up Files of ..." somebody about two kids who run away and live in a museum in NYC? I think it's red and white.

(Just kidding! I bought my own copy a couple of years ago.)

Oct 29, 2007, 11:53 pm

A teenage girl asked our media librarian about a BBC video: "What's the rating on this?" Librarian had to explain that British don't use MPAA ratings. This apparently raised a number of questions: "They speak British? Are there subtitles?" Librarian and teenage girl's friend both tried to explain that the British live in England, where they speak English. Apparently patron was confused about the difference between accents and languages.
Also, a (different) teenage girl asked me for books about the Holocaust, because, as she explained, "I love, love, LOVE the Holocaust!"

Oct 30, 2007, 9:00 am

> 115

Actually, I often use the closed captioning or subtitle button on my DVD player when watching British movies in which there are heavy regional dialects.

Oct 30, 2007, 12:28 pm

>9 shmjay:

Yes, we have stickers/sections for African American authors/interests in our libraries, since there are so many requests for them. Whether it's a special section or a sticker depends on the branch. If it's a book that it's worth having more than one copy of, we usually have a copy in the AA collection and wherever it would be filed otherwise. (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings? All over our library. We've got copies in the AA collection, the classics collection, and probably some in the regular biographies, too.)

>114 skf:

Well, I've probably got it around my house somewhere, but I don't think that will help you. And that would be an easy question even if I didn't know the book: you know the beginning of the title.

Oct 30, 2007, 1:29 pm

I understand where you are all coming from with the African-American collections. However, I work in a school library, so we just have one fiction collection.

I had a student ask me the name of "the book about the two brothers, and they take a trip, and one is special." Once I figured out that she meant "special" as a euphemism for mentally disabled, I was able to pin down Of Mice and Men.

Oh, and as I was typing this, a student asked me if we get our books from Wal-Mart. He had seen a a good book there and wondered if we could go pick it up.

Oct 30, 2007, 4:23 pm

In fact, Naugahyde got its name because it was invented and produced in Naugatuck, Connecticut, a small industrial town in the Connecticut River Valley.

Oct 30, 2007, 7:17 pm

> 115 & 116

I usually use subtitles for movies with non US/Canadian English speakers too. Just makes it a little easier to understand, even though I've had a lot of friends from pretty much every English speaking country so you'd think I'd be used to it by now.

In fact it reminds me of the little funny thing before a lot of the shows on BBC America, that say something like 'The British accent is ridiculous! So if you want to understand anything, use your closed captioning' and then proceeds to tell you how to turn CC on.

As for the Holocaust thing, I kind of know what the girl means. I have this unexplainable fascination with reading about the Chinese Cultural Revolution, even though it gives me nightmares. I'd never make the mistake of saying something like 'I LOVE the Cultural Revolution!' though. I just hope she meant that she can't help wanting to read all she can about it. ;)

Oct 30, 2007, 8:40 pm

I always turn the captions on. Sometimes the dialog isn't clear enough and it helps when the kids are screaming.

Nov 2, 2007, 3:00 am

Furu, yes, I think she meant that it was a great reading interest of hers (mine too for that matter!) She is a very enthusiastic reader of anything she can get about Helen Keller too.

Nov 2, 2007, 1:20 pm

I'm not a librarian, but I am enjoying this thread so much.

Here's a conversation I overheard at a bookstore:

An older woman with messy grey hair, sounding agitated asked "Where are your books on witchcraft?"

The bookstore employee showed her the occult section, and she seemed overwhelmed by the vast selection, and said "I need a book that can teach me to cast spells."

I can just imagine her as some kooky woman who was driving her neighbours crazy, and someone probably called her a witch. I wonder how it all turned out

Nov 2, 2007, 3:56 pm

A patron came in today asking for "the book with the boat on the cover, after the Lord of the Rings." We finally found the Silmarillion. :)

Nov 2, 2007, 6:16 pm

I have to say that the local children's librarians were very good sports when my 3.5 year old daughter requested a book about a real person (not a gingerbread person) who says "You can't catch me!" We didn't find one (and she keeps asking, and saying she just knows they have it) but they did their very best. They keep hoping she'll ask for something interesting but findable, but since then it's just been that and requests for books about dogs, cats, and dinosaurs. I don't need help finding picture books about those.

Nov 2, 2007, 6:56 pm

That phrase, "you can't catch me" rang some bells with me, but, since I don't work with children's books, I couldn't quite place it. I did a google search and came up with:

Peter Pan. There's a part where Peter says, "you can't catch me and make me grow up" or something like that.

I also turned up a picture book by Michael Rosen called "You Can't Catch Me!" There's supposed to be a poem in there called You Can't Catch Me, Grumblebelly. I've never read it, though so I can't say for sure.

Nov 2, 2007, 7:44 pm

Unless you're meaning Maniac Magee, but I doubt a 3-year-old would know that book...

Nov 3, 2007, 5:35 pm

Ezwicky-Your daughter is much clearer about her book needs than alot of grownup patrons!

Here are a couple of things I found...I hope one of these are what she was looking for!

You can't catch me is a line in Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (about the Alphabet, it was featured on a Blue's Clues episode)
Too bad she knows it's a real person, because my first thought when I read that was Stinky Cheese Man.

Dang it, now I want to know the book she was looking for!

Nov 4, 2007, 3:39 pm

Just this minute - no really - I was asked for the book with the story in it, "Under the Kapok Tree." She added that it was in a book of short stories by Dr. Seuss and that she'd seen the picture of it on our catalog page. We don't have any book by that description, but we do have Lynne Cherry's The great Kapok tree, the only book that has any reference to "kapok" in any of its fields. "Oh, that's it! But I'll check with Mom, that was the author."
What happened to Dr. Seuss? The short stories?
That was the book, and our branch's copies were out, the bookmobile had a copy (but it's locked up), and the remaining copy was in transit. "Oh, yeah - that's the one my mom is having sent over. They said it would be here Monday, but she needs it Tuesday and wanted to be sure she got it."
Soooo, you have a copy on hold, but you want to bother me about it for ten minutes?

Nov 20, 2007, 12:53 pm

Years ago I worked in a particular political-oriented library and there was a (possibly apocryphal) story that the reference desk had received a call telling them, "We got a verbal report about a gorilla attack in Yemen! Are there really gorillas in Yemen?"

I think we can all work out the obvious guerilla attack.

131lolvstein First Message
Nov 21, 2007, 2:14 pm

"Oranges and Peaches" is from "Party Girl"! But probably has some more respectable origin.

Nov 23, 2007, 1:12 am

How old is the dirt in Kentucky? was one of my favorites. But last week in the course of one hour:
"Where is your 100 page book section?" from a middle school student.
"Where are your ig books?" from a parent. (She wanted books that contained words that had the letters "ig" in them -- wig, pig, etc.)
And finally, "Where are your books on stars?" In showing the student (about 6th grade) where the astronomy books were, she was quite exasperated. No, REAL STARS! Translation: celebrities.
You have to love working with the public!

Nov 23, 2007, 2:28 am

Re: 132 ^

I was a cataloger for a curriculum library for a college's education department, so education students had to come in and find books for different purposes, especially to teach reading. So they wanted books on the letter "T" for instance. As far as I know, there aren't subject headings to cover that, so we tried to create some of our own where possible -- which a cataloger always feels ambivalent about, but there was no other way for the students to find those books!

I LOVED that job. I'm not good with kids, but I love children's books and I love cataloging. Wish I could have stayed in that job, but we needed to move out of state for my husband's work. I like my current job a lot, but I miss cataloging.

Nov 29, 2007, 7:39 am

I am not a librarian. I just wanted to salute all of you librarians who go through these funny/frustrating situations as part of your job.

*passes cookies around* (for eating outside the library, of course. this is a library! no cookies, just books!)

*applauds everyone*

More stories please =)

Nov 30, 2007, 3:28 pm

Someone recently mentioned "Tequila Mockingbird" for To Kill a Mockingbird

Edited: Nov 30, 2007, 4:41 pm

I love this thread! I'm still only a library assistant, but please don't kick me out of this group. I work for the Telephone Reference desk of a busy big-city library, so you can only imagine the questions I get. One of my favorites was an obviously anti-Semetic guy asking "Do Jews ever admit that Jesus was a Jew?" When I replied that I couldn't speak for all the beliefs of all Jewish people he asked "What about the Highest Jew in the Land?"

As an added bonus, our phone number is frequently confused with the police department's non-emergency line so we get a lot of calls for them. I got a woman once who was furious to see "Mexicans" drinking beers outdoors and wanted to know what we were going to do about it!

137mcconchc First Message
Dec 3, 2007, 10:58 pm

I was asked by a teen for a photo of Jesus. When I tried showing art books with paintings by, you know, Michelangelo, Da Vinci etc. the student insisted, no, it must be a photo.

Well, what can I say?!

Dec 4, 2007, 12:04 pm

Here are a few from our library:

Washing Elephants
The Lion With the Wardrobe
Less Miserables

The Hiding Place by Carrington Boone

Okay, I give up. I got them all except "Washing Elephants". Please enlighten me.


Dec 4, 2007, 1:47 pm

Dec 7, 2007, 5:41 pm

yet another variation...

i had a teen ask for "how teela killed a mocking bird" by "lee somebody"...icing on the cake...she had her syllabus IN HER HAND!

Dec 7, 2007, 7:09 pm

For the first time today, I got to explain that the underground railroad is not a real railroad. I feel like I joined some long-standing tradition finally. I'M A REAL LIBRARIAN NOW!!!!

Dec 10, 2007, 2:30 pm

Not a request, but a patron called today and asked how you spell 'Ebenezer'. He also asked how to pronounce the last name 'Imperioli' (he spelled it for me). I just started working at this library, but my fellow circ staff tells me this man calls most weekdays with random questions. We don't know anything about him, just that he must think highly of us being that he uses us as his own personal google. :)

143jenfarquhar First Message
Dec 12, 2007, 8:39 am

I'm an academic librarian, but I work part-time in a public library which is where I tend to get the odder questions. Two that come to mind are a patron who called to ask whether it was "Beavis and Butthead" or "Beavis ampersand Butthead". The other was a women who came up to the Reference desk clutching a tissue. She opened it, held it out to me and asked "Is this a west nile mosquito?".

Dec 12, 2007, 12:41 pm

The "You can't catch me" line also appears in one version of the Five Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree rhyme . . .

Dec 12, 2007, 2:35 pm

As a Health Care Librarian, I don't get the really funny ones like Tequila Mockingbird, but we do get a few funny queries.

In my previous library we had a few copies of a book that was subtitled "A Reader" and we used to get to so many requests for that book by the author A. Reader.

Like many of you I am sure, we get people who just hang on to books forever!! We had someone in the library just the other week who was so very insistent that we had a particular book and why wasn't it on the shelf? We did have the book - it had been issued to her about six months ago!!

Jan 5, 2008, 12:50 pm

Two of my favorites, from years of public library work:

First,the lady who came in wanting "books by Ella Moore". A catalog search turned up nothing at all, and the patron was righteously indignant: "You mean this library doesn't have any books by Louise Ella Moore, the famous Western writer?" Ah. Yes, we do have the books by Louis L'Amour.

And then there is my favorite recurring question, one I seem to get asked at the beginning of every year's summer library program: "When do you have your swimming lessons?" What there is in some people's minds to connect libraries with swimming pools is beyond me!

147DancingLibrarian First Message
Jan 8, 2008, 11:46 am

Not so much a funny request, as a comment I've heard - behind the reference desk at my library is the ready reference collection, and one of the larger, more visible titles is "Gray's Anatomy." Several patrons (of varying ages!) have seen it and remarked, "Wow! I didn't know that was a BOOK too!"

Jan 8, 2008, 1:17 pm

Playing on that same theme...we have a scale model of Anne Hathaway's home, a beautiful and large home that is very cottage-looking. We're a university with a decent emphasis on literature, so one would think more students would know who Shakespeare's wife was. The number of times I've heard "Wow, I thought she made more money than that. I've seen her in so many movies," or something along those lines is depressing.

Jan 8, 2008, 9:35 pm

>146 emmelisa: Yup, we get the same thing at SRC time, too. Although this year it was soccer lessons, I think, rather than swimming. And they always think we offer free day camps, that we'll babysit their children all day for free. When we say we don't do that and point out that the Parks Dept. has *paid* programs like that, they're horrified.

Jan 9, 2008, 12:22 pm

#149: I worked three summers at a summer camp program through the local parks department - and parents seem to also think that will be free. :)

Jan 19, 2008, 5:21 pm

>149 tinylittlelibrarian:--We have the same weary struggle every summer with the parents in our area. I can usually get them to think again about this just by remarking, "I'm sorry, we're not licensed to provide child care."

I honestly think, though, that many people are used to having their children watched all day in school for "free" (forgetting that they pay taxes for the service). So, the library is an educational institution, right? And educational institutions are supposed to watch kids for free, right? Sigh.

152cookebooks First Message
Jan 20, 2008, 6:41 pm

144 - Shel Silverstein's poem The Slithergadee (either in Light in the Attic or Where the Sidewalk Ends) repeats, "No, you can't catch me, You Slithergadee, You Can catch all the others but you can't catch me." Forgive the inaccuracies, I'm at home, not at work where the info ends.
My K-8 students are often told there is no 'scary' section, we're a library, not a bookstore!
Two of my public library requests:
Brilliant high school girl returning 'Les Miserables' asks "How does it end?". Turns out that in 40 years of ownership, not ONE person had read to the last 40 MISSING pages! We got her another copy!
We also served as an informal chamber of commerce for our touristy town. One day a harried and flustered volunteer fielded a quest for a local motel, "Where is Manzanita Cabins?" "Oh, dear," Peggy answered, "who wrote it?"

Jan 20, 2008, 7:00 pm

OK, this wasn't quite a reference question, but it was still an odd one...

I was getting lunch today on my way to work. The cashier asked what I did that had me going to work on a Sunday, so I told him-I'm a librarian. He got a look on his face and said "Oh, can you suggest a book for me to read then?" I asked him what he was interested in. He said "A little bit of everything." So I told him to read a little bit of everything.

In the end, I recommended A history of the world in 6 glasses.

154StaceyLyn First Message
Jan 21, 2008, 1:16 pm

The following interaction occurred just last week...

Patron: "Where are your history books?"

Me: "What kind of history?"

Patron: dead serious, "Books about stuff that has already happened..."

*sigh*...I guess maybe I could have been more specific in my questioning...

Jan 21, 2008, 10:55 pm

154> That reminds me of a patron I had the other day who asked for books about braiding hair. I took her to the section, and she said, "But these are all for white girls." (The patron was white.) "I need hair braiding for black girls."

So I found her a book on braiding black hair. "But this isn't about care of the hair. I need to know how to care for it."

I found her a book on black hair care. "This is too detailed. I just need to know to brush it. She's not even my daughter, so I don't need to know all that detailed crap."

Finally, we ordered a book that had everything from how to wash and brush it to how to straighten it and put in extentions, and I had to talk the patron into ordering that, explaining that it was better to have too much information than not enough. Sheesh. Sometimes finding out what a patron wants is like pulling teeth.

Jan 21, 2008, 11:58 pm

I once asked a librarian "Do you have any books about Nirvana (in the Buddhist sense) for my school project?"

I ended up with a lot of books about a longish blond haired dude with a guitar (I was 13 at the time, and grew up in a relative innocence where I had not encountered rock music to the degree I do now) and I said "Who's this guy? He's not round and Asian like he's supposed to be"

At that point the pierced male librarian decided that he had gotten me the wrong book, and went back and handed me some book about World Religions that was helpful.

I asked him why he had given me the other book, and he smiled and said "You'll find that out when you're taller, and older, and when you find out that your parents haven't been giving you the "right" education"

Only when I was about 15 did I know what he meant.

Jan 22, 2008, 1:17 am

I thought the exact same thing. And to save my life I can't think of another author who fits that description, though I know there must be hundreds.

Jan 22, 2008, 8:20 pm

I had a student (college) who asked me a couple of weeks ago if The Wizard of OZ was fiction or non-fiction.

Times like that make me think of Ferris Bueller's Day off when they go to the French restaurant and the maitre d' says, "I weep for the future."

Jan 22, 2008, 10:15 pm

>156 Jakeofalltrades:

that is such a great story!

Edited: Jan 24, 2008, 11:15 am

I had a patron ask me for "The Waterford Elephants" yesterday. :-)

Fortunately, it only took my brain a second to make the connection: "Could you mean Water for Elephants?"

Jan 24, 2008, 3:38 pm

Yet another variation on TKAM ... a student said he was sent get the book Kill a Mockingbird. Why do teenagers have such a problem with this title??

Jan 24, 2008, 7:00 pm

We had a patron come in the other day wanting book by Scarlett O'Hara. It only took us a moment of biting our tongue on the question "How could fictional character write a book?" to confirm that she actually meant Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.

Jan 24, 2008, 7:07 pm

I'm sure there are many a fictional character who have written a fictional book which you might find in a fictional library.

Feb 5, 2008, 1:26 pm

A student just came in and asked for "Running Hard" -- he actually wanted Always Running by Luis J. Rodriguez.

And I had another variation on To kill a mockingbird the other day: Kill the Mockingbird.

Feb 5, 2008, 1:49 pm

I just got asked by a patron for "The Kite Walker". He was actually looking for The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

Feb 5, 2008, 7:35 pm

Today, a patron came in and asked me for "the book about free will." I searched for books on free will (i.e. versus predestination), explaining that I wasn't sure PRECISELY which book she was looking for but that I was sure we had a section with some information. I found the section, walked her back, and she went...but there are no forms in these...

After much confusion, it turns out she wanted books with free forms so she could write her own will. -.- Oops.

Feb 5, 2008, 7:35 pm

#165: Ha, actually, that would have made me smile. :) Kind of a cute accident.

Feb 6, 2008, 2:05 pm

Yesterday I had a patron ask for a phone number for both "the hotmail" and "the myspace" she then asked me if i could look up her email address in our catalog (??????!!!!!!!)

Feb 6, 2008, 5:54 pm

#168> HAHAHA. That's great. I love when patrons think that we have all their passwords on file too. Like they create an email account, and they forget the password, then wonder if we can look it up in our database for them.

This also reminded me of a patron I had once who asked if we had a book with a list of all the websites in it.

Edited: Feb 6, 2008, 7:33 pm

#68 - I was telling my Mum about this thread and the man who asked you for a book about how to milk a bat.

She said that since you were in the UK perhaps he was looking for the words to the Yorkshire song/poem "On Ilkly Moor Bah Tat" and got the whole thing completely muddled up.

I love this thread and although I don't work in a library you have reminded me of the time our reading group (which met in the public library) did Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The local paper used to print the date and time and what book we would read and it appeared as "Nighttime with the Good, the Bad and the Ugly."

Feb 6, 2008, 7:10 pm

Today at the reference desk, I was asked for books on "novelist pilots" and the first time they flew. After racking my brain for a few minutes, I remembered that Roald Dahl was a pilot, so I found his memoir Over to You. I asked if there were any other authors he had in mind. He asked if I was sure Dahl was a novelist and I said that, yes, he was-he's one of my favorite novelists in fact. He gave me an odd look. His professor came over to see how the search was going and I told him I knew of one novelist who flew and how many the student would need for his paper. The prof looked at the student (an older gentleman, I'd like to point out) and said "Novice pilot. Not novelist. Novice."

Yeah, that makes a difference.

