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Libraries are funny places

Updated on April 23, 2015

I was a full-time librarian for 26 years, and have worked part-time in a library for a further five. All sorts of strange and amusing things have happened during my career, and I have heard a few good stories from colleagues in other libraries. Here are a few examples:

The American visitor

My first library job, before I qualified, was at the central library of London University. Saturday mornings were fairly relaxed, because there were fewer students around, but we still got plenty of overseas visitors through the doors. One Saturday I was accosted by an American. "Say!" he said, "have you got a restroom around here?" To my young, British ears this sounded very strange, as I had not heard the word "restroom" before, and I thought he had said "restaurant". I therefore replied "yes, we have, but it's closed on Saturdays. There's a place across the road, a couple of streets away". The American departed, puzzled by our British attitude to hygiene at weekends!

A late delivery

One of my jobs at the same library was to unpack new books and chase up suppliers who had failed to deliver our orders. Sometimes this was quite a protracted process, with letters and phone calls going backwards and forwards for week after week. One particular title that caused us a lot of problems in this regard was a report from a government department, that only turned up months after it should have done. The title? "Delays in the Supply of Books".

Qui tollis peccata mundi

On 13 May 1981 Pope John Paul II was shot and wounded in Rome. The Economist news magazine, not surprisingly, made this its front page story and our copy arrived to be placed on the library shelves. The library assistant duly stamped it with our usual message, and off it went to be displayed. So there is was, the Economist's headline - "The Sins of the World" - followed immediately by our own - "NOT TO BE TAKEN AWAY"!

What's in a name?

In a company library that I once worked in it was necessary to ask for a borrower’s name before finding their record on the computer system. This usually worked out OK, until the day that I asked the question “And the name is?” and got the answer “Mudd”.

This amused me at the time, and I couldn’t help but tell the story to one of the following customers, after the first one has left. Having done so, I then asked “And your name is?” – to which he answered “Strange”.

Life size

This one was sent by an American contact. A customer walked up to the reference desk and asked if the library had a globe of the World. "Yes we have", said the assistant, "it's just over there". "I see it", said the customer, "but it's a bit small. Don't you have one that's life size?" Quick as a flash, the assistant retorted with, "Yes we do, but it's in use right now!"

To everyone who is balancing precariously on one side or the other of the life-size globe, a very good day to you!


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    • profile image

      Aurovrata 5 years ago

      Too good! Wonderful stories, especially since librarian jobs are often thought of as boring... you should write a little book on these, one a page, with some clever illustrations.

    • funnebone profile image

      funnebone 9 years ago from Philadelphia Pa

      funny use right now....that is classic

    • Bob Ewing profile image

      Bob Ewing 9 years ago from New Brunswick

      My wife is a librarian, I'll share this with her.

    • MM Del Rosario profile image

      MM Del Rosario 9 years ago from NSW, Australia

      i work in a school library, one day a group of student came and ask Miss can we borrow the 'Nude Book' please. (they are referring to an art book).

      A supplier sent us six books just because the title of the book is "6X" - we just ordered one.