Stories from the Stacks

Book stacks.

Photo by Flickr user Shannon Hauser

I don’t know if it’s the holiday season, the full moon (as some of my co-workers like to joke), the weather, or some combination of the three, but things have been exceptionally weird at the library this week. Since I don’t have anything profound to share this week, I thought I’d give you a sample of some of the stranger things we public librarians see on the front lines. Hope you get some holiday laughs from them! [Note: some details have been altered to prevent anyone from being personally identified.]

Monday: A regular patron asked what soundtracks we had. I tried to determine what he was looking for, asking if there was a certain movie or TV show or even genre he was interested in, but he kept saying that he just wanted to know what soundtracks we had. When I showed him that section of our CD collection, he complained that there were too many to look through. But when asked, he couldn’t name a single soundtrack he was looking for. He has come to the Information Services desk at least three times this week now, and has asked at least two of us this same question.

Tuesday: A man handed me his library card and asked me to put some large print Nicholas Sparks books on hold for him. He gave me a list of titles and asked if we had any of them in, then told me he would be back in a few minutes while I proceeded to look them up. Thirty minutes later, I was still sitting there with his library card, and knew that we had two of the three books checked in. Eventually he returned, but not until after I’d contemplated bringing his card up to lost and found.

Wednesday: Actually this one has happened several times, and every time I find it strange. A woman called to let us know that she would be in to pay her fines later that day. My response was something along the lines of, “Thank you. Did you have any questions about those fines?”

“No, I just wanted to let you know. It’s [names amount of money], right?”

“That’s right.” Long pause. “So was there anything I could help you with?”

Another long pause. Inevitably there is a line of people waiting at the desk at this point. Finally, “That’s all. I’ll be in later today to pay those fines.”

“Okay. Thank you. Have a nice day.”

Why do people feel the need to tell us they’re going to come pay us?

Thursday: This is another frequent occurrence. The phone rang, and I answered with the standard greeting, stating the library name, my department, and my name. A woman asked me for the phone number of a local business (who knew I’d signed on to be a phone book when I decided to work in a public library?), and while I was looking it up, she said, “Hold on.” Not, “Hold on while I find a pen,” but “Hold on while I proceed to have a long conversation with someone else in the room.” I’ve even been told, “I’m going to put you on hold for a minute,” and most of the time it’s not to check call waiting. I always want to say, “Um, you called me…” but that might be seen as impolite.

Friday: (This actually happened to a co-worker.) A woman came up to the desk asking about a book and exclaimed, “You have gorgeous eyes!” She followed this with an admonishment that my co-worker was not wearing a color that brought out her eyes, and proceeded to give her detailed instructions as to what she should wear, touting her credentials as a fashion consultant. As though a single encounter with a stranger gives someone a comprehensive look at her entire wardrobe, personality, and tastes. But at least she’s on the waiting list for that book now…

Saturday: A woman called wanting the entire history of our town, as well as several unrelated or loosely-related topics such as locations of nearby air force bases, the most popular majors at the local university, where the nearest organ network transfer was located, information about the Moravians and the Church of God… It felt like the verbal equivalent of someone reading an article and clicking on every link in that article. Except that I was reading every single article to her over the phone. And providing her with contact information for hospitals, churches, air force bases, and the historical society. For about forty minutes. And at the end of it all, I still had no idea what she’d actually called about — I felt like I’d just finished a search engine triathlon when a sprint might have sufficed if the woman hadn’t been distracted by all those tangents.

And there you have it! A week in wacky stories (I’m taking Sunday off). In case you’re wondering, no, I don’t work six days a week; I just thought I’d share six stories. All of these did happen this week, though like I said, some details have been changed to maintain anonymity.

Do any of you have fun stories from the stacks?

Happy holidays!

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