Feb 6, 2008, 8:13 pm

On Saturdays I (not a library school graduate) worked the reference desk. One summer morning a couple came in, very agitated. The woman, an older lady, very well dressed said "My husband & I have been having this argument about the Empress Theodosia & we just can't agree." and her husband (also very well dressed) looked at her & sneered"She just doesn't know what she is talking about." So I reached for an encyclopedia & we found the Empress Theodosia, an early Byzantine empress & I was able to find a history of the Byzantine empire & they were so happy.
As they thanked me it occurred to me that in all our years of marriage, my husband & I had argued about just about anything you can imagine, but NEVER had we ever had an argument about the Empress Theodosia.

A later note, I became curious about the Byzantine lady & a co-worker & I looked her up & found that she had been against the doctrine of reincarnation in the early Christian Church. Actually, there is some disagreement about this, so perhaps the couple's argument was not so unusual.

Feb 7, 2008, 5:00 pm

I was standing next to a colleague at the check-in desk at the library in Pretoria, South Africa, where I used to work, and a regular patron was returning some books.

This lady had clearly been in a terrible car accident or such, as she had scars down one side of her face and could not hear very well -- and she only had one eye.

So, after checking in her books, my colleague saw there was one book still outstanding. "What is it called?" asked the patron.

The book was in Afrikaans, a novel titled Die Nag Het Net Een Oog -- meaning The Night Only Has One Eye.

Without breaking her stride, my colleague said we can't see the titles of outstanding books on the computer!

Feb 7, 2008, 7:16 pm

My favorite library story is a guy came into our library with a rock and demanded that the librarian tell him what kind of rock it was. After some questioning he was under the impression that since we had a geneology department we knew about rocks.

Feb 11, 2008, 6:12 pm

Oh dear, if we start on genealogy seekers, we'll never stop! We have only a small number in our library, as there are preferable libraries nearby, but sometimes the newbies come in. Last year a woman came to the desk with a book that cited some personal correspondence wanting to know if we could request it by Interlibrary Loan. I explained that even if the papers were in an archive, unique items like that were almost never circulated. She said "oh, I'm sure there's nothing unique, it's just letters."

Feb 12, 2008, 8:36 pm

Today, I had a student come in ask me where she could find Sir Gawain and the Green Mile.

I wanted to ask her if that was the one where King Arthur was jailed for killing the two little girls and Morgan le Fay stepped on his pet mouse.

Feb 19, 2008, 9:47 pm

I had a student at the college where I worked bring in a leaf off of a tree on our campus wanting to know what kind of tree it was because the leaf sort of looked like a pot leaf. Since I already had a good idea it was a maple, I was able to look it up online at a local botanical gardens database and find that it was a Japanese maple.

Feb 25, 2008, 3:27 am

I love these. My favorite at my library so far...

A guy went looking for a picture he remembered from his youth in the local paper. Unfortunately, the local paper didn't save their originals and were only able to provide the black and white copy that was published in the paper. He then came to the library and asked my colleague if we had a color copier so that he could get it with the 'color back in it'.

Feb 25, 2008, 11:45 am

#178 - that's great. I once had someone ask if they could use the fax in our office but wanted to copy the documents first because they thought the fax actually *sent* what was put through it physically rather than digitally and they wanted the originals back.

Also someone shredded a document they then wanted back and thought that the fax machine somehow would be able to produce this. They were very surpised that it couldn't, "not even if we post all the shreds in the top?"

Feb 25, 2008, 11:53 am

These last few remind me of one I got over the phone: someone called to ask if we had public e-mail addresses that that things could be sent to, so if someone didn't have an e-mail address but needed to receive something through e-mail, they could get it sent to this address and pick it up at the library.

As if any ol' schlub couldn't get an e-mail address for free in two minutes...

Feb 25, 2008, 9:24 pm

Someone once asked me if we had a series of books in the children's section called Frank the Sheep Cow. I said, "Are you sure you don't mean Hank the Cowdog?"

"No. I'm positive it's Frank the Sheep Cow."

"Do you mind if I take you to the section and show you what I'm talking about?" I asked.

(He follows me, sighing loudly the entire time.) I point to the Hank books. It absolutely killed him to admit I was right.

Feb 26, 2008, 10:57 am

^#181 - too funny!

I also like your LT handle. It kills me when people call me a liberrian, but I like the way you embrace it! ;-)

Feb 28, 2008, 8:48 pm

I've worked in bookstores and libraries for years and my all time favorite mangled title is "Bury the Head that Wounded Me" (for, yes, "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.")

Feb 28, 2008, 10:46 pm

I work with Interlibrary Loans. One of our patrons wanted a book we didn't own, he told the librarian he wanted one of those Interplanetary Loan things.

Feb 29, 2008, 3:43 pm

In a similar vein to photos of the underground railroad and Banneker, I worked at the archives of a catholic university and we were once asked if we had any photographs of Jesus Christ.

Feb 29, 2008, 10:08 pm

184> This had me chuckling intermittently all day at work. :')

Mar 2, 2008, 5:17 am

I mostly work in back-office so I don't get the 'good stuff', but this is from a friend who worked in a book store.

Phone rings, she answers it - "Hi, um, I bought a book at your store about an hour ago" and he mentions the title. She's like "ok, I remember, is something wrong with the book?"

"No, the book is alright, but... um... would you like to go out with me?"

Nice try, but no luck :)

Mar 2, 2008, 9:44 am

#187 - That's lovely though. I wonder how many books that man had bought before he worked up the nerve to ask her out.

Mar 2, 2008, 2:16 pm

ooh, I just remembered another one. Back in the mid-90's a customer came into our bookstore and requested a book on the bestseller list. When I placed the book in her hands - a rather thick hardcover book - she gave it a puzzled look and then asked me "How long will it take me to read this?"

Mar 2, 2008, 4:38 pm

Teacher-librarian here, too. I'm in an elementary school, and pretty much every day I get a "do you remember that book my friend had last year?" sort of request!

Mar 2, 2008, 4:53 pm

I'm glad most librarians don't work on Sundays so they can tell us how funny the rest of us look to them. It keeps us laughing and humble.

When I was in 1st grade I wanted to renew a library book. (Remember this was the dark ages when everything was done with 3x5 cards.) I forgot the book at home and asked my librarian if I could renew it anyway. When she found out I couldn't remember the author's name, she sort of scolded me about the things being kept under the author's last name, not the students. I can still picture where I was, a little blond with dimples too shy to say that I thought it would be under the book title.

Mar 5, 2008, 3:50 am

I'm retired now, so I don't know the current trends, but I have two favorites from my past:
Our children's department kept a list of misquoted titles. My favorite was "The Red Bag of Courage".

One of our reference staff fielded a request for "books about dogs", which upon questioning turned into "how to breed dogs", which with further questioning transmuted into "books about them bitchin' fries dogs - I just think they're so cute." After the staffer mentally translated to "bichon frise", she duly led the woman to the titles she wanted, and then ran into the stairway to laugh. She couldn't go back to the desk for about 10 minutes. I've never known how she managed to keep a straight face through it all.

Mar 5, 2008, 4:38 pm

The first week my new library branch was open, we had a guy come up to the desk with three or four books all opened and stacked on top of each other. It was very busy, so he had to wait in line for a while, with 20 lbs. or so of books stacked up in his arms, waiting for someone to help him. When it was his turn, I asked how I could help him, and glaring at me he stated, "The word JUDGMENT is misspelled in ALL THESE BOOKS!"

File that one under C-R-A-Z-Y.

Mar 6, 2008, 5:30 pm

Actually both message 12 and message 131 got it right. In fact, "Oranges and Peaches" is from "Party Girl," put out in 1995. But a reference to this was in fact cited in a library and information science article. It wasn't Kulthau, however, it was Patricia Dewdney and Gillian Michell's "Oranges and peaches: understanding communication accidents in the reference interview," publish in RQ's summer 1996 issue (vol 35, number 4). The authors note that they recently saw the story on a library reference listserv.

Mar 6, 2008, 5:30 pm

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Mar 6, 2008, 5:34 pm

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Mar 6, 2008, 5:49 pm

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Mar 6, 2008, 5:51 pm

Honest, I only posted message 194 ONCE! For some reason, it showed up a bunch of times...

Mar 6, 2008, 7:44 pm

This didn't happen to me, but I thought it was pretty funny and wanted to share:

Mar 6, 2008, 8:01 pm

sebnutamun 184, I bet there's a whole science fiction novel to be written about Interplanetary Loan!

Mar 6, 2008, 9:43 pm

When I first started as a high school librarian, one of my first was, "Do you have any drama books?" Using the skill I learned at library school, I said, "Do you mean a play?" "No, no," she said. "You know, like baby mama drama." Another favorite is when a student says, "I need a good book."

Mar 7, 2008, 9:09 am

>199 fleurdiabolique:-Wow, that's bad. I've answered and helped with some dumb questions, but I do think I'd have to draw the line at the Hokey Pokey. I'd have hopped on YouTube and searched-failing that, I'd have told him to go to a skating rink. THey always do he hokey pokey there.

Mar 7, 2008, 10:19 am

#201 - Yes, I hate it when a student asks "What's a good book to read?" Half the time, when I counter with "What kinds of books do you like?" the answer is "I don't know." Very helpful ... not!

Mar 7, 2008, 1:34 pm

> 203

Just tell them with a perky smile that "*all* the books we have are good to read!" Maybe they'll realize they need to narrow it down on their own.

If they don't, just hand them the nearest book.

Mar 7, 2008, 2:44 pm

^201, it can be a frustrating question, but not answering it with something that might encourage the kid to read may be missing a valuable opportunity. Depending on the kid's age, there are probably some books he/she will like no matter what other kinds of books he/she likes. The one that immediately jumps to mind is Holes by Louis Sachar, and I say that because I know people from ages 8 to 50 who have enjoyed it.

Mar 7, 2008, 2:54 pm

Holes is a great book, I'm about to start reading it to my nephew.

Mar 7, 2008, 3:46 pm

Yeah, the "What's a good book?" one is always fun. I don't know if it's easier or harder to pick great books for the YA audience. For my patrons, I tend to ask them what their major is and pick a book based on that. But that doesn't really work with (most) fiction, just nonfiction. Push come to shove, I recommend Handmaid's Tale or Ender's Game.

Mar 7, 2008, 9:32 pm

Granted I had a little more info to go on than color or size, but I had a little "Yes!" moment at the reference desk when someone said she had read a mystery about plants and couldn't remember the title or author. After making the catalog work for me, I came up with the author Ann Ripley and when I told the patron the name of the main character, she said yes. Amen, and as she was walking away to find her book, she turned back and said, "You're good." A transaction like that makes me count to ten a little more easily with our difficult patrons. And I did indulge myself enough between patrons to say to myself, "Damn, I am good."

Mar 7, 2008, 10:33 pm

I'm the assistant manager at a branch in the Salt Lake City Public Library System. About two weeks ago, an elderly woman from Hungary (she told me later) came in, slapped her hands on my desk, and said, "Give me your nakedest romances."

I've been smiling ever since.

Mar 7, 2008, 10:36 pm

Good for her to have the courage to ask for such a thing! Most people would be too embarassed. I think I'll be smiling for a while, now.

Mar 8, 2008, 5:24 am

I worked in a used bookstore and one day a lady called and when I answered she asked if we had any printed music. We did get in music books and sheet music sometimes so I said yes. She said she was trying to find a song.She didn't know the name, or the lyrics, but it went like this..and she proceeded to sing la la la over the phone. I had handled some odd requests, but this one was so out there it must have stirred up the mischief in me. When she stopped I told her trutfuly, no I didn't know that one. Then I said, wait a minute, maybe my coworker does, and handed off the phone. I'm afraid that poor lady had to sing la la la for three of us, all of us trying not to let her hear us laughing. I know it was wrong but I couldn't stop myself.

Mar 8, 2008, 10:48 am

#208> You ARE good! I would have immediately guessed Susan Wittig Albert and been stuck after that. :)

Edited: Mar 8, 2008, 10:53 am

Regarding the "I need a good book" youths:

It IS really frustrating to have a kid like that come in, but I agree with amysisson that it can be missing a great opportunity not to try your best to help pair them with something they'll like. If I strike out when I ask them what kind of books they like, even more than handing them the closest book or handing them something that's generally popular among their age group, I'll ask them what they're interested in and go from there. Usually you can narrow it down to a genre that way (humor, mystery, horror, coming of age type things), then give books that are popular within that genre.

A kid might have a blank expression when you ask them what kind of books they read, but usually they'll at least have INTERESTS to work with. Though, admittedly, I've struck out with that question too sometimes. :/

Mar 8, 2008, 6:46 pm

Some of my favorite questions came years ago when I worked at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences library (then the Margaret Herrick Library, today they call it the Fairbanks Center). When working the phone reference desk you'd some oddball questions. Here are a couple:

1. A man wanted to find a certain western film. No, he didn't know the title, the director, the actors, the studio, or the year. He couldn't even come up with a description of the star or a plot description. I tried several films, but none rang a bell with him. He did offer the fact that it was in B&W. Unfortunately the majority of westerns made were in B&W. He then stated it had a desert scene. Unfortunately, a majority of westerns have some sort of desert scene. With a triumphant voice he stated that he remembered that there was a scene when the cowboy raced on his horse from right to left across the the desert. do thousands of western films. He ended the call by round cursing me--with the "f" word featured prominently--before hanging up on me.

2. What year was "Porky and Bess" released? I couldn't resist! I replied "It was rele- rele- released in 1959!"

Mar 8, 2008, 6:49 pm

Sometimes I think people (and not just kids, in my experience) ask that "good book" question because someone has been telling them "quit reading that junk! go to the library and get a good book!". So they think we're this place for "good books" which are by definition not what they usually read. Then there are the goody-goods who think librarians will be happy to know they only want a "good book." I usually try to get both kinds to translate their request into something like a genre to start with. Usually, I start with "mmm, a good book, yeah, that's the best kind. Now for me, a good book would be something that had a love story in it, and maybe a foreign country - what about you?" Usually they can come up with something I can translate into a genre even if they don't have the concept of genre worked out themselves. At that point can be anything from Black Beauty to Manga.

>194 brainstorm: Thanks, brainstorm! That's the citation I remember now. I suppose the original source is now lost in urban legend land.

Not really a reference request: Recently I was visiting a friend's house in Japan, and the 10-year-old daughter proudly brought out the library copy of Momo (translated into Japanese) that she is currently reading. I said how much I'd loved that book too. The mother said in surprise, oh, it's in English too? Yes, I explained, many books do get translated into English. Then I had to explain that the name Momo has nothing to do with peaches in the original German (momo means peach in Japanese).

Mar 8, 2008, 8:59 pm

I had a reference question on the phone a few weeks ago from a patron who was extremely shy, and her question was "What is the breed of dog that is whitish and looks like it has dreadlocks?"

Serendipitiously, she got the one person in the building that knows all the dog breeds off the top of her head (that's me!) and I was able to answer "That's the Komondor!" without a second thought.

I hope I didn't give her the idea that the library will always know the answer to every question immediately and with only a vague description.

Mar 9, 2008, 1:56 pm

>216 weener: You mean we don't? :D Kidding, obviously. Most of the students here assume that I majored in English or History and therefore took all the classes they're taking now. Nope-I was a bio major and took the bare minimum of English and History. The only way I know what they're talking about is 1)someone just asked me about it or 2) I take an interest in it on my own.

Mar 10, 2008, 3:22 pm

A patron recently requested a book about blood types. You see, his had changed from A to O and he would like to find out why--he thinks it's probably due to eating too much red meat. ;)

Mar 10, 2008, 4:04 pm

He might be right. There was something in the news recently about a transplant patient changing bloodtype and it wasn't even April Fools Day or in one of the Elvis Drives a Taxi Cab on Mars newspapers ;-)

Mar 10, 2008, 6:25 pm

Just today a customer asked me, very politely and friendly, what the connection is between cannabis and he black magic that is being aimed at him. He had to repeat his question a couple of times because I didn't understand him, he was speaking german, I thought he wanted to buy cannabis, he was appalled at the suggestion. Finally I told him I didn't know, he said 'sorry' and left.

Mar 10, 2008, 7:41 pm

Jody, I could have given him the benefit of the doubt if I hadn't been on the receiving end of his many theories--the latest being that it is women in the military that started the war in the Middle East.

Mar 10, 2008, 7:49 pm

oh, he's one of those...that changes everything then. When we all know it was Elvis in his taxi that started it.

Mar 11, 2008, 5:19 am

So we are staffing our on-line real-time Enquire Service for the first time and we're waiting for a question to stretch us so we can show our worth...

Here's the first question:

Patron: Do you you know how to get red paint out of a carpet? Our Landlord's coming round in an hour!

Mar 11, 2008, 5:23 am

Answer: cover up the paint spot with a few cups of human blood!

Mar 11, 2008, 6:19 am

Paint the rest of the carpet to match!

Mar 11, 2008, 3:22 pm

Place a piece of furniture over it.

Mar 12, 2008, 9:44 am

Ewww! Ick! We had a patron (and not the cleanest looking patron either) who wanted a home remedy for scabies. Sometimes I think we need a decontamination room here.

Mar 12, 2008, 10:46 am

At least doctors get to wear gloves when dealing with their patients! Yikes.

Mar 12, 2008, 5:24 pm

227 - Ha! I got a caller who described a child who lived nearby who looked like he had bugs under his skin, and asked me if I thought it was scabies. She called again a couple weeks later and described the same thing only this time it was an elderly person she was caring for, and again, asked me to diagnose, sight unseen, over the phone, if it was scabies.
All I could say was "Take her to the doctor, take her to the doctor!"

Mar 12, 2008, 11:44 pm

I had a home-school mother request some biographies for her children to read, and ask what kind we had available. As I showed her the biography aisle, I said "we have biographies on all sorts of people: explorers, inventors, doctors, politicians, artists, composers..." --and here I happened to pull out one on Tchaikovsky.

She drew back in horror and said "Oh, no, I wouldn't let them read about Tchaikovsky--he was a flaming homosexual!" I tried to explain the bios for kids very seldom even mention sexual matters of any kind, but she was adamant.

Then her son came trotting up and proudly announced that he'd just finished reading a biography of Alexander the Great!

I remember thinking "should I say something? No, better not...." But it was hard to keep a straight face.

Mar 25, 2008, 12:30 pm

I was asked if we had the book "My Neck Hurts." I knew right away she wanted "I Feel Bad About My Neck" by Nora Ephron.

Mar 25, 2008, 8:52 pm

My colleague just sent an email around about a virtual reference interaction she had where the person began "are you boy, girl or robot?" I find it strange that someone could think their reference question could be answered by robot, but there you are.

On being assured that the corresponding person was indeed a human librarian, the patron wrote "you type cute."

well, that's a new form of come-on!

Mar 26, 2008, 9:43 pm

The colleague should have said "robot, beep-beep".

Mar 27, 2008, 4:25 pm


As an archivist, I'm smiling about the lady who wanted to borrow letters by interlibrary loan on the grounds that they weren't unique... Mind you, I have worked at business archives from which you can borrow stuff - if you work for the company and can demonstrate a need for it. It makes me a little uncomfortable, though.

There was also the man who came into the National Archives of Scotland when I worked there and wanted to see his family tree.

I gave him the usual information about how to get started on the research, but he found this very disappointing. He "kind of thought you would have, like, a chart I could look at."

Mar 30, 2008, 7:09 am

Yesterday a lady said she'd been looking for a book for a half an hour and couldn't find it. She hands over a piece of paper with "Count of Monte Crisco" printed on it. I heard it's a rather slippery tale and that it used to be longer until the author shortened it. (ba-dum-bum).

Mar 30, 2008, 9:30 am

#235: BWA!!!

Mar 30, 2008, 2:46 pm

Hey, at least she didn't ask for a book by "Dumbass"-apparently, some folks really think there are Frenchmen running around not knowing that their family name is so funny when said. That's happened to me, and my patrons ought to know better-you'd think by the time they get to college, they know who Dumas is (well, are-father and son...)and how to pronouce their name.

