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Funny Things People Say in Libraries

Updated on January 30, 2020
Virginia Allain profile image

A librarian through and through, Virginia Allain writes about book topics, researching, and information for library users and librarians.

Shelving in the Wakefield Library in New Hampshire.
Shelving in the Wakefield Library in New Hampshire. | Source

Librarians Treasure the Amazing Things People Say

I don't want to make you paranoid about talking to librarians, but sometimes we had a good laugh about something a library user said to us. Librarians love their library patrons and sincerely want to help them.

Funny situations do happen or someone says something without thinking it through. Here are the resulting humorous things people say in libraries. I hope you get a laugh or two from them (quietly, of course).

If you have a funny library story to tell, continue down to the guestbook at the very end. I'd love to hear it.

The Library Tour

One day while giving a group of students a tour of the library, I led the class down the hallway past the staff room. The door was open and several library staff members were taking their lunch break. One was heating something on the stove and several others were eating at the table.

Gazing in at this domestic scene, one young student asked,

Where do the librarians sleep?

Understanding the library's new security system is difficult for some people.
Understanding the library's new security system is difficult for some people. | Source

Grown-Ups Say Funny Things Too

Another true library story

The library, where I worked in Maryland, installed a new security system for the books. Each book had a security device attached. The device would set off the security gate's alarm at the library's exit doors, if someone tried to sneak a book out without checking it out. This is similar to the security attachments and gates at many shopping malls.

A sign at the checkout desk informed library users of this new security feature. One library patron seemed puzzled by how the device would work. She asked,

Will it start beeping when my books are overdue?

Mouse in the Library

We had evidence of mice in the library kitchen where I worked in Reisterstown, Maryland. It had been nibbling the staff lunches. Finally, one got caught by its leg in the old-fashioned snap trap that the janitor placed under the sink.

No one could figure out what to do with the injured mouse. The simple solution would have been to drop the trap with the mouse into a bucket of water. Perhaps all the cute mice stories that we used for storytimes kept them from this easy solution.

When I arrived at work, I saw the branch manager putting an open box into her car. I asked if she was going to a meeting. "No," she said, "I'm taking this mouse to the vet." I think the unfortunate mouse was put to sleep and out of its misery by the vet, who probably had a good laugh about how soft-hearted librarians are.

YouTube Thinks Librarians Are Funny Too

Thinking of a Library Career?

Many people think a library is such a nice place to work that librarians should volunteer their time. In fact, librarians in university libraries or public libraries are required to have a Master's Degree in Library Services. Usually the check-out staff are clerical positions and some very small or underfunded libraries hire para-professionals in place of librarians.

A random remark by a library user, brought this misconception home to me. The Library Director told several staff members that the paychecks were ready for pick up in the office. The library patron, overheard the remark and in an amazed tone, said....

You mean you get paid to work here?

Should Libraries Arrange Their Books by Color? - Enjoy these short videoes of animated bookshelves

If I only had a bookshelf like this and the books would rearrange themselves by colors. Sometimes people struggled to remember a book title or the author. Oddly enough, they would remember the color of the book's binding, but not the other essential information.

At times library patrons complained about books being on the wrong place on the shelf. I suspect while the library is closed, the books all move around like the ones in these videos. Some don't make it back to their correct spot before the library opens in the morning.

I can't remember the title, but it had a red cover.

Library Bookshelves Rearranging Themselves

Links to More Library Humor

If you like humor and libraries, take a look at these fun sites I found. Laughter is the best medicine, they say.

  • Funny Library Stories - Book lovers need never go to bed alone. Funny Things Found in Returned Books Library Book Returned: 99 Years Late Library that lets you take out people (go to the site to read more library humor).
  • Library Humour - International Federation of Library Associations' collection of library humor.
  • The Merry Librarian - True stories from a library near you.

More Librarian Humor - Tax Money for Books

I never did this, but I always wanted to do it. I'll set the scene:

The library patron, with book in hand, indignantly approaches the information desk. "This book is a disgrace, and I can't believe the library has it." The librarian makes soothing sounds and takes a quick look at the offending book. The upset reader continues her tirade, "I don't want my tax money going for filth like this." After explaining the concept of intellectual freedom and that the library stocks books for all tastes, the librarian gives up on getting the irate woman to understand why the book won't be removed from the shelves. Handing the woman 25 cents, the librarian says,

OK, here's your tax money back.

Oh oh, evil alcohol in the library.
Oh oh, evil alcohol in the library. | Source

The Case of the Missing Magazine Ads

The first library I worked in had a problem with sections being scissored out of magazines. Staff kept an eye on patrons in the magazine area hoping to catch the culprit, but the problem persisted. It seemed to be advertisements that were missing, not articles or recipes.

We were really surprised when the janitor told a staff member that he was removing the alcohol and cigarette ads from the magazines because he disapproved of those.

Did I Make You Laugh

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Closing Time at the Library

We locked someone inside the library once when we closed for the night. The usual procedure was to blink the lights at a quarter to closing time so people would have time to check out their books. Then we went around making sure the stacks and the reading areas were empty.

This time, we missed someone. It was before the time of cell phones. They couldn't figure out how to call for help, as you had to dial 9 for an outside line. Finally, they were rescued by tapping on a window to catch the attention of someone walking by.