Mar 31, 2008, 11:23 am

Here's one from today's Metropolitan Diary column in the NYT:

Scene: The Strand Bookstore’s information desk (downtown annex)

Querying customer to gray-bearded clerk: “Do you have ‘Lust for Life?’ ”

Clerk: “I used to. But now I’m mostly tired and run down. But to answer your question, we do not have the book ‘Lust for Life.’ ”

Customer (laughing): “Do you sit there all day waiting for customers to feed you titles for great one-liners?”

Clerk: “Yes, basically.”

Edited: Apr 2, 2008, 6:17 pm

Andy, a colleague at the high school where I was a librarian, was returning the newspaper to the desk when he paused. "Bob," he started. My name turned out to be the only entirely accurate thing he was going to say. "You watch movies. Perhaps you can help me.

"We were watching some classic the other night, but I can't remember the title. It's a novel, and there's a woman in it named Mrs. D or something."

Oh, easy lob, I thought to myself, and offered, "Rebecca?"

"Nooooo," a drawn out, doubtful monosyllable that dropped half an octave in the middle before returning, finally, to the tonic. Then, helpfully, "There's a boy in it."

Not Mrs. Danvers, then. And a boy? Ah, not a boy but Boy, and perhaps Mrs. Dempster.

"Fifth Business?" I was grasping here. I know it hasn't been filmed, but perhaps he'd actually seen an interview or a documentary. With Andy, you could never be certain.

That one went out of the court. Advantage to Andy. He served again.

"There's a criminal in it. Like ... like ... Finnigan?"

Okay, forget about Mrs. D. There's a kid and a crook, initial F. Ummmm, how about ...

"Oliver Twist," I volleyed. This after some deep thought.

"No." Clearly he'd encountered that in one of its various manifestations. He returned with, "She doesn't marry. The woman, I mean."

I have no idea from what recesses of my mind I found the inspiration to answer with one last smashing backhand.

"Great Expectations," I said.

"YES!" he cried, and went happily away.

Game, set, and match.

Apr 4, 2008, 5:43 am

wow! {bows deeply in admiration}

Apr 10, 2008, 4:22 pm

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Apr 10, 2008, 4:31 pm

Sorry for the blank spot above, I'm a newbie. Here is one funny story that a co-worker told me several years ago about a new shelver she had.

The shelver was trying to find a book for a patron and asked her supervisor how to find.

Supervisor: " What's the call number?"
Shelver: "I know what it's called, just tell me where it is!"

Apr 11, 2008, 12:59 am

LOL @ #242

Well, I got a doozy today: A patron asked me if we had secure computers it would be "safe" for her to use. As she was using one of our computers that has no Internet access and is used by patrons who just want to type documents or create spreadsheets, I told her that the computer she was on is secure and connected only to the printers. "No, it's not," she said. "Everytime I come here something inside takes control of the computer I'm on and either won't let me type, or causes Word to act strangely! I want a computer no one can take control of--don't you have one like that?!?"

Apr 11, 2008, 6:41 am

#243 - my computer is like that. I log on for two minutes to check an email and someone takes it over and puts me on library thing for an hour despite all my good intentions ;-)

Apr 11, 2008, 8:37 am

First of all - thanks to all you lovely librarians. Sure, we drive you all mad (though I don't think I've asked any of the above yet) but we only do it because we know you're brilliant! If you just answered 'don't know' to every question we'd stop calling. You'll be glad to know that the internet has now taken over for me but there was a time when I rang the library without fail for the answer to practically any question you can think of.

Secondly, I'm not a librarian, but I am a bit of a bookshop pest. When I'm browsing for books I just can't resist listening in to other people's conversations and pointing out the books they want but can't find. And I don't think I've ever seen anyone browsing a copy of Captain Corelli, The Crimson Petal, Middlemarch, The Deptford Trilogy or any of my many other favourites without sneaking up and muttering 'Great book; you'll love it'. Sometimes they beam, say thanks and go buy it - other times they shove it hurriedly back on the shelf and leave the shop.

Apr 11, 2008, 11:09 am

#244 - my computer is like that. I log on for two minutes to check an email and someone takes it over and puts me on library thing for an hour despite all my good intentions ;-)


You too? My computer has that virus too!

Apr 11, 2008, 7:26 pm

Wow, this is the Energizer bunny of threads. I work at a bookstore, not at a library, but I'd like to play.

I've had people ask me where our photocopiers are. Often. By people who swear every bookstore has at least one for public use.

I had one gentleman ask me for help finding a book. He was in the store a week earlier and HID it somewhere, but he couldn't remember where. Tough luck, mister.

I had another gentleman ask me for an ORIGINAL copy of Martin Luther's pamphlet "Against the Jews" rather than a 20th century reprint. After asking also for a book on occultism in Nazi Germany, he was headed for his local library, where he knew he could get Luther's pamphlet. (Sorry, guys.)

Another customer who came in said "I was told all I had to do was ask for the pink book," which was fairly easily identified as _Simple Abundance_ by Sarah ban Breathnach.

I was asked for "The Oberlin Sisters. It's about two women who date royalty." That was eventually identified (it had just been published) as _The Other Boleyn Girl_.

And I was asked for "that new book by the woman who wrote _The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy_ five years ago." Turns out she was looking for _The Wonder Spot_ by Melissa Banks, who wrote _The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing_.

Everywhere I've worked, I've been tasked with training new people. At the bookstore, I tell new employees that if they don't like playing Trivial Pursuit, this is not the job for them.

Apr 11, 2008, 11:38 pm

Me, I would probably have directed them for Pink blood : homophobic violence in Canada, but I'm not an experienced librarian ^__^

Apr 11, 2008, 11:52 pm

What's even scarier is when I know which book they are talking with those generic descriptors.

Apr 13, 2008, 2:29 pm

I thought of another one.
Let me start by saying that all of my patrons are orthodontists.

I was telling one doctor that I would send him what he wanted but if it didn't arrive by x date to talk to my supervisor because I'd be on maternity leave.

Without missing a beat he asked me if I was going to breastfeed. He then went into a long talk about all of the research he'd done on breastfeeding and how the mouth develops.

While he talked I wondered if this counted as harassment. I wasn't uncomfortable though. By that time I'd had many many conversations about my breasts even though I was adopting.

Apr 14, 2008, 6:27 pm

Not exactly on topic but when my friends and I were in college (and a few beers were in us) we got into an argument over a certain question of trivia. We only were able to settle it by calling the local hospital and asking, "How much blood is in a typical human body?", hastening to add that the question was not one of pressing practical importance; we just wanted to know...

Apr 14, 2008, 7:56 pm

>251 Carnophile:, I bet they then referred you to the library for that answer?

Apr 15, 2008, 6:57 am

I've been asked for
A kestrel for Kanave quite a few times.
Also some students wanted to photocopy a bus ticket so they could get on the bus for free basically. We only have a black and white copier so I told them to go to the reprographics department thinking they would tell them to get lost but they actually did it for them.

Apr 15, 2008, 7:15 pm

>252 awriterspen: No, they actually told us! I've forgotten the answer though; it was years ago.

Apr 15, 2008, 8:59 pm

still trying to work out "kestrel for Kanave" - a hint?

Apr 16, 2008, 5:39 am

Can't really hint - it has to be Kestrel for a Knave, doesn't it?

Apr 16, 2008, 11:38 pm

sure enough. My mind must have been elsewhere. How strange that the title didn't pop up immediately!

Apr 17, 2008, 1:45 am

I agree with everyone who's already said that this is a great thread. I work in a bookstore, and of course we get the red or blue book requests as well. If they have any other information, it can sometimes help. Like the time someone wanted a pink book from the gardening section, which is mostly green. There are also the people who come in and say, "I'm looking for a book... it's really old..." That doesn't help at all, since, to some people, "really old" apparently means the '70's. Which reminds me of the person who was incensed that we would sell a used book from the '70's for more than the original cover price. He did buy it, although he complained that he could get it for cheaper at a different used bookstore (a bookstore which had absolutely no organization, and has since gone out of business, I believe).

We often get people who ask if we're a library, which isn't too bad of a question, although it seems pretty obvious to me that we're not. Even better are the people who ask if we rent books -- I always politely tell them no, but I'd like to ask them why in the world they would rent books, when they can just get them for free from a library?

Although I can't remember at the moment any stories of miraculously finding books after vague descriptions, I'm sure they've happened. Next time it comes up I'll post it. Some other funny stories, though... after a long and extremely odd phone conversation with a customer about the book he wanted to special order, I asked for his phone number, so we could call him when the book came in. He said, "Someone threw it away." I said, "Your phone number?" and he said, "Yes." I sort of stammered that he could call us periodically to see whether or not it'd come yet. He never did as far as I know, and it turned out that the book he wanted didn't seem to exist (I was still new at the store, so someone else was going to make the order, I just took down the information). Another time a lady wanted books about Tom Selleck and someone else famous, I forget who. Not so bad. Her rationale? They were both ex-husbands. I think she said Tom Selleck divorced her after a week because she liked eating too much. She also informed me that she was the model used for the princess' face in Shrek.

Apr 17, 2008, 12:55 pm

The human or the ogre face?

Apr 17, 2008, 3:34 pm

Wow, this is great. I have been a librarian for a year and a half now. The first time this happened to me I was positive the stupidest person in the world was standing in front of me. Now I know there are tons of them!!! ;-)

*Patron comes in
Me: Hi, can I help you? *smiling*
P: Ummm, yeah, I'm looking for a book, but I don't know what it's called.
Me: Ok, do you know the author's name? *smiling*
P: Uhhhhh, no. I don't really remember what it was about either. It was a long time ago. I think it was about this big *holds hands up to show me the size* and I'm pretty sure it was green, but it might have been blue.
Me: *stares blankly at patron*
P: *stares blankly back and wonders why I am not helping them*
Me: I'm sorry sir (or ma'am) but I will need more information in order to find what you're looking for.
P: Oh, well, alright. I thought you would be able to help me. *irritated*
Me: *stares stupidly at patron and wonders how I became the difficult one*
Me: *smiles* I'm sorry I wasn't able to help. After you find out more information come back in and I will locate it for you.
P: Yeah, ok.
Me:*still amazed as customer is walking away*

I handle it a little better now, but it never ceases to amaze me.

Apr 17, 2008, 3:34 pm

259> The ogre face. That's why famous hubby #2 divorced her. ;)

258> Thanks for the laughs. There are some good ones in here. It's odd you mention people who ask if you rent books because at my library, I occasionally get patrons who seem completely bewildered when I inform them they can't BUY any books from us. I'm not sure if they think we're like a used book store or a new book store that sells really beat-up and labelled copies of books...

Edited: Apr 17, 2008, 4:58 pm

259> Don't remember for sure what she said, but I think it must have been the ogre face. Her face was on the round side, matched the ogre one better. Although really, that's adding rationality into a conversation that didn't have a lot of it originally!

Apr 17, 2008, 4:56 pm

261> Yep! =)
You're welcome. Yeah, who knows what some people are thinking. :shakes head: Lend, rent, sell; shouldn't every institution with books do all of those?

Ooh, and we also get people in here upset that we don't have the newest releases used. "Oh, I wanted it cheaper..." Okay, but you're going to have to wait a little longer than a week. Then there was a guy who asked how long it takes before our new books aren't new anymore (our store credit is only good towards our used books, not our new ones). I'm pretty sure he thought we meant "new" vs. "old," not "new" vs. "used," but after I explained that he still seemed a tad confused. Gave me a mental picture of us going around the store every month or so changing the prices and labels on everything a bit shopworn, or whenever we see a customer peruse something, then put it down.

And just in today... a patron asked for horticulture. I showed him our gardening section. He still seemed expectant, asked if this was all the horticulture. I said yes, and thought to myself, "I *think* I know what "horticulture" means..." I pointed out a couple books with "horticulture" in the title. After a little while he admitted he was looking for a specific book on cannabis. I said, "OH" and walked to the proper section. Since we're a bookstore, not a library, we do carry those kinds of books, but you aren't going to find them by asking for horticulture!

Apr 17, 2008, 8:51 pm

258, 261, 263 > Actually, my local library lends (bulk of titles), rents (copies of new, high demand titles that you can "jump the queue" of people waiting for the free copies and get by paying to check them out), and sells (library discards, donations, etc.) books, so your patron confusion makes sense to me.

Subscription or rental libraries have historical precedent, too, of course.


Edited: Apr 17, 2008, 11:07 pm

264> We do sell titles, but they're very pointedly set aside on a small rack of withdrawn materials. My confusion is usually when someone walks back to the primary stacks, pulls a book off the shelf, then comes up and asks me how much for if they expect the entire building full of books is for sale as opposed to a few on the For Sale rack.

Wow, really, you allow patrons to buy their way up on the waiting list? I don't know how I feel about that. I imagine it's a pretty great revenue builder for the library, though.

Apr 18, 2008, 2:26 am

>265 differentbeat: buy their way up on the waiting list?

Not quite :) The waiting list is one way to get a title. Rental copies are another. They can't be reserved. They're usually first come, first served, with the understanding that when they are returned, a fee will be charged for each day that the book was on loan. It's an option for people who don't want to wait on a list for a frequently requested title. The fee is so small (about $.25/day) that the revenue is insignificant. And anyway library fees go into the City's general fund. That doesn't result in increased funding.

Apr 18, 2008, 8:45 am

I've had many patrons come in asking where the "bibliography" section is.

Also, when World Without End first came out, I fielded requests for "The Ends of the Earth," and other variations.

Apr 18, 2008, 10:05 am

Our library also has a "rental" section. They put aside a group of the most current, popular books and you can rent them for 3 weeks for $3, no renewal.

Apr 18, 2008, 2:59 pm

Ah, okay, that's a little better. I sort of did a double take with that explanation at first.

Our library has a similar system for new, high-demand books, only it's not monetarily-based. We have a section of Express Reading books, which are two-week checkouts and cannot have reserves placed on them. So they're first come first serve - that way the new books actually get some shelf time instead of just constantly being passed from one hold to the next.

Edited: Apr 20, 2008, 4:47 am

# 168: So are you by any chance in Southern California? I think I recognize that patron! :-))) We get her whenever the church across the street is taking its turn as the host of the north-coastal homeless shelter.

Apr 22, 2008, 1:14 pm

^265 & 266

I have mixed feelings about the rental idea as well. As small as the fee is, some people don't have that 25 cents/day. And it sends the message that money can be thrown at ANYTHING, even a free public service, so that people with money get it better and faster. Sort of like when amusement parks starting selling "special" passes for an extra $10 that let you jump the line for rides. Imagine the family that saved up all year for a family outing to the amusement park. They get to go on less rides because they have to wait in the cheapo lines, while people for whom that $10 x 4 is nothing get to go ahead.

I'm also wondering, if the generated fees don't go to the library, there really seems to be little point.

I like 269's library's system better.

Edited: Apr 22, 2008, 3:37 pm

271> That's what I was thinking too when I said I wasn't sure how I felt about it. I always have a particular soft spot for the down-and-outs in our library, and a lot of the patrons who are shelter guests, so it gave me a little blip of unease thinking about it. Thanks for not taking offense...I didn't think until later that I might have sounded a little judgmental. You did a much better job explaining why I felt unsure about it.

Apr 25, 2008, 3:53 am

I worked at a large university library. Once I met a young woman in the stacks looking bewildered. She told me she was new on staff at the university and just got her library card. "Could you tell me where the regular books are?"

Apr 25, 2008, 11:00 am

#273 - That's too funny. I wonder what a "regular" book is. I'll have to ask next time I'm at the library.

Apr 25, 2008, 11:07 am

#273> Aw, that's kind of cute. Perhaps she was wondering where the Danielle Steel section was.

Edited: Apr 25, 2008, 12:32 pm

> 263

And just in today... a patron asked for horticulture. I showed him our gardening section.

Since everyone else is exercising admirable restraint, I guess it's up to me to ask - were you able to make him drink?

Apr 25, 2008, 12:40 pm

My favorite funny library story is one that I tell on myself.

I used to live in a suburb with one, not-so-big library, of which I was a frequent user. One day, having received a notice that a book on which I had placed a reserve was ready to be picked up, I went in, approached the circulation desk, and said to the librarian, "I believe you have a book on hold for me." She smiled and said, "We always have a book on hold for you!" It was true, too.

Apr 25, 2008, 10:50 pm

277-That's me!!!!!! I have a book on reserve right now. Plus an ILL. I was disappointed to learn that the ILL program was going to be discontinued in a few months. I son't know what I'll do then. I get ILL's nearly every month!

*ILL-inter-library loan

Apr 26, 2008, 8:43 am

278-It's a shame that ILL must be discontinued. I think I would keep it if at all possible. It's tough when you have to cut library services.

Good Luck wherever you are.

Apr 26, 2008, 10:15 am

277: that's me, too, and it's mostly newly-ordered books because I have access to Booklist and Publisher's Weekly and can request my public library order certain books or put myself on the holds list before most other people.

I don't know what I'd do without ILL: fortunately I work in an academic library and it's not likely to go away.

Apr 26, 2008, 2:50 pm

Today a customer asked me for a book called 'Half gun' even spelled it out for me, after some questions I figured out that he actually meant, wait for it...
The Afghan!
by Frederick Forsyth

Apr 27, 2008, 11:42 pm

It's Science Fair time in our local schools. The other day, a 4th-grader and her mother came to my desk to ask for "books about non-neutronium liquids".

I had to point out that, essentially, this meant all liquids (except neutronium, of course, if it even exists in a liquid form). Perhaps they meant non-Newtonian liquids?

Ten minutes and two cellphone calls later, they confirmed that my guess was right. There wasn't a lot available at the fourth-grade level, but I gave them what there was!

Apr 28, 2008, 5:02 am

Slaughter House Fine

Apr 28, 2008, 7:28 am (an online bookstore) now has a commercial airing where a customer enters a bookstore with a big book: "I have read this book, liked it and want something similar". Customer holds up a big book on traveling in China, with a chinese girl on the cover.
Blonde Sales assistant pauzes, looks behind her and grabs a big book on Chinese cuisine. "Here, it is also big and has a chinese girl on the cover".

Supposedly, (like Amazon) stores information what other users also bought when buying that copy of the travel book.

I am a collector of silent comic books (comic books without text). When visiting a new comic book store, I usually get a blank look when I express my desire to buy such books.

Apr 28, 2008, 2:33 pm

A classmate of mine from library school was asked (at the reference desk) where to buy drugs.

I was working at a university library where we got a monthly phone call from a woman (the same woman) asking who the richest person in the world was, and about a particular Saudi prince's inheritance, and another question about mega-inheritances. The same person, every month. I found some books about the topic of interest and had the good fortune to talk to her three months in a row to suggest she come in and look at those particular books, but none of us ever saw her. She just kept calling, asking the same question, every month. At the same university library, this rather old man came in asking for books with suggestions for romance and finding women. Not really having any there, I referred him to the public library, which made him indignant (he felt that they'd been rude to him).

In my experience, seventh graders have the hardest reference questions. I had a young patron (middle school aged) who was given an assignment on some obscure explorer and was supposed to find an image of him. Besides finding very limited information on him, I could find absolutely no paintings or any depiction except a stamp issued by the USSR years ago. She was also told she had to find a copy (image) of the poster he put out to get labor for his ships!

Apr 28, 2008, 9:45 pm

>264 ReneeMarie:
Still doesn't make sense to me. Firstly, the bookstore I work at is very obviously a bookstore. Secondly, I'd never heard of the renting to "jump the queue" concept, and given the people who ask me if we rent, I doubt they have either. As for subscription or rental libraries, I doubt they normally exist side-by-side with the lending libraries. I live in the LA area, so there are a host of free libraries to choose from. Maybe if there were some advantage, like shipping the books to you... but shipping books is more expensive than shipping DVDs... Thirdly, when a library sells books, it's normally on a special day with a library sale, or else they'd be put on a very clearly marked rack or cart. And, of course, if you're a bookstore... well, are there any bookstores that *lend* books? I don't know of any. No, I'm still confused.

Apr 28, 2008, 9:52 pm

>276 lilithcat:
Eh? He didn't buy a gardening book, if that's what you're asking. We didn't have the book on cannabis he wanted, so he special ordered it. He prepaid, and didn't leave a phone number or his real name.

Apr 28, 2008, 10:01 pm

Just remembered another one: a co-worker of mine was told by a customer that we needed to do something about our romance section. Upon further questioning, the customer told her she didn't think she should have to tilt her head to read all those sideways titles. I guess if we put more of the books facing out...? But that was back in our old location, where we had absolutely no space for such a thing.

I worked for a few years as a student clerk in a university library's ILL department, but didn't have a lot of contact with patrons that way. More funny stories working in a bookstore.

Apr 28, 2008, 10:06 pm

This message has been deleted by its author.

Apr 30, 2008, 6:54 pm

>287 quettandil:

You say horticulture, 276 says horse to water.

May 2, 2008, 10:32 am

WOW, Way to think out of the box. I would never have gotten that one.

May 2, 2008, 3:43 pm

I was walking through our (large, University) library, on my way to lead a Library Tour for new undergraduates.

A (hopefully new, undergraduate) student stopped me and asked "where's the economics book". He was English, English appeared to be his first language... I was tempted to say "oh, it has the third floor to itself" but managed to give the proper response.. and encourage him to sign up for a library tour!

May 2, 2008, 5:46 pm

>292 LyzzyBee: Don't count on it being a new student. I was at the reference desk (in a smaller academic library) when a student (older lady) asked me for "A book on technology." It took alot of self restraint to NOT either send her to T or to type in technology and say "OK, 15 thousand books on technology. Take your pick." It took a 15 minute reference interview to get her straightened out!

May 3, 2008, 3:00 am

>293 kaelirenee: *snort* - well, I usually work in cataloguing, downstairs, away from the students... so I am not so used to them and their little ways!!

May 3, 2008, 10:11 am

I like that the most asked reference question at the Library of Congress is:

How do I get out of the this building?

If you have ever been there, you will understand.

May 3, 2008, 1:20 pm

I've known buildings infamous for being like that.

May 3, 2008, 6:49 pm

>296 circeus: I work in one.

May 5, 2008, 9:30 am

>295 Coruca: I went in December and it's hard enough figuring out how to get IN to the building! I wasn't about to wait in the long line that formed in front of the Jefferson building-we went across the street, then into a basement and around some very attractive service tunnels and a cargo elevator... For some reason, the people I was with thought I knew my way around like the back of my hand, like being a librarian gave me a sixth sense for that kind of thing or just because I have the classification system practically memorized means I know what the physical building is like! Figuring out how to get out of the place was the easy part after all that.

Edited: May 5, 2008, 1:45 pm

I happen to be an elementary school librarian by day and a bartender by night (which actually pays the bills). A fellow librarian was nice enough to bring me a souvenir from the Library of Congress just last week that reminded her of me. It was a shot glass that looks very much like a paperweight with the Library of Congress' insignia on it. She said it was on the clearance shelf...go figure!

By the way, she had a very hard time finding her way through the building as well.

May 8, 2008, 8:45 pm

The only thing I had a hard time finding in the LOC was the gift shop. You'd think they'd want to make it easy to get in that particular place!

May 12, 2008, 1:27 pm

On Saturday, I had an interesting request.

A man staying at the local mission came in and asked me to help him find a woman. First of all, I had to ask him to repeat himself because I was sure I'd heard wrong, but nope, he wanted a woman! I was a bit taken aback because I don't think finding a hooker for a patron is in my job description...

As I fumbled for words, he went on to explain that he already has a girlfriend that he loves very much, but he's in a bad place right now, and he was really hoping to find another woman he could "be with" and who he "could work with." (His words.) I was still staring stupidly at him as he went on to explain that he didn't mind if she was rich or wealthy, that he wasn't the sort of guy who would discriminate against a woman just because she had a fat wallet...

What a stand-up guy! Overlooking something so problematic as extreme wealth. I ended up giving him a phone number for a local dating service; I didn't tell him that it might be a little more complicated trying to find a rich woman to take in he and his other girlfriend!

May 12, 2008, 7:29 pm

Wait a minute! You actually helped him with this request?! I would have been like "Dude. Does the sign on the building say Pimp Service Central?! Get your ass out of here!!!"

May 20, 2008, 10:56 am

I work for the state's Talking Book Program and I got a call from a patron where he asked if we could be a reference for a job he was applying for. He got upset when I said that I would have to ask my supervisor, saying that's what the public library told him too!! Then when I called him back after speaking to my supervisor I told him that since he didn't work for us we could not be a reference perhaps he'd be better served by asking friends or colleagues and he said if he had any friends he wouldn't be asking the library for a reference.

May 20, 2008, 1:05 pm

303 > it would make sense to call a reference library, of course...

May 30, 2008, 12:22 pm

I had a teenage girl come up to the desk and ask if we had any "Ben Mellow" CDs. She wasn't sure of the spelling, so I tried googling this guy and couldn't find out anything about him. I asked her if she could tell me anything else about him. She didn't. After making a few phone calls to find out what she was supposed to be looking for, she came back up. It turns out she was looking for "Barry Manilow" CDs.

Kids these days...

May 30, 2008, 7:29 pm

A teenager and her mother came in looking for "I Know Why the Bird-Cage Sings" last week. My coworker had no idea what they were talking about.

May 30, 2008, 10:16 pm

These are so funny! I work in a public library and one of my favorites is the man who calls to renew his materials on the phone and says "Yes, please, I'd like to extend over the phone."

Go right ahead,sir!

Jun 1, 2008, 10:18 pm

>290 HoldenCarver: Duh, thanks.

Jun 4, 2008, 1:30 am

306-I think the saddest part of that story is that all 3 of them were clueless. How did they finally get it straight?

Jun 4, 2008, 1:01 pm

Really enjoyed these!
I'm working in a university library, as we speak, and a student just set off the alarm. When challenged he brandished the book and said "It's a textbook, I thought I could take it"

Jun 6, 2008, 7:47 pm

309- My coworker asked me. :) After a few moments of trying to contain my reaction, I went and got the book for them... And you're right, I would have thought at least one of them would have had some idea.

Not quite a request, but another coworker of mine was talking to a regular patron about a book a few days ago -- I happened to be standing between them and was half-listening -- and my coworker asked "Is this the sequel?" To which the patron promptly replied "No, it's the one that comes after..."

Jun 6, 2008, 10:09 pm

Not quite a request, but another coworker of mine was talking to a regular patron about a book a few days ago -- I happened to be standing between them and was half-listening -- and my coworker asked "Is this the sequel?" To which the patron promptly replied "No, it's the one that comes after..."

Okay, I'm not a librarian, but I've always wanted to play one on TV, so excuse my butting in here, but reading this, I have to share these:

1. I'm in a discussion group in my Romantic Era English Lit course--it's a third year course, so to get into it, one must have completed a minimum of two earlier rounds of English lit courses (minimum four courses) and 45 points of university credits (3-4 points per course). And the entire English Lit department is structured by time period. It's difficult to get to this level by accident. But yet, this must have all passed by this young woman unnoticed--we were discussing Jane Austen's Mansfield Park and she turned to me and asked if Jane Austen was still alive. It was all I could do to not fall off my chair.

2. I was stunned by this, and told my sister-in-law, who told me about what a student said to her when she took her educational assistant course. In British Columbia, an educational assistant is present in the classroom to take care of special needs children (e.g.: autism, cerebral palsy). During her training, another trainee turned to her and asked what Down Syndrome is. How one goes into this training without a rudimentary knowledge of the types of children she'll be helping is beyond me. It trumps my Jane Austen-less English lit student.

Jun 8, 2008, 2:10 pm

312> HA, your interaction with that girl in your class reminds me of a woman I dealt with at our library.

We host a lecture series at our central branch, where I work, and one month, our topic was Walt Whitman. We had a speaker coming in to discuss Whitman's war poems. A woman called to reserve tickets, and after we went through all the details, she said, "I'm just so excited about this! I love Walt Whitman. I have an antique copy of Leaves of Grass, and I'm going to bring it so he can sign it!"

I was so astonished that I just sort of went, "Um........ well.... uh, we'll see you then!" and hung up with big saucer eyes. I hope she wasn't TOO disappointed.

Jun 10, 2008, 5:40 pm

I used to be an elementary librarian. Our music teacher was singing some "Sound of Music" songs with the 5th grade students.
After discussing WWII and the Holocaust with the kids in relation to the music, she told the students that the librarian had been at Anne Frank's house in Amsterdam. Lots of the students would look at Anne's diary.
The next day a student asked me if I had really been to Anne Frank's house. I told her I had, and she asked, "Was it scary?" We talked about it a bit more.
Then she asked, "You ever been to the Amityville Horror house?"
I did NOT laugh in her face, but still get hysterical when I recall her asking me about it.

Jun 11, 2008, 9:24 am

OK, this one is quite funny, but it certainly had me shaking my head (and the Whitman and Austen stories reminded me). One of the students here (a woman at least 15 years my senior-Southerner, native English speaker) was doing a book report. First of all, she'd asked me for help finding information on..."Oh, you know, that Chop-en guy." I was a bit confused. "You mean Chopin?" "Yeah, him." "You mean the composer? I thought this was for literature." "No, the writer. I'm doing it on The Awakening." "You mean KATE CHOPIN?" "Yeah, him."

So, I got her straightened out on that one. I was looking for something other than standard lit crits and one of the things I looked up was commentary on early feminist writers. The student looked at the title and said "Uh-uh. I shave my legs. I don't want anything about feminists." Yikes. I spent about 2 hours with her, helping her find things, and slipping in historical context of the writing so she understood the difference between pre-Suffrage feminism and, oh, I don't know-Gloria Steinem. Then she found an article about male feminists and she just about dropped out of her chair. "You mean there are male feminists!"

No wonder my grandmother scoffs at us terrible awful third and fourth wave feminists...

Jun 19, 2008, 7:00 pm

94> I get this sometimes:

Me (on the phone): Hello, reference. May I help you?
Patron: Is this is the reference department?

That one I was patient with, and this is why:

When calls were transferred to us from elsewhere, we'd pick up the phone when it rang and the line would only connect about a second after you picked it up. So the first couple of words you said would probably not be heard until you got down the trick of pausing. One coworker I had refused to understand this despite explanation, and, worse, she consistently answered the phone with "Library." Not may I help you, or her name, or anything you're supposed to tack on as courtesy (courtesy was not her long suit). It would be said before the connection was even made. So the person on the other end would hear the click of connection and then silence. Then she'd get all annoyed that the first thing everyone said to her on the phone was either "Hello? Hello?" or "Is this the library?"

This happens with many businesses, and I always hate to be the dork who asks "Is this Hank's Hardware?" when I know it's very likely they've just said so, but what can you do?

Jun 23, 2008, 9:41 pm

316> Thank you, that explains so much!

Jun 24, 2008, 9:43 pm

Oh, we get all kinds at my library! We actually keep a running file of all of our favorite strange requests and title mix-ups!

One of my favorite recent requests was from a girl in her mid teens who asked me for, and I quote, "That book…about those people…who do stuff, you know, that other people can’t do…."

After blinking at her blankly for a moment, I launched into the typical round of questions...and finally figured out that she wanted the Guinness Book of World Records!

Jun 24, 2008, 10:08 pm

"The Cat Who Shat!?" I would have had to struggle to keep from laughing:-) LOL! I bet that older brother did that on purpose too *giggle*.

Jun 25, 2008, 1:23 am

I think my fave from my old public library are the abrupt woman looking for a book about curry - when I asked her if she wanted recipes she looked at me like I was mad and said "MARY Curry, the scientist."

I had a nice one the other day though - chap wanted a copy of a report he'd been told was done by an academic at my Uni. My friend Google and I eventually worked out that it was done at another university, named something else, unpublished, held nowhere in the country, and the academic didn't work there anymore (it was a really slow shift!) but I gave him the most probable contact. The nice part was that he came back recently and left a message that they'd found him a copy which he's finding vital to his research, and could they tell the "young looking" librarian that he was really grateful. Doesn't get better, surely!?

Jun 25, 2008, 1:55 am

Favorite couple requests from my seat behind the help desk:

"Where do you guys keep your Camus" (but rhymes it with famous)

Similar to other posts, but I've also gotten requests for "that book... it's blue... it's about this big... it has writing on the cover."

Jun 25, 2008, 9:30 am

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Jun 25, 2008, 11:35 am

got my first "How to Kill a Mockingbird" request the other day...

also got "Memoirs of a Boy-Toy Soldier". this while she was actually pointing to her reading list where it said quite clearly A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

I love summer reading!

Jun 27, 2008, 10:05 pm

When I first moved to the south, I had an old country man come in asking for a book on old corn. I asked what he wanted to do with it, and he said he had just found a basket of old corn and wanted to know what to do with it. I helpfully said, "I don't think you should eat it or you'll get sick!" He looked at me like I had gone insane. Another customer overheard us and translated for me...old coins!

Jun 28, 2008, 2:49 pm

You wait ages for some amusing patron interactions, and then two come along at once.

First, a bloke walks over from using the public access computer catalogue and says:

"I looked up a book in the computer and it says you have a copy here, and next to it it says 'On loan.' Does that mean it's not on the shelf?"

Secondly, I had the following discussion with a patron:

Patron: I'm looking for books on Anne Frank.
Me: *checks computer* Well, I don't think we have her diary, but we may have some other books about her in this section over here.
Patron: Ah, right. My daughter really wants to diary, though. Where would that be if you had it?
Me: *slightly distracted, scrolling through catalogue entries* Hmm?
Patron: Who wrote Anne Frank's diary?
Me: Er, I believe that would be Anne Frank.

Luckily for me, she realised what she'd said at that point and cracked up laughing.

Jun 29, 2008, 8:04 pm

I worked in a library about five years ago at a community college. I had a gentleman ask me if the computers could be checked out. I asked if he was a student and he said no, so I told him the guest login and password. He looked at me strange, looked at the comuters, and asked if there were any computers not hooked up. Huh? He thought he could "Check Out" a computer and take it home. Not a laptop, but a desk top computer with all the pieces.

Edited: Jul 8, 2008, 9:59 am

I love working with the public if for no other reason than the stories :-)

When I worked at an academic library, I had a woman walk up to the circulation desk and calmly ask me for "a room where I can pump my breast milk." I gaped for a moment then suggested our very nice bathrooms which had a separate nook with a couch in it. She informed me that that wasn't sanitary and proceeded to get upset at the whole university for being unsupportive of mothers.

When I worked at a public library, I had a little girl come up to me and ask me for a book about fairies "but one about real fairies. How they really live. Not one that pretends like they don't exist." I tried to lead her to the fiction section, but she got upset and said "No, a fact book" (meaning non-fiction) "I want to know how fairies really live! Not how people think they live!" Oh my was I puzzled as to how to make this little girl happy. I wasn't about to break it to her that most people don't believe in fairies.. I finally got her a book of drawings of fairies and that seemed to appease her.

Jul 8, 2008, 10:23 am

Half an hour before closing time, during that hectic rush at the end of the semester, we had a freshman come up to the desk. He chatted me up, asking about my major (English and History), etc. I thought he was just being friendly, until he offered me $200 to write his term paper, due the next morning.

What was the assignment? 3 pages on Our Town, any topic. I was flabbergasted. I took him upstairs to the section with critical analysis of the play, and then to a few different journals with articles. He seemed appeased, but then 10 minutes later, he found me in the sorting room and offered $300.

That was the hardest "no" of my life.

Jul 8, 2008, 11:16 am

>gaialover : here's a title to remember! Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book has actual pictures of actual fairies, pressed and dried like insects! Not sure how your young patron would react, though...

Jul 8, 2008, 1:24 pm

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Jul 8, 2008, 1:26 pm

#329 - I love that book! It's the one I was hoping gaialover suggested to the little girl.

Jul 11, 2008, 8:27 am

Just had two hilarious ones in the last 20 minutes.

Funny Bones for The Lovely Bones.


A Thousand Golden Tongues for A Thousand Splendid Suns.

Jul 11, 2008, 4:46 pm

I had a dad come in yesterday looking for "Canary Row" for his daughter's reading assignment.

Ha ha. Cannery Row by John Steinbeck.

Jul 12, 2008, 12:34 am

When I was a young librarian, working at a small university library with a sizable collection on Native Americans, my division head used to tell this story on herself.

An undergraduate came to the reference desk for help. This particular student, while far from brilliant, was so unfailingly polite and had such a charming drawl that the staff all enjoyed helping him.

Student: Ma'am, I wonder if you can help me. I'm looking for a book on Injuns.

Librarian: What kind of Indians?

Student: Motorcycle Injuns.

Jul 17, 2008, 11:57 am

Whilst working in the reference section of a public library, a man stomped up to the enquiry desk and said "I'm looking for a book" then stood there looking at me. Biting my tongue, I asked what kind of book. In an exasperated tone of voice he replied "one to read" (sounding as if I was stupid for not realising this).
My tongue now nearly bitten through, I asked if he had a particular subject in mind.
A big sigh from him, followed by "a medical one" (his tone suggested that he couldn't believe the incompetence of the staff in here).
"Right this way" I said, leading him to the correct section, and promptly running away. There was no way I was going to try and get anything more specific out of him!

These days I work in a University library, and get the much quoted "blue book" requests! That's if you are lucky, and they are not trying to get you to do an assignment for them.

Jul 17, 2008, 7:34 pm


Such restraint! After "one to read," I think I would have pointed to the stacks and said, "pick one."

Jul 19, 2008, 7:57 pm

More than once, but not often, a patron has arrived at the reference desk and said, "Do you have any books?". My usual answer to non-specific requests of this type is, "Yes, anything in particular?" That gives then a minute to gather their thoughts.

My best "when I was a young librarian" story is this:
Our library had a literacy collection with the unfortunate designation of "Adult Reading Material." One Friday night when I was working alone, a man came in and asked for the "adult" books. I took him to this collection and explained these are books for adults learning to read. He replied that no, he was looking for "adult" books. I said that we didn't have anything like that and that I was very sorry. I was soooo embarrassed, but I kept a straight face!

Jul 20, 2008, 4:32 pm

Hilarious! Just yesterday we received a request to order some books on the Furry Fandom. If you dont know what the furry fandom is, you need to look it up =)

Jul 21, 2008, 1:26 am

Several years ago, as a youth services publice librarian, I had a little girl around six years old insist that she must have a book about the (US) Civil War because her FATHER was in that war. I tried to ask question gently if it was maybe her great-great-great-grandpa - like mine - who was in the Civil War because it took place many years ago, and she emphatically stated that her father really was in the Civil War. I found her a book with lots of illustrations and pictures of the Civil War era and she was happy. She was so insistant about it that I still remember this so clearly.

Jul 21, 2008, 5:52 pm

Last week we had a planned power outage at our branch. We had one gentleman come in and ask that we open without power so that he could check his email. It was a bit tough to keep a straight face as we explained why that wouldn't work.

Jul 21, 2008, 7:56 pm

for 339 - perhaps she was thinking of another civil war, not US?

for 340 - hah, yes! Our library has an automated retrieval system for older books. You use the online catalog to request a book from the system. Almost every time I give a tour, someone will ask "but what if the power goes out?" to which I gently explain that in such a situation the catalog will not work either, and yes, the stacks will be too dark for manual browsing. On the other hand, gotta love how intent some people are on constant access!

Jul 22, 2008, 3:12 pm

#161 You expect teens to understand the concept of an infinitive?

"to boldly split an infinitive"

Jul 22, 2008, 3:15 pm

> 341

in such a situation the catalog will not work either,

Yet another reason to mourn the loss of card catalogues!

and yes, the stacks will be too dark for manual browsing.

But surely you could hand out flashlights!


Jul 22, 2008, 4:13 pm

I love my job as a public librarian. A patron came in to pick up a book that she had us hold. She came in several days to late and we returned the book to the collection. She was very upset as she really wanted to read the book. I did my best reference inteview with her, "What is the title of the book?" Patron, "I don't know." "Do you know who wrote it?" Patron, "I don't know." 'Humm, Do you know what it is about?" Patron, " How should I know, I haven't read it yet." I was almost stumped! I asked how she heard about it and she read about it in Dear Abby. We eventually found the title, Lady Chatterley's Lover. She was a happy camper after that!

Jul 22, 2008, 6:54 pm

You guys have superhuman patience to put up with this kind of thing!

Jul 23, 2008, 3:40 am

When a girl approached my desk and loudly proclaimed: "I need a guide!" I couldn't resist and asked her very calmly "For the Alpes or for the Himalayas?"

She was completely baffled.

Then there was another girl wo asked where our toilets were, so I showed her, "You go in between those set of stacks, and at the end you'll find a door and that's where our toilets are."
"So I can go to the toilet between the stacks?"
"No, ma'am, I prefer you use the toilet itself."

She didn't find that one funny, oh no....

Jul 23, 2008, 10:18 am

You guys are just hilarious!

I had some down time yesterday and was reading through this thread. I kept getting funny looks from my co-workers as I couldn't successfully stifle my laugh. I shared one of the posts with my manager and she told me of a music related incident. My manager also plays piano and organ and frequently plays for services at her church. She was asked to play for a wedding, and when discussing suitable music the young bride to be asked, "Could you play the TacoBell Canon in D?"

For me, that was as good as "them Bitchin' Fries dogs --I think they're so cute."

Jul 23, 2008, 7:17 pm

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Edited: Jul 23, 2008, 7:45 pm

Sorry about the above blanks. You obviously can't delete a blank post without leaving a trail. I have no idea why LT created so many blank posts.

# 260 How would the patron know if you found the correct book? I'd laugh if you just gave him/her any old book and they said, "Thanks."

#334. I wonder if the patron was interested in vehicles produced by the Indian Motorcycle Company? My Dad used to race Indians.

Jul 24, 2008, 1:29 am

#149: I used to work at a bookstore that is located close to a movie theatre. On busy Saturdays we would get adults inquiring if they can leave their children while they attend a movie. I started telling them that of course they could but in twenty minutes I would be calling the police and reporting the children as abandoned....

Jul 24, 2008, 10:17 am

I got a great one yesterday. A woman came over to the desk and asked me if we have a copy of the book "The Paper Thief." I looked it up and didn't see anything by that title, then checked a few resources to see if I could even find a book by that title. I gently suggested perhaps she meant "The Book Thief," which has been very popular here. But no, no, she knew that wasn't it. So she pulled a scrap of paper out of her purse and said, "Oh, here it is! I need 'A Perfect Waiter!' "

How did "A Perfect Waiter" become "The Paper Thief," that's what I want to know!

Jul 24, 2008, 5:20 pm

>343 lilithcat:
I LOVE the idea of patrons browsing the dark stacks with flashlights. Maybe we could work that into some of our freshman orientation events. Just don't tell the "risk management" tyrants!

Jul 24, 2008, 9:36 pm

When I worked in the public library we would shut off the lights in the stacks about 5 minutes till closing as a "hint" for patrons to make their way to the check out desks. One night a gentleman asked us to turn the lights back on because he couldn't see the videos. He was told, "That's the point, sir. It's time to close." (He'd been in the library for a while so we had no sympathy for him).

There was also the man who stayed at the desk during an earthquake while the other clerk and I huddled under the back counter and expected us to check out his video before evacuating the building.

Jul 25, 2008, 10:26 am

>357 FionaCat: I think earthquake boy takes the All-Time Grand Prize.

Although he has some competition from my sister, who was an election observer in some country in the Americas. Shining Path threw a bomb into the hotel in which the observers were staying. When we inquired as to her safety, she remarked, "It was only a small bomb."

Edited: Jul 26, 2008, 1:22 am

Best question I ever got:
"Can I bring my own books into the library?"

I so desperately wanted to tell him no.

Jul 31, 2008, 10:51 am

A 9 or 10 year old girl once asked for books on making space furniture. Alas and alack, we had nothing. But how creative is that?

Sep 6, 2008, 5:49 pm

I wasn't the person who helped this patron, but I was at the help desk and overheard this conversation:

Girl: I need book X.
Librarian: Sorry, all our copies are checked out, and there's a waiting list.
Girl: There can't be a waiting list! I need to do the second part of my summer reading assignment.
Librarian: I'm sorry, but there's waiting list. Why didn't you do the second part when you did the first?
Girl: I didn't do the first part, I paid someone to do it for me! I was in Europe.

Of course we both felt so bad for her. Poor thing had to spend the summer in Europe...

Sep 7, 2008, 3:51 pm

>359 ceg1674: It's funny what a person comes to assume about public libraries. I learned to my dismay while abroad that in some Indian public libraries one may not carry in one's own books. In fact, the rules were more like an archives: also no pens, no bags (check them at the counter for a fee), etc.

>361 bitter_suite: I once had a girl at a college reference desk seeking to clarify a garbled citation in her paper that had been circled by the instructor. I suggested she might have some notes to consult, or perhaps she might remember how she had located the article. No, she said, because "my dumb mom" had done the research for her. When I raised my eyebrows she insisted defensively that she herself had written it all herself, so it was ok.

Sep 7, 2008, 6:33 pm

At a public library reference desk yesterday, a Saturday, a man called to request a "scientific monograph" published in the 1950's. He was dismayed when we did not have the book (actually a 5 volume set)--the authors were local people. However, I did find a copy to ILL for him and he should get it by the end of the week at no charge.

Another person called to ask for about 5 books on multi-level marketing. The titles seemed very technical but I was unfamiliar with the terminology. After looking up multi-level marketing I realized that the books were probably being recommended to her by the marketing company and she has to purchase them. I did not find copies in other libraries either.

Quite an interesting day altogether.

Edited: Sep 7, 2008, 10:22 pm

I have kids at the high school library where I am the assistant ask me where "all the skinny books are."
I have also been asked for biographical information about Willy Wonka.

Sep 8, 2008, 3:20 pm

Bethielou, The World's Best Thin Books: What to Read When the Book Report is Due Tomorrow might be a worthwhile investment for your library.

Sep 8, 2008, 5:20 pm

> 365

I just showed that to some of our teenagers today! Sadly, it's become a little out-of-date, since the last edition is from 2000. And even the last one didn't include my personal favorite thin recommendation, The Stepford Wives (123p!).

Sep 8, 2008, 10:16 pm

#364 - Hey bethielouwho - As a school librarian (h.s. and elem.) I've heard the request for skinny books many times.....especially if a report was due soon. I think sometimes we have to "meet them" where they are. The life of a typical h.s. student is pretty busy - extracurricular, work, homework (we hope); so sadly, reading tends to take a back seat....even with those who like to read. I've recommended Terry Trueman to my kids. His books are quick reads, and the kids seem to like them.

Sep 9, 2008, 10:27 am

A few years ago I worked in a further education college library and a rather stern lady came to the counter one day and asked "how much does it cost to get your legs waxed?" Startled I replied " I'm sorry I don't know".
"well what about one leg?" she said. Me - "Sorry I don't know that either" - with this she turned on her heel marched out snarling over her shoulder - " you don't know much do you"

Sep 9, 2008, 11:26 am

I work in a rare books library, and I had a patron come in and ask to see our Gutenberg. I pointed the case out to her, and she pauses, looks and me and asks, "What's a Gutenberg?". I asked her to clarify and she responds, "I heard that this Bible was made out of Gutenberg, so I just wanted to know what Gutenberg was before I look at it." I had to try really hard not to tell her it was a cheese....

Sep 9, 2008, 1:14 pm

> 369

A very smelly cheese, that is why it's in the case.

Sep 10, 2008, 6:40 am

>369 rarelibrarian:
I applaud her for her curiosity.
If nobody ever told her who or what a Gutenberg is, how was she supposed to know? She did just the right thing. Go to a library that has a Gutenberg bible and ask.

Sep 11, 2008, 10:48 am

I'm not a librarian but I don't know where else to post this - hope you can forgive me. My daughter works for one of those places where you can text them a question (any question!) and they will answer it. As you can imagine, she gets some lovely questions but my favourite so far has been (and I quote):

"Is it true that two white people can have a black baby without being in their jeans?"

(I think we'd agree that it's ALWAYS easier without the jeans!)

Sep 11, 2008, 3:42 pm

Being that today is 9/11, I once had a 12 year old ask me to get her a book "about that day on the 14th with buildings and planes." It took me and another staff member to realize she meant the Sept. 11 attacks.

Sep 15, 2008, 11:34 am

As a bookmobile staffer, I've made a big effort to promote our on-board collection of DVDs. I've moved them so that they are directly opposite the door, and I've made LARGE signs for the shelves, plus one on the door itself. I think you'd have to be visually impaired not to see these signs...

And yet... "Do you carry DVDs?" is a perplexingly common question.

I also work in the library branch, where there is a similar phenomenon: Despite HUGE door signs, wall signs, and signage above the DVD/video rack... people commonly suggest "wouldn't it be great if you guys loaned out DVDs/videos?"

Sigh. Perhaps, if the brain doesn't expect to see something, the eyes are rendered incapable of perceiving the thing??

Sep 15, 2008, 12:06 pm

I don't remember odd book requests but I was once asked "Are you jewish and if so are you single?

Sep 15, 2008, 2:14 pm

And are you and were you?

Sep 15, 2008, 2:58 pm

No and no. I guess he really wanted to find a jewish girl that worked there. Later that week, I saw him asking a co-worker the very same thing!

Sep 15, 2008, 10:36 pm

Ah, his pick-up line.

Sep 18, 2008, 8:52 pm

I work in a small college and several times students have wanted me to choose paper topics for them. My latest one was "Do you have any books about people who inspire me?" When I asked who they were inspired by in life the answer was "You pick".

We also get frequent requests for "The White Book" which I eventually discovered was a tan book called "Foundations of Nursing" written by Lois White.

Edited: Sep 28, 2008, 8:48 pm

"Is it true that two white people can have a black baby without being in their jeans?"

I would be the last to suggest that the question was intentionally misunderstood to create a sexual innuendo, but if you change 'jeans' to 'genes' the question makes a certain amount of sense. That someone reacted to this by thinking 'Levi's' rather than 'genetics' might have been a leap of faith. There is no difference in pronunciation between the two words and the questioner may simply have not known the difference.

The question is perhaps inexpertly phrased, but the point of a professional reference interview is to figure out what the questioner really means. As a question about genetics, it is asking about dominant and recessive genes. How can two brown-eyed people have a blue-eyed child? If both parents carry a recessive blue-eyed gene and they happen to match in the womb, then voila! Blue-eyed child. One in four chance (I think.) There is one chance of brown-brown, two chances of brown-blue, and one chance of blue-blue. Because brown wins when it is present, only the last one yields blue.

I don't really know the answer to the question for sure. I don't think it is possible because black is dominant and I know more than one gene is involved. Perhaps a geneticist can answer definitively. But the point is that the question itself is a legitimate one.

But, of course, you knew that.

Sep 28, 2008, 8:25 pm

How about Hall's Chronicle in a readable typeface? I thought that was a perfectly reasonable request until the librarian gave ME the blank look :-)

Sep 29, 2008, 6:32 am

#380 Um . . . yes. And, no, it isn't possible to produce a baby with anything that isn't somewhere in the genes. It IS possible for two white people who have some much diluted 'black' in their genes to produce a black baby because the actual strength or depth or hue of skin colour isn't necessarilly in proportion to the amount of colour in the genes - so a 100% white person, 'mated' to a 100% black person doesn't have to produce a baby who is in appearance 50% black and 50% white. They can actually produce a child who apears to be completely black or completely white. Likewise, even if the 'minority colour' (and I'm talking about whichever colour is has the smaller input, gene-wise) is very diluted indeed, (and let's change things around a bit here and make it an apparently black couple having an apparently white baby), even if there was only a tiny weeny bit of white many generations ago, as long as there is a tiny bit in both partners it is quite possible for them to be very surprised indeed when they give birth (or one of them does) to a seemingly white baby. Everything that comes out in the end product, unless we're talking about genuine mutations, is there somewhere in the genes all along. On the other hand, because you are quite right, black is dominant, it would only take the 'black' gene to be in one of the partners to have a chance of showing up somewhere along the line. Let's hear it for future generations of 'coffee-coloured people'!

Edited: Oct 1, 2008, 11:24 pm

Oh, these have just totally made my night. I do love how they expect us to know everything from the inner working of computers to what the best wood would be for making a tree house. He didn't want a book, and didn't want to wait while I got a book, he just expected me to know what wood he should. Because obviously I'm a carpenter in my spare time...

And this isn't a request, but I overheard a mother say to her what, 4? year old son after reading him a version of the Gingerbread Man:

"See! If you don't listen to your parents you'll get eaten by a fox!"

Now *that's* some good parenting, lol....

Oct 2, 2008, 2:46 am

I had one of our "odd" patrons in shortly before closing one Friday looking for the "movies about that girl (without a name) who goes everywhere" AND the books they were based on.

By 10 minutes after closing, with 3 staff members telling her 'we're closed, come back tomorrow' our catalog started responding very slowly - I told her (again) to come back tomorrow, the catalog had been shut off for the night :)

Oct 2, 2008, 6:49 am

And did you decide what it was in the end? I'm guessing Dora the Explorer.

Oct 2, 2008, 10:32 am

How about Pipi Longstockings?

Oct 2, 2008, 11:12 am

Carmen Sandiego?

Oct 2, 2008, 8:27 pm

Booksloth #382, I wasn't wanting to get into the finer points of genetic theory, but simply illustrate what had been meant. The real POINT of this is that it was a legitimate question, a question that was apparently misunderstood and made fun of. A professional librarian is supposed to be able to discern the difference.

Oct 3, 2008, 7:35 am

#388 Dear me, I thought I'd pointed out already that I am not a librarian - neither professional nor amateur (well, yes, probably amateur). And, yes, I think everybody realised it was a legitimate question, just like most of the others that have been quoted here. You were the one who started the genetic theory.

Oct 3, 2008, 8:56 am

Black and white babies - it's all explained here.

Mschuyler, you were right when you said we all already knew the texter meant 'genes' not 'jeans' and I'm sure Booksloths daughter did too when she got the text (and Booksloth I really want that job now I know it exists) but the spelling mistake did still make it a funny question so it fits here. Pretty much all the questions here are ligitimate but muddled somehow, it's the point of the thread.

#383 muirrain - I love that statement.

Oct 5, 2008, 4:21 pm

First, the context of the question. I work in a Methodist university. All students are required to take a class on the Old Testament. A student (18 or 19 years old)-wearing a little gold cross around her neck-asked me which book the 10 Commandments are in. I replied "Exodus. I think Exodus 20." She looks at me a bit odd and says "No, which BOOK?" Me: "You mean the Bible?" Her: "Yeah, that one." And then she walked off. I thought-maybe-she didn't know where we kept the Bibles, but she didn't ask for help finding it. Sometimes, folks baffle me.

Oct 6, 2008, 7:42 pm

I teach at a Lutheran college. You'd be surprised what young people don't know these days? How about "When was the War of 1812?"

Oct 7, 2008, 6:17 pm


"Who's buried in Grant's tomb?" :-)

Oct 7, 2008, 10:10 pm

I had a student tell me yesterday that he wanted to "expand the date" on his books.

Oct 8, 2008, 3:05 pm

>394 FionaCat:

I get people who want to "redo" books all the time.

Oct 11, 2008, 8:26 pm

I'm surprised at the number of students who ask how they can "rent" a book. I am happy to tell them the service is free, but then I had one who rolled her eyes and said impatiently, "I know it's free, I just want to know HOW to rent them!"

Oct 11, 2008, 8:32 pm

>395 weener:

Miss Snark is a literary agent who occasionally receives mail from a would-be author saying "I have done a novel..."

Her response: "Kinky."

Dec 15, 2008, 12:07 am

>316 mordantkitten:

I work at a bookstore, and none of our calls are transferred from elsewhere, but I've still gotten used to people not knowing who they're calling -- sometimes just because the person is exceedingly strange, but normally because we called their cell to let them know their special order's arrived, and they call back without listening to the message first.

So I was a little surprised one day when I answered the phone with the name of our bookstore, the customer asked something like, "Who am I speaking to?", I repeated the name of the store, and she angrily replied, "I know THAT, what's YOUR name?!" Oops. How are you supposed to explain that you're so used to dealing with people who don't know who they're calling that you honestly thought she didn't know the number she'd dialed? I apologized, but at our store it's a pretty bad sign when a customer begins by asking for your name (they tend to be more demanding and easily offended than others -- they've learned to ask for names after being surprised that all employees don't magically know every single thing any other employee has said to them), and that was not one of my favorite conversations.

Dec 15, 2008, 12:27 am

Another question I enjoy, on the opposite side from looking for a blue or green book, is, "Where would you put a book called Twilight?" I always point out one of our displays, but the wording tempts me to reply, "Well, we put the books called Twilight over here. Books called Sunset go over here, books called Dawn go over there, books called Seduced by Moonlight go downstairs..."

I don't know why, but it always seems like people are very hesitant to ask about popular titles, prefacing their requests with questions about whether or not we could look something up (a very valid question at a used bookstore), whereas customers who want obscure books just come right out with it. The first thing out of their mouth is the title.

The other day someone called and gave the typical statement, "I'm looking for a book...", although she said it a little more slowly than normal. I said, "Okay, what's the title?" I think she said a few more things very slowly, and finally, "It's a Harry Potter book, it's called The... Tales... of..." I'm afraid at that point I interrupted her, and asked, "Tales of Beedle the Bard?" She almost seemed disappointed that I knew what she was talking about.

Dec 15, 2008, 4:19 am

I'm a night supervisor (as well as a student) at a university library.

I love it when people (especially graduating seniors) ask if we check out books. No, we just have library in large letting written all over the building to confuse people. ;)

The strangest request I've ever had was for ice and cups. That same day I later found in the Early Childhood Education the remnants of half a dozen limes. You do the math.

Dec 15, 2008, 6:51 am

#400 Those students may not be as daft as you think. Maybe in America it's different but over here we do also have libraries that don't lend books out but expect readers to come in and read on site. Admittedly, they're usually known as reference libraries, but maybe that's what they think you are? And I will never cease to be amazed at how many people have no idea how to use a library. In my first year at Uni we actually had a half day of being shown how to find books in a library, how to use them and how to put them back! Surely I wasn't the only one there who has been doing that since I was three? No doubt they have a reason for teaching these things though - and that reason can only be because they've had students turn up at the big building before and say 'Um . . what's this then? What do I do with it?' Never underestimate the ignornce of the general public!

Dec 16, 2008, 12:32 am

Today, I had a patron looking for books by Nora Roberts. She'd read a blurb about her and wanted the books mentioned: Mainstream Fiction and Silhouette Romance. I had a difficult time getting her to understand that those were not actually book titles.

Dec 16, 2008, 6:25 am

#244 & 246

does anybody know haw to get rid of that virus

i am supposed to write a school-assignment(library school) right now, but somehaw i'm stuck here on librarything

Dec 16, 2008, 9:09 am

I'm a school librarian but I work nights and weekends at a bookstore (because nobody becomes a librarian for the great salary). The bookstore is a real pageantry of humanity. I get people all the time asking me: "I can't remember the title or the author, but I think the book is purple. There might be a "K" in the title or author's name". Also, I once had a lady come in the bookstore and ask if we sold inflatable nativity sets for a yard. Another time, a guy called from a prison, where they had restrictions on the weight of mail they could receive. He wanted me to weigh all the dictionaries we sell to find the one that was closest to (but still less than) two pounds and had the most words in it. I put the guy on hold and told the manager the call was for her. Seriously, people are weird.

Dec 16, 2008, 1:15 pm

I was sitting at the reference desk when the fire alarm starting going off. The ref area was pretty full. No one even flinched or looked up at me. I say "excuse me folks there is a fire alarm we must evacuate the building". people start groaning and sighing, but slowly gather their things to leave.

A lady walks up to me as everyone starts to file out and begins asking me a reference question. I suggest we take care of it after the fire dept gets here and says it is safe to re enter. She snaps at me that it is probably a false alarm and storms out. I could smell the smoke at this point. It was not a false alarm, a staff member did not know how to use the microwave (claims she doesn't own one) and set a bagel on fire. no serious damage.

Dec 16, 2008, 1:28 pm

At our evening classes (where I used to work) every time we had a fire drill we had whole classes that stayed put because they were told by their tutors that it was probably only a drill. Luckily for them, it usually was but I predict at least 30 deaths if that place ever does catch fire.

Dec 16, 2008, 8:47 pm

I suppose you all know the joke about the blonde who goes into the library and asks for a burger and fries.

The librarian says, "I'm sorry this is a library."

The blonde responds; in a whisper, "I'm sorry Could I have a burger and fries?"

To RemyEC #404

I have been working with a bookshop manager in a local suburb who is a school librarian, works three days in a bookstore and supports a writers group. I spoke to them last night and they are all writers or writers of the future.

I just think you all deserve a bit of a pat on the back!

Dec 17, 2008, 5:05 am

>405 mdagosto::
How do you set a bagel on fire using a Microwave ?

Dec 17, 2008, 5:50 am

408 - Thanks for asking - I was dying to know too.

Dec 17, 2008, 10:56 am

I would guess about 20 minutes on high should do it.

Dec 17, 2008, 12:59 pm

yes, she put the bagel in for 15 minutes.

Dec 17, 2008, 1:25 pm

I'm not a librarian, but worked in a bookstore. We once got the variation on the "I want that blue book". We started asking question to try and figure out want she wanted. Which just made the her madder and madder. I figured out what she had actual said was "I want blue books". I promptly started pulling dust jackets of the biggest fattest most expense Dictionaries, Atlases and Novels I could find looking for blue. Turns out she had just remodel her Library and need more blue. I think it total around $350. I am glad she had never heard of a used bookstore.

Dec 17, 2008, 7:50 pm

>#405, that reminds me of what happened during the blackout on the East Coast a few years ago. It was in the middle of the afternoon when the power went out, and we'd just safely evacuated all the patrons and were locking up the library when a woman comes up to what is clearly a dark building and wants to come in to read the newspaper. We explained about the power being out, as in no lights, and she just stared at us like we were nuts. She finally stalked off in a huff.

Dec 20, 2008, 2:44 pm

I have lots of people come in and ask for Twilight. That's not unusual, but what is, is that they always seem to hesitant.

Patron: Um, do you... have a book...? I think it's called... Twilight? Or something...?

It's like they're afraid I won't know what they're talking about. In fact I know EXACTLY what they want. And last I checked the waiting list for Twilight was 533 people.

Dec 20, 2008, 4:34 pm

>414 bitter_suite:

THis summer my library had a huge banner on front of the reference desk advertising a Twilight-themed prom party we held in anticipation of Breaking Dawn. So we would have patrons come up asking if we had the book "Twilight Prom."

Edited: Dec 21, 2008, 10:04 pm

>67 mschuyler: Maybe I don't know enough of what is in the books, but we have 3 books on space exploration in the 919s. Are we leaving tomorrow?

Our Special Collections get patrons from time to time who want to use the census to trace their family back to Adam and Eve.

It is now difficult to find what a person printed on our print computer. So I asked a high school age girl what she had printed
My paper
What was it
What I printed...

Dec 22, 2008, 7:42 pm

As a library assistant at a university, the first request I got was for "The Blackened Heart". After a few questions, it was revealed he was actually looking for "Heart of Darkness".

Dec 28, 2008, 8:10 am

Not a library but a bookshop. About an hour ago I was in Waterstones when a woman came in and asked where she could find the L-plates.

Dec 28, 2008, 10:40 am

I had a request from a student for books by John Doe. She meant John Donne.

Dec 28, 2008, 10:43 am

>418 Booksloth: I don't get it.

Dec 28, 2008, 11:47 am

American bookshops sell L-plates?

Dec 28, 2008, 11:57 am

Um, Booksloth, what are L-plates? And no, I don't think American bookshops sell them...I think Morphidae and I just don't know what they are! :o)

Dec 28, 2008, 12:33 pm

Oh sorry! It's a language thing. L-plates are what we call the big letter L that has to be displayed on any car being driven by a learner-driver over here. They are sold in shops that sell car accessories. I was just a bit baffled that she thought they would be sold in bookshops. Maybe because they've got a letter on them?

Dec 28, 2008, 1:27 pm

>415 weener:

Spinning off from your post, I think the idea of a Twilight theme for prom is great. I'm going to suggest it to our Junior Class Sponsors.

Dec 28, 2008, 4:02 pm

424: You should! It was a huge sucess. We had refreshments, a band (and we looped the Twilight trailer from Youtube on our projection screen behind them), a costume contest and a trivia contest.

We also made a backdrop to take photos of our partygoers which we posted on our Teen center's Myspace page. The staff and teens all dressed up in prom dresses. It was big fun. :)

Dec 28, 2008, 7:14 pm

#423: Thanks for the explanation, Booksloth. It's more than a language thing though, at least for me, as newbie drivers in the United States with learner's permits are NOT required to display anything to that effect on the vehicle. We're just all blithely driving around, never knowing if the person behind the wheel has only a permit or a full-fledged license...or nothing at all!

Dec 28, 2008, 7:19 pm

>426 grkmwk: What grkmwk said!


Dec 29, 2008, 6:20 am

I think over here it's a sign that there is at least one responsible driver in the car (at least, one would hope so) - unlike cars without Ls which are frequently driven by complete morons!

Dec 29, 2008, 11:15 am

#428 - I thought it was so we knew who to swear at and cut up rather than sit behind in a queue ;-)

(I live near the test centre and see that happening at least five times a day)

Dec 29, 2008, 11:53 am

Or just make one up for them:

Edited: Jan 10, 2009, 3:12 pm

>412 misericordia: I'm not a librarian, but worked in a bookstore. We once got the variation on the "I want that blue book".

It's a good thing she didn't ask that in a university town in the States; there, "blue book" is the generic name for 16-page or 32-page blank booklets sold for students' use in essay-answer examinations. Most of them are, indeed, bound in pale blue paper.

Jan 13, 2009, 2:59 am

>My friend, as a young lass, once ran up to a librarian, very excited, and yelled out, "Do you have 'The Cat Who Shat?'"

Her older brother had given her an... alternate name for The Cat In The Hat. At least, that's what she says. The librarian was not amused. I still think it's funny.

Not quite as good, but when I was a lad, once I could actually read books, I pretty much stopped caring that most libraries are divided into children's and grownups's sections. So, when I was in about the third grade and asked the librarian about either the Iliad or The Odyssey and she said with a genuine look of confusion "I don't think we have any children's books by that title..."

It became a sort of family legend good for a chuckle. The way my stepdad tells it, I asked for Homer and was told they didn't have anything about The Simpsons, but I'm pretty sure I asked by title.

Jan 13, 2009, 3:38 am

>>I'm sure there are many a fictional character who have written a fictional book which you might find in a fictional library.

I don't suppose you're a fan of Neil Gaiman's Sandman comic books? There is a character in the dream dimension named Lucien who is the librarian of the library where all stories go, including those that authors meant to write, the finished version of all those messy fragments and notes that authors leave around when they die, and that best selling spy novel that makes me a millionaire so I don't have to work again, that everyone dreams about while riding the bus.

Jan 13, 2009, 2:36 pm

Now my all time personal favorite:
I work in an academic library, and a guy goes sailing out with unchecked out books. The sensor goes off, so I stop him and say, "Oh did you check those out and we forgot to desensitize?"
He says, "Um. You have to check these out? How?"
I actually stood there agape for a moment- he'd apparently *never* been in a library, and he was about to graduate college. Mind bender, huh?

Jan 14, 2009, 1:38 am

>168 kmoellering: & 169

I started browsing this thread for a laugh, not actually being a librarian, but some of these stories remind me of funny things that I have personally seen.

I was at a public library with internet computers available for public use. A very un-computer-savvy woman came in to use one. She said she needed the do-not-call-list for telemarketers.

This is partly the librarian's fault for not really understanding the request, but I do think that if the befuddled patron had explained her purpose clearer she would have done better. Anyways, the librarian walks the lady through the process of getting a free email account from hotmail and then using that email account to put herself on the do-not-call-list.

Having accomplished this much, the patron asks, "So how do I actually get the list?"
Turns out, she was starting a job as a telemarketer and actually needed a copy of the do-not-call list to do her job.

So anyways, the general public is largely composed of idiots, and thanks much for doing a great job of putting up with us.

Jan 14, 2009, 1:52 am

>>"Give me your nakedest romances."

That's a good one. For a good number of years, even after I was over 18, I was always embarrassed to check out anything that seemed like it might be a bit risque.

Jan 14, 2009, 2:32 am

>>"When I worked at a public library, I had a little girl come up to me and ask me for a book about fairies "but one about real fairies. How they really live. Not one that pretends like they don't exist." I tried to lead her to the fiction section, but she got upset and said "No, a fact book" (meaning non-fiction) "I want to know how fairies really live! Not how people think they live!" Oh my was I puzzled as to how to make this little girl happy. I wasn't about to break it to her that most people don't believe in fairies.. I finally got her a book of drawings of fairies and that seemed to appease her."

There's a lot of new-agey stuff published as non-fiction based around the assumption that faeries exist. Might not be a public library's strong suit, though.

Jan 14, 2009, 2:13 pm

>431 Marchbanks:

I probably would have grabbed the Kelley Blue Book.

Jan 15, 2009, 7:31 pm

I once had an adult patron come to me trying to find the book Cabaret. It turned out that she was looking for The invention of Hugo Cabret!

Jan 16, 2009, 3:49 pm

I just got a phone call request and she only had the ISBN number? They all were textbooks and we are a public library. I thought this was both odd and a little humorous.

Edited: Jan 16, 2009, 4:10 pm


The book you are thinking of is
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
by E. L. Konigsburg

Could she have meant
The Stinky Cheese Man?

Jan 18, 2009, 4:04 pm

I had a patron with seriously overdue books. I called her and offered to renew them for her to stop the fines from accumulating. She was indignant. She said that if I did that then she would never finish the books. So, we let the fines run up - when she brought the book back her fines were up to around $10.

Jan 20, 2009, 9:31 pm

This is more sad than funny ...

I had a student walk up to the desk today with a novel in his hand, open to a page. He asked, "Do you have something that will tell me what a word means?" I pointed him to the large unabridged dictionary on the atlas stand.

How can a kid get to high school without knowing what a dictionary is??

Jan 21, 2009, 6:02 am

#443 Thank god you were there to tell him!

Jan 21, 2009, 11:11 am

It's scary what kids AREN'T learning today. I remember when I was a kid, every year we had a 'library orientation' where they would tell us where everything was located (including the dictionary) and we would get a refresher course on the Dewey decimal system. Every Single Year.

Jan 22, 2009, 4:35 pm

I worked in a special library and had a man call me one day looking for an article. He didn't know what journal it was published in, when it was published, who wrote it, or even what the title of it was. In fact, he didn't really know what the article was even about. All he knew was that it was written on "comic book like paper". When I told him there was no way I could help him without any further info he was truly surprised and disappointed.

Jan 23, 2009, 1:39 am

My seven year old brought home 2 joke books from the school library (usual week!) and her friend told her that she didn't know where to find the joke books and asked my daughter where they were. My seven year old replied, "They're in the 800s".

Her friend was so confused as my daughter tried to explain the Dewey decimal system. I double-checked the book spine, sure enough, 818.

It's really amazing what sponges kids are at this age.

Jan 27, 2009, 4:32 pm

This was from back in the '80s when I worked in a library network. This was a network of about 20-25 public, academic, and prison libraries, doing research and ILLs. Each library faxed their requests daily, and each member library filled as many of the requests as possible. The next-to-the-last researchers were us at the network office, who did our searching at the university library. (What we couldn't get or figure out went to the State Library). The request was for a book called "Jim and Dell" by O'Henry (no first name given). After searching all day, it finally came to me--did the patron mean O. Henry? Find anthology, scan the table of contents--no "Jim and Dell". Peruse through the book--bingo! "The Gift of the Magi", whose main characters were James and Della! I was a lowly library assistant, and that one had gotten by 2 dozen "real" librarians. When I queried the librarian with the request if that could possibly be what the patron was looking for, she just laughed and said she couldn't believe no one else had caught it.

Jan 28, 2009, 9:49 am

# 448 .. sounds like one of those librarians who became a librarian because they loved reading would have been a huge help on that one.

Edited: Jan 29, 2009, 2:30 am

I worked at a theological library and would often get rather naive questions from home school mother mothers like:

"When was the book of Psalms written?'

Uhm, over a period of several hundred years...

"What was Mary and Joseph's last name?"

They didn't have those.

"Do you where the verse in the Bible is that talks about such & such?"

That last question once got me a 10 minute lecture over the phone since I couldn't answer it.

"How can you not know where that verse is! I was told by a librarian ten years ago that there would always be someone available to find verse references for me!!"

I promptly transferred her to the information desk, much to the frustration of my fellow librarian.

Edited: Feb 1, 2009, 9:10 am

A patron came into our library and asked to use the photocopier. I explained to him that is was self service/coin operated and pointed him in the right direction. After about 5 minutes he came back to the service counter frustrated. He couldn't work out what buttons to choose to change the black and white photo he had into colour.

Feb 2, 2009, 3:03 am

I work in a public library. A couple of weeks ago a woman called asking if we could take her photo so that she could get a passport. Ummm, no.

Feb 2, 2009, 7:49 am

I had exactly the same query re (Anne Frank's diary). My customer really did not know "I thought it was a story"...?

Feb 2, 2009, 8:08 am

Also had an enquiry for a book about the civil war. When I asked which one, the lady looked blank. I prompted her with "American, English, Spanish? There are lots" She shrugged and said "oh, any will do. It's for my son's homework."

Feb 3, 2009, 4:59 pm

I was in a large second-hand bookstore; a customer came in and asked the owner if he had a copy of Winnie the Pooh in Latin!

Feb 3, 2009, 5:25 pm

Cool idea, though!

Feb 3, 2009, 5:34 pm

I don't like to upset the apple cart here but I'm pretty sure such a thing does actually exist. Several children's books actually have been translated into both Latin and ancient Greek for education purposes. If I had the details I'd post them but I'm off to bed now.

Edited: Feb 3, 2009, 5:39 pm

You're right Booksloth, it does exist: there's Winnie Ille Pu and Winnie Ille Pu Semper Ludet. It would probably share the shelf with Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis. :)

Feb 3, 2009, 6:49 pm

The Latin class at the university I attend has Harry Potter in Latin as one of their texts every term. It almost made me want to take the course. Almost.

Feb 3, 2009, 8:43 pm

There are several children's books published in Latin. We bought some for our high school library collection (and of course, the following year Latin was dropped from the curriculum). They include Walter the Farting Dog and The Cat in the Hat (I don't remember the Latin titles ...)

Feb 3, 2009, 9:15 pm

I think they also did "The Grinch" in Latin...

Feb 3, 2009, 9:32 pm

I believe that when I was doing some combining (perhaps in the works J.K. Rowling) I came across a book in Ancient Greek. Think of how small that readership is!

Feb 3, 2009, 10:28 pm

Walter the Farting Dog in Latin! I'll bet the publisher had a good time putting that one together.

Feb 4, 2009, 12:05 am

This member has been suspended from the site.

Feb 4, 2009, 10:13 am

Just how do you say "farting" in Latin? Just curious...

Feb 4, 2009, 10:44 am

According to the online translator I found, the Latin word for "fart" is "ulterius". I'm not sure how to turn the word into a present participle in Latin.

Feb 4, 2009, 10:51 am

So where does 'flatus' come from? I always thought that was from the Latin - not that I spend a lot of time thinking about these things, you understand.

Edited: Feb 4, 2009, 10:52 am

>467 Booksloth:

The OED says it's Latin for "a blast of wind." ;)

Feb 4, 2009, 11:02 am

Thanks - I wasn't far off then (spot on, in fact)!

Feb 4, 2009, 11:03 am

This message has been deleted by its author.

Feb 4, 2009, 4:26 pm

LOL; my mother's euphemism for it was "making a windy"

Feb 4, 2009, 9:57 pm

Walter Canis Inflatus is the Latin title. It's actually a bilingual edition, with the text in English and Latin. :)

Feb 4, 2009, 11:53 pm

On a side note, thanks for mentioning Walter Canis Inflatus, copies of which had been combined with Walter the Farting Dog. It's fixed. :)

Feb 5, 2009, 1:11 am

Actually, according to the dead language exception of the combining translations rule, those works should not be combined.

Feb 5, 2009, 8:09 am

>474 jjwilson61:

Right, I think that's what yue was saying. It had been combined, but now it's not.

Feb 5, 2009, 11:05 am

452-It is actually a reasonable question. There are some public libraries that are now able to help patrons procur a passport, including taking passport photos. I know my library does. And we are a small town library.

Feb 12, 2009, 11:39 am

I was sitting in on a co-worker Laura's storytime the other day, and at the beginning she asked if any of the kids remembered her name. One kid said "I think it starts with L." Another added, "Yeah, I'm pretty sure it's 'Librarian.'"

Not a request per se, but I thought it was cute.

Feb 14, 2009, 2:07 pm

Not 'Information Warrior', then?

Feb 14, 2009, 4:37 pm

I used to work in a rare book library and one day a patron asked me to find a book with a green cover that they had read several years ago. I asked if they knew anything else about the book, like a title or subject even. They said all they remembered about it was that the cover was green.

I then had to inform them that practically all of the books in our collection, thousands and thousands of books, had green covers since that was the cover that we used when we had the books rebound.

The funniest part about the whole thing was that the patron was really angry that I couldn't help them.

Feb 14, 2009, 4:50 pm

A patron was helping her granddaughter with her homework and said she needed a photo of Hades. When I confirmed that she was indeed looking for a photo of the Greek God of the Underworld I explained that we could find her many artistic impressions of Hades. She replied, "No. I has to be an actual photograph of him."

I've had quite a few butchered titles. I once had a woman ask for
Through God's Eyes. Luckily the movie with Halle Berry had just come out and I realized right away that the woman was looking for, And Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Feb 14, 2009, 5:17 pm

# 479 - I then had to inform them that practically all of the books in our collection, thousands and thousands of books, had green covers since that was the cover that we used when we had the books rebound.

Sorry to go on a tangent, but why DO academic libraries rebind the books? Are the original bindings that poor? Can anyone point me to more information on this topic? I'd like to know what they actually do. It's been driving me crazy ever since I started university.

Feb 14, 2009, 5:30 pm

>481 Nickelini:

At my old library (UIUC) it was cheaper to buy the books in paperback and have them rebound than it was to buy them in hardback.

Feb 14, 2009, 9:18 pm

If a book is out of print, it's usually cheaper to have it rebound than try to find another copy.

Feb 16, 2009, 8:41 pm

Just today I had a student who wanted "reference articles of the journalistic kind" which turned out to be her confused interpretation of her prof's assignment, to read some articles in scholarly journals. Like many young people at our univ, she had never heard of a scholarly journal before and the prof had not bothered to explain.

Feb 16, 2009, 9:52 pm

Nah, university profs don't explain that. They also don't explain how the Oxford English Dictionary is not the same as any old dictionary you have in your desk drawer.

Feb 16, 2009, 10:24 pm

Well i had a Geology prof @ our community college who told us about the professional journals that were in the campus library & specified that we would need to use at least one of them as a resource in writing the term paper that constituted one fourth of our grade in Geology 101. But...he still got papers that were hardly up to Jr. hi level & used no journal sources. To top it all off those students whined over the marks they got!

I tutored a lot of students when i was at that college in writing papers for various classes & many of them were attempting said classes w/o having taken even English 101. I told most of them that they needed to drop that class & enroll in English 101 (& hopefully pass it) before taking anymore classes which might include the writing of a term paper. Kids coming out of high school at that time (25 yrs. ago) were not ready to write @ the college level. I took a term paper class before moving on to University & learned even more about the process. 8^)

Edited: Feb 17, 2009, 1:17 pm

Patron: Please don't send overdue notices, they hurt my self-esteem. I don't like being told I'm abusing your library service.
Me: Those overdue notices are worded so they can go to anyone. We didn't mean to hurt your feelings.
Patron: Well, I don't care how other people get through the day but these books are how I get through the day and I don't like being told I'm abusing your service.
Me: Would you like to speak to a supervisor?

She had one overdue..

Feb 19, 2009, 11:02 am

Hey! That brought back a memory - my daughter was given a copy of "Winnie The Pooh" in Latin by a family friend when she was a little girl. I checked and we still have it! "Winnie Ille Pu". It was translated by Alexander Lenard, published by Jarrold's of Norwich in 1960. The map of the Hundred Acre Wood looks strange in Latin, but the cover with Pooh in a roman centurian outfit is very fetching!

Feb 22, 2009, 12:55 pm

In response to Message # 37:

"Have you got any Shakespeare in proper English'??!!


I've often gotten blank stares when I tell people that Shakespeare was written in modern English. One guy kept insisting that it was in middle English, to the point where I was forced to drag him down to my thesis supe's office and get HIM to tell the guy that I was correct, ha ha.

Feb 22, 2009, 12:59 pm

In response to Message # 450:

I would have introduced the person to the wonders of Google :)

Feb 22, 2009, 1:34 pm

#450 + 490 I would have introduced him to the wonders of a punch in the mouth. You guys must have such patience!

Feb 23, 2009, 2:21 pm

I work in a tribal library and last week I got an interesting phone call. The individual was a college student doing research on the "Trail of Tears" and wanted to know if we knew anyone who had been on the trail that they could talk to. I had to inform them that no, there were not any survivors left as they would be over 170 years old now!

Feb 24, 2009, 2:56 pm


Feb 26, 2009, 11:47 pm

The other day a teacher came into the school library where I work and wanted a piece of cardboard, 3 feet by 6 feet. He got really upset with me that we didn't have one and kept insisting that he needed one right now. He said, "Don't you get computers in boxes?" I tried to explain that we get rid of those boxes, and anyway they aren't six feet in any direction. Exasperated, he said, "Well, what do you do when people need 6-foot pieces of cardboard?!" in a tone that implied this happened every day. Finally, he sighed and said, "Okay, I'll take a piece of fabric in that size instead." Needless to say, we didn't have any fabric, let alone something in those dimensions. (We finally referred him to the teacher who is in charge of collecting items for recycling, in the hopes that someone had recently discarded a large box of some sort.)

We lost power for a little under 24 hours, but our school went on as usual during this time. We locked the door to the copy room as there was no need for anyone to be in there (and it was dark without windows, so we feared someone might get hurt). Several teachers tried to plead their case with me that their document was very important and I should allow them access to the machine. Finally, I just let them go in and try it. :)

We didn't have any books on a topic that a student needed, and he had waited until the last minute so there was no time for an ILL. I looked online and found that the nearest public library had a few books available, so I suggested that as an option for him. I said that if he had his library card with him, he could enter it right on the site to place a hold on the items (several other students were using similar topics, so he was concerned the books might not last). He then asked me if that meant the library would deliver the books to his house. He was disappointed when I told him no.

A different student asked me if the public library was free to enter or if you have to pay a cover charge to get in. He was very happy with my answer!

Feb 27, 2009, 2:59 am

>494 bibberly: We didn't have any books on a topic that a student needed ... He was disappointed when I told him no.

This is actually not such an unreasonable expectation. Many libraries will send books to your home - for a fee, usually.

Feb 27, 2009, 12:12 pm

>495 Felagund: Which libraries send books to your house? The only thing close to that in my area is the county library association, which will send books (for free) to the library nearest you.

Feb 27, 2009, 1:12 pm

We have a program that delivers books to those who can not get out and its run by volunteers. But there are only about 7 to ten people who are in that program.

Edited: Feb 27, 2009, 3:52 pm

I work for the Talking Book Program for my state and we mail braille, audio and large print books all over the state to blind, physically handicapped, and some learning disabilities folks.

Edited: Feb 27, 2009, 3:58 pm

>497 weareattached:, 498

It definitely makes sense that you'd mail books to patrons with those types of special needs, and I know that many university ILL departments will deliver books to a professor's office, but I don't know of any libraries who will mail books to just any patron.

I notice that Felagund is in Switzerland, though, so perhaps it's common in Europe?

Edited: Feb 28, 2009, 11:28 am

I don't know how common it is in other countries, but here in Switzerland many university and technical school libraries offer a shipping service to their readers, for about 6 dollars per book - and readers don't need to belong to said university or school. The National Library goes even further and sends books for free within the country (if you're a registered patron).

Feb 28, 2009, 11:43 am

This member has been suspended from the site.

Mar 3, 2009, 5:14 pm

To 481

The books were rebound for several reasons, depending on the book. Older books were rebound if they were falling apart and had no great monetary value. If they were of value, they would be sent to the conservation department.

Journals are often bound together. Newer books are actually really poorly bound; most of them are just glued together without any proper binding techniques, so it is actually imperative that these books get rebound. It will greatly extend their lifespan.

Mar 3, 2009, 5:27 pm

Having used the public library for many, many years before going to an academic library, I find the whole rebinding thing fascinating. I guess it's because an academic library expects the books to circulate for years and years, while the public library books have a shorter lifespan (?). I don't know how many times I've been reading something from the uni library where the author mentions the cover illustration, which my book doesn't have. (I also find it interesting that so many authors even know what's going to be on the cover while they're writing--but that's a totally different topic).

Mar 3, 2009, 10:00 pm

>501 Collectorator:
Sure, Collectorator, go ahead and start one.

On a related note, when this thread had 503 posts the group page only showed it having 490. Strange...

Mar 4, 2009, 8:56 am

That's because it doesn't count deleted posts.

Mar 4, 2009, 5:28 pm


Mar 4, 2009, 7:23 pm

>486 Vanye:

In both my junior and senior years of high school we had to write a term paper with proper footnotes and bibliography--what Sister Clare Marie didn't teach us about writing research papers wasn't worth knowing. Those papers caused a lot of anxiety for the students, but it was sooooo worth it when I got to college.

Mar 5, 2009, 12:12 pm

>507 ejj1955:

My high school senior English teacher required the same thing; including the use of at least one ibid. and one op. cit.

Mar 6, 2009, 1:52 am

I was working the desk one day when a little boy (not more than 3, if that) approached my co-worker and asked for pictures of "cow powers." Attempts to pry further information from him came to did catalog and google searches and a desperate "Do you have any idea what he's looking for?" to his mother. Trying to think like a toddler, my co-worker asked "Had he seen cow-powers on TV? Were they a cartoon?" "I want cow powers" was the only reply. Hoping she was on the right track and knowing my love of all-things-animated, she turned to me and asked did I know about the Cow Powers? Didn't ring a bell...but something clicked in my brain and I turned to the little boy and asked "Are you looking for books about caterpillars?" Apparently I'd correctly translated the Toddlerese for he gave the two of us a big grin and announced "Cow powers are BUGS!" So hand in hand we wandered over to the 595.789s where we found lots of "cow powers."

Mar 6, 2009, 11:45 am

>509 cyanbe:

You are either psychic or a genius, or possibly both.

Mar 6, 2009, 12:14 pm

Cow powers are bugs, and librarian powers are awesome! ;)

Mar 6, 2009, 9:49 pm

Toddlerese is a facinating language to decipher. I'm surprised it hasn't got it's own "Rosetta Stone" language course yet!

Edited: Mar 7, 2009, 1:08 am

>499 Katya0133:

Recently, my local library started a program where they will mail books put on hold for a small fee, about $ 2.50, I believe. Although I haven't heard much about other libraries with this program.

(Oh, and I've greatly enjoyed this thread; as a life-long library patron, I appriciate (spelling?) all of you valiant librarians!)

Mar 7, 2009, 1:02 am

This message has been deleted by its author.

Mar 7, 2009, 4:51 pm

> 495,499,513

Did I do that right?
Anyway RCPL in Rapid City SD was doing a mailed hold program for no charge while I was working there. Last I heard they were still doing so, though I think there has been some discussion on charging a fee because it was getting rather expensive.

Mar 9, 2009, 1:50 pm

I have not seen a service to send books to your house in any of the five counties where I have lived. However, it might be that they do this for the disabled (or shut-ins, etc.) and just don't advertise it to the general public. I think that would be a great service if it were available, but it would not have helped my student since he had waited until the last minute and now needed it the same day.
We do have the service where you can request a book from another library to be delivered to your branch for pickup. This has been somewhat restricted due to budget cuts, but I am SO grateful that it exists, especially now that I live in a hick town!

Mar 14, 2009, 3:57 pm

Not to hijack this thread which I have greatly enjoyed, the library in our small city (60,000) offers a hold service with pick up points at either the library (15 minutes from my house) or the mall (5 minutes or less). I can do it all online and at no charge.

Mar 18, 2009, 1:51 pm

I work in an academic Architecture & Architecture Library, and I often joke that I want to organize our collection by size and color, at least our reference collection.

I was quite upset when we sent one of our directories, that is actually called 'The Brown Book', and yes, the color was brown, to our collection care folks and they had it rebound in blue. So now we have a blue book with the title 'Brown Book' clearly displayed on the spine. With the net, printed directories collect a lot of dust, but I still get a chuckle every time I see it.

Also, several years ago, we went through our collection and put labels on the shelves with call numbers and the corresponding subjects in an effort to help our patrons learn the lay of the land....NA737 - American Architects, etc...

We had one student with a sly sense of humor who labeled the shelf with most of Mies van der Rohe's monographs the Mies van der Row.

Mar 18, 2009, 1:56 pm

we also get the occasional student who remember a building, park, etc that they saw in a book or journal but they can't remember the name of the building or the designer. it's quite a challenge trying to identify the designer from a student's doodle or description, etc.

Mar 19, 2009, 7:11 pm


Patrons will probably remember the blue Brown Book a lot more easily than most other titles though.

Mar 20, 2009, 3:13 pm

>509 cyanbe:

Your toddler-translation skills are awesome! Maybe you should write a book :-)

I'm not a librarian (information management in engineering is my thing) but I have had the experience of "Do we have any information on this circuit breaker?" Now, the company I worked for made the things. How much information would you like?

Another favourite was "Have we got this drawing?" and quoting me a number. Then looking at me like I know straight off my head instantly. We had about 250,000 live records, and access to several million. Actually, sometimes I did know...and it was even more fun when they didn't have a number.

Apr 6, 2009, 8:38 pm

My co-worker had a student ask for the book "Mad Man Beau Vary". She was an AP student who needed a copy of Madame Bovary.

Apr 7, 2009, 1:50 pm

An AP student made that mistake? Scary thought.

Apr 8, 2009, 12:37 pm

Not really "funny" but cool nonetheless: the film crew of the second Transformers movie called to ask me if they could borrow our microfiche reader/machine. They needed it for a scene. Hm, I wonder if our reader will be an Autobot or a Decepticon?

Apr 8, 2009, 2:04 pm

>524 johnxlibris:

Decepticon, obviously. Microfiche readers are evil.

Apr 8, 2009, 9:54 pm

524 --- I think it's something I'll keep my eye out for it when the movie comes out. :) Personally, I think our microfilm reader is a Decepticon --- it specializes in being seemingly harmless and then not wanting to print correctly.
I also have the added apprehension about it breaking just as I'm threading microfilm through it.... (or showing someone how to read microfiche....)

Apr 11, 2009, 9:44 pm

In the small public library where I work, we have an adult circ staff of around 6. About 5 years ago, we had a patron ask for a book (in the adult fiction section) with a hotdog on it. The weird thing is, all of us could picture in our heads the book he wanted....but none of us could remember the title or author! I think around 6 months later one of us happened upon it while shelving and were able to check it out to the patron who had originally asked for it. Even now, I can still remember the cover, but still not the author/title.

Apr 25, 2009, 2:37 pm

I had a patron ask me today whether the movie Twilight was based on a book. Pretty innocent question, but, um... what rock was she hiding under?

Apr 25, 2009, 5:09 pm

This is not a funny question as much as a wondrous feat of intellectual prowess, but I had a teenage girl ask me for a book called "Feather" the other day.

When no teen book came up in the catalog, I asked her what it was about. She said "A boy having a baby."

The only reason I came up with The Last Part First by Angela Johnson, in which a teen father raises his baby daughter Feather, is because I was on the holds list for it. Great book, by the way.

On a related note, I just had a girl ask me for a realistic fiction series about teen issues. She thinks the author's first name is Ann or Anne, and described the books as "small." She remembered nothing else about the books and I am totally clueless.

Apr 25, 2009, 9:59 pm

Oh dear, I'm sure I recognize the book you're asking about but I can't remember the whole title or author. I remember the day the library bought it a year or two ago, it was already oldish and sort of a classic though I think.

Apr 25, 2009, 10:45 pm

#529 -- She might be thinking of Anne Schraff, who writes some of the books in the Bluford High series (Paul Langan has written most of the others). This is a series of high interest/low reading level books that are very popular at the high school library where I work, esp. with the reluctant readers.

Apr 26, 2009, 12:50 am

Geez, I wonder if it was Anne Schraff? If I see the girl again I'll suggest it.

Apr 26, 2009, 10:45 am

What is an AP student? Translation for Brits, please!

Apr 26, 2009, 1:29 pm

AP = Advanced Placement. These are college-level courses offered to high school (secondary) students in the United States. The assumption is that these are the brighter students ;-(

Edited: Apr 26, 2009, 1:40 pm

Some assist please. I remember reading a murder mystery book many years ago that had an Indian Police inspector in it. I enjoyed the main character but cannot remember the name or author. I believe the author was British. All the scenes took place in India. Can someone help me locate the Books & or Author?

Apr 26, 2009, 1:56 pm

Sounds like H R F Keating's Inspector Ghote books e.g. The Perfect Murder

(Touchstones!!!!! Aargh)

But you should probably try the "Name That Book" group

Apr 27, 2009, 10:40 am

not a funny request, but one making me go, "hmmm." Several of my 4th graders and a 3rd grader today, asked for the Twilight books. Our middle school librarian won't put them in the collection, although the high school has them. There are several 4th graders currently reading the book, I assume bought by their parents. While I'm thrilled that parents are actually buying books for their kids, makes me wonder if they actually know what the books are about. I've read them, and enjoyed them, but would never recommend them for anyone under 7th-8th grade.

On the other hand, my mother always let me read whatever I wanted, and I was reading adult books by the 6th grade. And had my own (now grown)children asked (they were sadly, nonreaders!) I'm not sure what my answer would have been.

Apr 27, 2009, 11:09 am

The other day a patron walked into the library, had a good look around the place, then proceeded to ask me if this was where she could buy books. I then pointed out that she was looking for the college bookstore, which is located to the left of the school's main entrance. She passed it on her way in. :P

Apr 27, 2009, 11:17 am

I went ahead and started a new thread for this topic -- please continue to post your funny stories there!

Apr 28, 2009, 8:44 am

The audio version of "Maus".

May 25, 2009, 3:02 pm

>458 mountebank::

Ye gods and little fishes! If that title's an example of the kind of Latin schools are teaching these days, I fear for the language. A much better translation, IMO, would be "Henricus Poterius et lapis philosophorum."

Jun 10, 2009, 6:35 pm

@74: Just a library lover here, but if librarians don't know most (if not all) in the catalogue, then how can you guys find things (especially from obscure keywords) so quickly?

Jun 10, 2009, 10:39 pm

Magic :)

Jun 11, 2009, 11:05 am



Mind Reading


People skills combined with database use combined with knowledge of random facts

Take your pick ;-)

Jun 11, 2009, 1:12 pm

Yeah, my fingers start tingling when I'm nearing the book I'm looking for.

Jun 12, 2009, 12:51 pm

Mcconchc, for #137, I'd have to kick into "Gregory House the librarian" mode and tell them their teacher was a MORON!

Edited: Jul 8, 2009, 10:02 am

#461 I own a copy of that! LOL

Jul 12, 2009, 10:34 am

I once had a student ask for a book about the person Art Renaissance. How much had he listened in class, how much had he paid attention when the work handed out? The worst of it was, whan I tried to help him, found him a survey book on the period, assured him that there was no person called Art Renaissance I am pretty sure he thought I was conning him.

Jul 12, 2009, 12:07 pm

Two similar requests:

Patron: Where do you keep all the forms?

Me: What type of forms do you need? Do you need small business incorporation forms? Tax forms? Registration at the University? ...

Patron: You're a library, you have all the forms. Where are they!!!

(despite stubborn gentle prompting on my part, the patron never waivered from asking where "all the forms" were.)

Patron: I need to know about all the religions.

Me: Any particular area of religion? Modern, ancient? Western, eastern? ...

Patron: No, I just need to know everything about all religions.

Me: You could use the Encyclopedia of Religion (to which I directed him).

(He spent the next 8 hours happily going through each volume and thanked me when I left).

I'm waiting for someone to ask me the "Ultimate Question" to which I can definitively answer: 42.

Jul 12, 2009, 4:21 pm

I'm waiting for someone to ask me the "Ultimate Question" to which I can definitively answer: 42.

My mom (also a librarian) basically got that question once. A teenager who had basically been kept indoors his whole life by religious parents and didn't know anything about the world came up to her and asked her what it was all about. She's like, "What specifically do you want to know about?" He says, "Everything. What is life about? I want to know everything."

Unfortunately, I don't think she went the "42" route with him.

Edited: Jul 13, 2009, 4:33 pm

Two of my favorites for rediculous book requests are:

The Great God Spy (for The Great Gatsby), and
Lord of the Dragonflies (for Lord of the Flies)

Jul 28, 2009, 3:40 am

I'd read a book called "Lord of the Dragonflies".

It would have to be better than "Lord of the Files". You know, that book by William Gloding.

Jul 28, 2009, 4:11 pm

Yesterday I had an older fellow come in and ask where the "box thingy with all the books" was. I realized he was asking for the card catalog. I explained we know longer had a card catalog and then showed him how to use the online catalog. I know there are still some people out there that prefer the card catalog over the online, but I just really liked the way this guy described it.

Edited: Jul 29, 2009, 10:14 am

553.. one of my goals in life is to own a card catalog at my house. I've seen then in antique shops and find them absolutely beautiful and want one at my house, but they seem to run about $250 (for table top size). The most expensive one I've seen was as tall as me and $600.

Jul 29, 2009, 11:15 am

The public library that I grew up with had a beautiful bank of card catalogs made out of black walnut with brass hardware. I hope that it found a good home some where.

Edited: Jul 29, 2009, 1:47 pm

>554 ShannonMDE:

Oh, me too. I have a little 4-drawer one I use for odds and ends, but I'd love a furniture sized piece. I saw the greatest one on eBay once, with two file-size drawers, but couldn't afford the shipping cross-country:

Yes, I saved the pic in case I can ever ask around at antique stores. I want it that much.

Jul 29, 2009, 2:25 pm

That's beautiful - I can see why you saved it!

Jul 30, 2009, 9:53 am

Our library just got rid of about 12 last summer - it's too bad that we didn't have people like you eager and anxious to take them!

We did find people to take them, but most went for garage type storage I think. It would have been nice to give some to enthusiastic booklovers!

If you really want one, it might be worth contact university libraries in the area and see if any have some sitting around still... ours had been in our upstairs hall taking up room for 12 years.

Jul 30, 2009, 1:03 pm

Most of the ones libraries are getting rid of now are the ugly modern-looking ones from the eighties, that are all particleboard and laminate. Most of us who want one are looking for the really old solid wood ones, from the 40s or 50s.

Jul 30, 2009, 3:44 pm

I found a small-ish one on e-Bay (luckily, the man was in Chicago, so I was able to pick it up). I actually use it for jewelry (keeps my necklaces flat). :)

Jul 30, 2009, 3:57 pm

I got two for Xmas. One holds CDs and the other one is in the kitchen full of spices.

Jul 31, 2009, 9:04 am

I don't know about other libraries, but ours were solid wood, much like the one pictured above!

Aug 29, 2009, 8:05 pm

Here's a recent one...(I work at an academic library):

Student: Hi, I need some monologues from 1930 to 1950.

Me: Ok.

Student: I'd really like stuff by Oscar Wilde.

Me: Oh, well, Oscar Wilde was a little before then. How about I find you some books with many monologues in them to choose from?

Student: No, I'd really like something from Oscar Wilde. I think he was doing some revisions about that time...

Edited: Aug 30, 2009, 12:47 pm

>2 booksinbed: I was a library aide for the summer two summers running during college. A girl wanted to take out the same book that her sister did -- the previous summer. Of course, her sister had borrowed more than just one book the year before! I asked her to tell me about the book. All she remembered was that it had a red cover. Now, the strange thing is, I remembered the book and got it for her.

I still can't figure out how I knew. Weird things like this make librarians very spooky people...

Edited for spelling

Aug 30, 2009, 6:47 pm

OK, folks. If we want patrons to stop asking us such silly things like finding a book with a specific colored cover, we're going to have to stop answering these questions! :D

I just had a young man ask if he could rent a book for a couple of hours. Sigh. I should have charged him.

Aug 31, 2009, 6:22 am

I think that last one's rather sweet. Okay, nobody had bothered to tell him how libraries work, but he still was keen enough to come in and ask and was willing to pay for the pleasure of a couple of hours' reading. You do wonder how badly parents and schools are letting these kids down if they can reach adulthood still not knowing what libraries are all about.

Aug 31, 2009, 7:51 am

Dear Librarians,

HOW DO YOU put up with all those peoples?

Aug 31, 2009, 10:31 pm

I had a student come in today and ask for the book he had put on layaway.

Aug 31, 2009, 11:03 pm

lol; I've had kids ask that too! Also, they want to rent books. I argued w/ a 1st grader today who insisted he wanted to rent a book. I told him I didn't rent, but he could borrow one. Hanging out at the video store, I guess.

And how many come in and want "the book that so-and-so had last week." Sure, little dude, I remember every book every kids checks out every week. Actually, I have been known to come up with the right book. Which is kind of scary.

Sep 1, 2009, 9:34 am

>567 guido47: I'm not sure about everyone else, but I convince myself that someday, I'll write a book with these stories. It'll never happen, but it helps my sanity if I can tell myself that the 20 year old with a cross around her neck who didn't know the 10 Commandments are in the Bible will some day make other laugh and make me money.

Sep 1, 2009, 10:31 am


And how many come in and want "the book that so-and-so had last week."

I've gotten this from plenty of adults.


Careful now.

Sep 1, 2009, 3:04 pm

wow, that book is going on my tbr pile!

Sep 1, 2009, 6:06 pm

**Off topic warning***

In a computerized library, is there a list of books that I've checked out in the past? A couple of times I've wanted to ask if there was a way I could find the name of a book I checked out previously because either I wanted infor from it, hadn't finished it, or my husband wanted to read it, but I couldn't remember the name. I haven't had the nerve to ask, though.

Edited: Sep 1, 2009, 6:17 pm

^^Generally speaking, no. I think most if not all libraries today have their systems set up such that your checkout histories are automatically deleted as soon as the books are returned. This is for privacy reasons...if the list doesn't exist, it can't be subpoenaed.

Sep 1, 2009, 6:31 pm

Especially since the Patriot Act was passed which made library records accessible by the gov't (I don't think they even need a subpoena).

Sep 1, 2009, 7:54 pm

Never thought of that. I guess some murder mysteries could tell you how to do it! So I'll keep track of my own books!

Sep 1, 2009, 8:16 pm

skf - I can see why public libraries, especially in the US, don't keep these records. However, it's not a stupid question to ask at your library. My university library (in Canada) has my records back to 2006. I have the option of clearing anything I want off of my file. Do you have internet access to your library records? If so, you can check yourself, or ask the library over the internet.

Sep 1, 2009, 8:30 pm

Our (Pennsylvania) county library recently added a Reading History feature. You must opt-in to start it and you can delete some or all of it.

Sep 1, 2009, 11:58 pm

The last library automation I've used kept the penultimate borrower's number attached to the record for the book. It was a school library software. It came in handy if a book were found by another patron in a damaged condition, and the librarian (or clerk) didn't notice the damage before returning the book to the collection and the shelves. The reverse was NOT true; we were unable to tell a patron (or a parent) what anyone borrowed once the item was returned. The patrons (aged 5 to 11), once they sussed this out, were delighted to have such privacy! We also, being good ALA types, said we wouldn't tell anyone what they borrowed. This really relieved a girl who was borrowing items about divorce; you can guess her concern. I felt like a confessor!

Sep 2, 2009, 12:00 am

skf: You'd be well advised in future, to keep your own log!

Sep 2, 2009, 6:04 am

>580 msladylib:

What we need is some internet software capable of holding such things. I think I'll invent it ... and call it ... what? ... I know ... ThingLibrary!

Sep 2, 2009, 9:19 am

> 578

The Reading History feature is available on Innovative Interfaces Millenium systems (and users have to intentionally opt in, something I've done). If your library uses Millenium but this feature isn't available, ask them about it.

Sep 6, 2009, 3:11 pm

> 580 That's what I figured! (Original thought was "I won't forget..." Famous last words!)

> 582 How do I know if my library uses Millenium? I use their online services all the time.

Edited: Sep 8, 2009, 11:58 am

> 583 (how to know if your library uses Millenium)

Two ways.

1. Look at the bottom of your OPAC screen; if it says "WebPAC PRO © Innovative Interfaces, Inc." chances are you're an III Millenium system."

2. Post your library and we can probably look at it and tell what's being used (probably).

Sep 9, 2009, 10:55 am

Polaris will also allow you to opt-in to have a reading history. I think the limit's 5 years or 1,000 titles.

Sep 30, 2009, 10:28 am

A student came into the library one day and was looking around the Reference section. I asked if she needed help and she said yes, she was doing a report on Homer. I led her to the encyclopedias and she reached out for the "P" volume. I asked her why she picked that one and she said, " Well, Price was his last name, wasn't it?" I was floored!!!

Sep 30, 2009, 4:03 pm

586, I was eating an apple when I read this, and nearly choked. LOL. I'm glad I wasn't drinking anything, it would have spewed all over my keyboard. But hey, at least she knew to look for a last name...mostly I get students who can't find Abraham Lincoln b/c they're looking in the A volume...

Oct 2, 2009, 10:16 am

I had a call from a patron the other day where she was asking for books about William Shakespeare. I asked, by William Shakespeare or about William Shakespeare. She said both, I guess, but who was he again.

Oct 17, 2009, 11:15 am

I work in a College library and we often get variations of the question "do you have my textbook - I don't know what it's called, or who wrote it but it's for my English/Communications/Business class and it's blue/yellow/white?" If the bookstore's closed and the patron can't remember the course code or the instructor I'll often use Google image search to find the covers of books to narrow down the search.

Edited: Oct 28, 2009, 5:43 pm

Re#573 SKF:

In the libraries I've worked at (UK and NZ) it is possible to retrieve your recent loan history, up to almost a year .

Nov 4, 2009, 1:42 am

>573 skf: Our library deletes your previous check outs asap to protect your privacy--but you could try keeping track of your books on this great site called LibraryThing. Ha. Couldn't resist.

Dec 13, 2009, 2:53 pm

At the reference desk:
1.)"Do you have a cell phone I could use?"

2.) After the patron had stood for what seemed a very long time reading our cell phone usage sign (which says clearly take the phone calls outside)...
"So, can I use my phone in here?"

3.) A co-worker on the phone: "No ma'am, this is the library you'll have to go to an eye doctor to get your eyes checked, I'll transfer you to the reference librarian, who can help you find one." (I love it)

Dec 13, 2009, 5:19 pm

One day, in all seriousness, a patron looked at my name tag and was astounded that my last name was "Librarian." She said, "Well, I guess you had to go into this line of work!"

Our library name badges only have our first name and then "Librarian" right below that in the same type. (Which, I'll grant you DOES make it look a bit like all the staff have the last name of "Librarian" but still...) ;-)

Dec 13, 2009, 6:31 pm

>593 maumeechildlibrarian:

The head of our special collections dept. has the last name "Hollinger" . . .

Dec 14, 2009, 4:33 pm

I had a patron call today and tell me she was closing her library account because she's 104 and she's ready to die. People have been telling her she's going to die for the past 10 years and now she's ready. (she quite possibly has been my spunkiest patron of the day.) and I am inclinded to think that her being ready to die isn't going to make it happen.

Dec 15, 2009, 4:08 pm

>593 maumeechildlibrarian:

Oh, god that would drive me insane. I hate having people I don't know calling me by my first name. Luckily for me, my ID has Lastname, FirstInitial only.

Dec 15, 2009, 4:15 pm

I was sitting here giggling uncontrollably the other day and tears were starting to form and my husband asked me what was so funny. I read him message #47 which is what started the crying and he just looked at me and blinked. I was still laughing and I said "I love librarian humor!" and he shook his head and said "You definitely need to go back to school and get your MLIS so you can be around other people who understand you". So, next year, I am going to apply for the MLIS program. Thank you guys for helping me figure out what I want to be when I grow up. It only took me 34 years to figure it out!

Dec 15, 2009, 11:24 pm

>594 Katya0133:, too funny. I'm going to smile every time I see that catalog now.

Dec 16, 2009, 4:15 am

Cheering you on, Belladonna. You go!

Edited: Dec 16, 2009, 8:34 am

#595 Wow, what an amazing story.

#596 It's MUCH better, security wise, if last name is NOT on the name tag. Otherwise, it's too easy for "weirdos" to look someone up away from work. When I was single, my phone directory listing was by last name, first initial -- and my name on my apartment building's mailbox was that way, too. Back when I lived alone in a big city, I would NOT have wanted some of the characters I encountered at work to be able to find me that easily!

Dec 16, 2009, 10:23 am

I have one nametag with last name for when I am at meetings, etc., and one without last name for when I work the desk.

Dec 16, 2009, 1:33 pm

>600 tymfos:

My phone is unpublished, because my husband is paranoid. Not to mention I live in a different city than I work in. Not worried on that point.

Dec 16, 2009, 2:42 pm

Back 20 years ago or so I worked at a suburban public library; we all wore name tags with first and last names; our names were also on our desks. I started getting some really nasty obscene phone calls where the guy called me by my name. Turns out nearly every woman who worked there was getting similar calls, so we figured it was one of our patrons. Got an unlisted number pretty darn quick.

Dec 17, 2009, 1:25 pm

One of our students has been calling me Mrs. Librarian all year (I am the clerk) so I started calling him Mr. Student. When he reminds me he has a name, I respond that I do to but his isn't on a plaque where I can read it every day like mine is.

Dec 17, 2009, 4:50 pm

Sometimes I would prefer Ms. Librarian. We have one patron who wants to call me by name, but gets it wrong Every. Single. Time. In different ways, too. And yes, I correct him. I wish he'd just say "Hello" or "Hi, Ms. Librarian".

Dec 18, 2009, 9:13 am

I had a 2nd grader last year who called me "Library". I finally started calling her "Second Grader" until she finally learned my name.

Every time I walk into the cafeteria when the preschoolers are eating, I gets shouts of "Hi, Miss Librarian!" over and over, and then "Bye Miss Librarian!" as I leave. It's like being a celebrity, lol.

Dec 19, 2009, 1:21 am

Dear group,

Could the Powers That Be, "PTB" in future references, please split this post as it is getting too long and loads slowly.
I am not qualified as I am neither a librarian (think of me as a groupy) nor
do I have any amusing anecdotes to regale you with, alas.


Edited: Dec 19, 2009, 2:34 am

foggidawn did start another thread way back in April (see message 539). Here's the link again: Funny Requests from Patrons, Vol 2.

Jan 20, 2010, 4:50 am

This message has been deleted by its author.

Edited: Sep 29, 2011, 5:21 pm

This message has been deleted by its author.

Jan 31, 2012, 10:36 pm

This thread is amazing.

I once had a patron come up to me after using a computer and say, all excited, "I just won the Coca-Cola Lottery!!!"
I confirmed that she had opened an email from someone she didn't know, and that the "lottery" required her to send them her personal information. I explained to her that this was spam, discussed internet scams with her, and reminded her that Coca-Cola is a private company, and does not have a lottery. And even if they did, she never bought a ticket to said lottery. To which she replied "yeah, but I really need the money, so will you help me send them an email?"

Feb 2, 2012, 1:07 pm

^^Phishing scammers are the folks those in congress should be worried about in regards to policing the internet. Not copyright infringement.

Edited: Feb 2, 2012, 5:11 pm

I've had patrons looking for a blue book, too. And then it turns out it wasn't actually blue...

Feb 3, 2012, 3:27 pm

It wasn't THE Blue Book? Just a blue book?

Feb 3, 2012, 6:15 pm

Third Grader: Mrs. S., is there Volcano in Rock, Paper, Scissors?
Me: No, there's only Rock, Paper and Scissors.
Third Grader (to another Third Grader): I told you so. Mrs. S. says there's no Volcano.

So happy to be able to settle game disputes. Didn't even have to look that one up! However, it makes me wonder where the heck did the idea of "Volcano" in the game came from? Amyone?

Edited: Feb 4, 2012, 5:43 am

#615 I may have dreamt this so don't take my word for it but I have a vague feeling that this - or something like it - came up once in an episode of 'Friends'. As I recall, the gang were playing 'scissors, paper, stone' when one of them (Joey?) decides to trump all of the rest by inventing his own category of 'volcano' in order to win the game. That's the problem with humour - there's always some fool who takes it seriously.

Ed for typos

Feb 4, 2012, 6:36 am

More than anyone should ever need to know about rock papper scissors.,_paper,_scissors

I liked these variants:

Mushi-ken ("vermin hands"), in which Snake beats Frog, Frog beats Slug, and Slug beats Snake.

"...players may throw the "Hand of God", the whole hand held out shaking it slightly, which beats everything but the Flagon Tri. If both players throw the Hand of God, a draw is declared, and both players must punch each other in the head. Easily intimidated players will thus shy away from throwing this hand."

I also like "muk muk muk" from South Korea, which apears to be a game of rock rock rock.

Feb 5, 2012, 10:57 am

I'm fond of the rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock version made popular by The Big Bang Theory. It's explained here:

Feb 5, 2012, 5:04 pm

Where the you keep the Gary Potter books?

Feb 5, 2012, 6:54 pm

You mean the ones by J.K.Dowling?

I keep mine under a stack of C.S.I. Lewis books (The Karmia Chronicles).

Feb 6, 2012, 12:35 am

I'm currently living in South Korea, and rock-paper-scissors is a huge thing here. It's called "gawi bawi bo" and it can basically be used to settle any problem. They even do it in big groups, not just pairs: everybody puts out their hand and they keep doing it until everyone in the group is divided between two of the options, for example, rock and scissors. Then the scissors people are out and the rest of the group keeps going until it whittles down to two people, then one person.

I took this video of some of my students playing a rambunctious version of Scrabble, and they do gawi bawi po at the beginning to decide who goes first.

They're so cute.

Feb 9, 2012, 4:40 pm

There was one particular patron who was notorious for asking for the book someone had read to her in class. Or that book that was, "red with black words" or "about this big" (while showing me with her hands how big it was).

Another request I love is when patrons ask for a book like this, "I'm looking for a book, I believe it has the word Heaven in the title, and the author's last name starts with an H but his first name is Tony, I think."

Feb 9, 2012, 6:17 pm

And then there's this one...

Feb 12, 2012, 3:28 pm

Patron: "I need a copy of The Gatsby."
Me: "You mean The Great Gatsby?"
Patron: "No. Just The Gatsby."
Me: "By Fitzgerald?"
Patron: "I don't know."
Me" "I think I know what you mean."

Apr 13, 2012, 3:26 pm

From a 3rd grader today:
Does the Tooth Fairy have her own teeth?

Apr 20, 2012, 3:11 am

Bookshop staff instead of librarians, but I think the humour might work for this crowd:

From the fabulous Blackwell Books in Oxford.

Apr 27, 2012, 11:09 am

This morning from a 2nd grader:
Her: Do you have any more of those magoon books?

Me: I afraid I don't know those books.

Her: Stevie just checked out one.

Me: (looks up Stevie on the computer to see what she checked out this morning. Turns out it's the "Black Lagoon" books)

Apr 27, 2012, 5:45 pm

We had a student coming in for their first look at a course reserve book with finals next week. they were looking for Vitruvius's "Ten Books on Architecture." I had a hard time convincing them that yes, all ten books are bound in volume. Finally, when I likened it to 'the Bible of Architecture" they understood.

Apr 28, 2012, 2:29 pm

628 That was a clever way of putting it!

Jul 24, 2013, 5:56 pm

Actual patron questions at our public library reference desk:

"Do you have any photographs of the Spanish Inquisition?"

"How do I apply for sovereignty?"

"Do you have a biography of Rosetta Stone?"

"I need a list of companies that can freeze-dry my dog."

"Do you have a world guide to nude beaches?"

"Does the Geneva Convention prohibit torture by rock music?"

And in the suggestion box: "All very nice, especially the man and the woman with gray hair!"

Jul 26, 2013, 8:42 am

Not a request but irony in the library at its best. A customer returned a book called 'The savvy girls guide to saving'. It was late and accrued a $9.50 late fee!

Jul 26, 2013, 9:20 am

Err. Is anyone following the continuation?

Sep 6, 2013, 2:38 pm

In a small community college library - before the Internet was "invented" - a student asked for a list of famous virgins.
This topic was continued by Funny Requests from patrons II..