Mr. Bean at the Library - Funny library video from YouTube

Sex Books in the Library Booksale

The president of my Friends of the Library group showed me several donated books. "Why do people give these to us," she complained. I glanced at them and one was a sexy novel and the other a sex manual. I wondered what her concern was.

"I can't put these in the book sale," she said. "What would people think if they saw them there?"

Puzzled, I asked what she intended to do with them. "I'll just put them in my garage with the other donated sex books," she replied. I imagine in her years of volunteering with the library booksale she has accumulated quite a stack of these.

When you die, what will your children think when they find your garage filled with books about sex?

The library book sale had some funny stories occur there.
The library book sale had some funny stories occur there. | Source

Large Sale of Used Books

The Friends of the Library volunteers kept our library used bookstore stocked and helped customers find books there. One day, a puzzled volunteer asked me to help a buyer.

He wanted to buy ten shelves of books and was requesting special pricing for his bulk buy. It seemed that he didn't care what books were on those shelves, he just wanted a big batch of books at a very cheap price.

Being curious, I asked why he wanted such a large batch of books. Most people carefully select one or two or even an armload of books, not a random selection of hundreds.

He told me that he was going through a divorce and the judge was awarding his wife one half of everything he had. Knowing that his wife, soon to be ex-wife, didn't give a hoot about the books but would still take half of his carefully accumulated collection, he came up with a plan.

She would get half the books, but not his precious ones. She would get the assorted books from the library bookstore. The judge's order would be met, the disgruntled wife would have the satisfaction of carrying away half of her husband's collection, and the husband would preserve his collection.

Of course, the library was happy to make a big sale, so it worked out fine for everyone.

I Want to Buy These Books

I worked for ten years at a library in an area of Texas with a heavily Hispanic population. Many people spoke Spanish as their first language and English as a second language.

Once in a while, this led to confusion on what the role of the library was. We had a big sign outside saying LIBRARY, but in Spanish, the word "la librería" meant bookstore. It was easy to see why sometimes people would select a stack of books and try to pay for them. The Spanish word for a library was la biblioteca.

Visitors for This Web Page Come from Many Places

People everywhere appreciate a funny library story.
People everywhere appreciate a funny library story. | Source

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Virginia Allain

You must have a funny library story to share... - so go ahead and tell us about it here

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    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Those are some cute stories that you have collected. You could undoubtedly write many more! I am old enough to remember when we located books by using the Dewey Decimal system. Times have certainly changed! I have donated many books to our local library and no one would have to hide them in their garage. Ha!

    • Shorebirdie profile image


      5 years ago from San Diego, CA

      I work in a library, too. A lot of people are amazed that librarians are required to have a master's degree. They don't realize the complexity of the job. They also think it's always quiet and we have little stress and read books all day. We have to deal with a lot of issues with the public that many people don't know about and it can be stressful.

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 

      5 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      Thanks for the chuckles. Who knew that life as a librarian was so hilarious.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 

      5 years ago from USA

      Have to admit this made me smile. I think of you when I go to the library and all the things I've learned from your articles. This one is a keeper! So really ... they do pay people to work there? :)

    • gottaloveit2 profile image


      5 years ago

      I had a mouse with one leg caught in a trap - caught just his toe. I decided that, since he'd already cheated death that I'd let him go outside. The next morning, there he was - dead - in the trap again. I guess the lure of peanut butter was just too much for him.

    • lollyj lm profile image

      Laurel Johnson 

      5 years ago from Washington KS

      Thanks for the giggles. Loved the stories. One of my favorite people in the world was the high school librarian. She knew her students so well that she maintained mental lists of books they'd like. She's the one who recommended Gene Stratton Porter books to me.

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 

      6 years ago from Land of Aloha

      I enjoyed this article very much. The human thought process or lack of can be so entertaining in a library it appears! And, by the way, WHERE DO those librarians sleep? :)

    • profile image

      Donna Cook 

      6 years ago

      Terrific lens! I envision Donald Duck's nephews (Huey, Dewey, and Louie) inventing the Dewey Decimal System.

    • Jerzimom profile image

      Cheryl Fay Mikesell 

      6 years ago from Mondovi, WI

      I use to work in a Library. This is great!

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      6 years ago from Central Florida

      @kimberlyschimmel: What a great idea, though some book jackets have a variety of colors, so there could be a multi-colored category.

    • kimberlyschimmel profile image

      Kimberly Schimmel 

      6 years ago from Greensboro, NC

      I have often thought we should add a "color of cover" to the MARC records because so often that color is what people remember rather than the author or even a fragment of the title!

    • norma-holt profile image


      7 years ago

      Had a good laugh with some of these stories. You must have had some great times in the libraries, Virginia, and thanks for sharing with us.

    • Rosetta Slone profile image

      Rosetta Slone 

      7 years ago from Under a coconut tree

      I love the mouse story!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      The Librarian who shushed me hard in the library became later in life one of my friends. I had her child in school.

    • Othercatt profile image


      7 years ago

      The story about the mouse reminded me of the first time I hit an animal with my car. I accidentally struck a rabbit and was so mortified, I rushed it to the vet. Even though I'm sure the rabbit was dead when we arrived, the old country vet put on a good show before declaring there was nothing he could do. lol

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 

      7 years ago

      Oh, and the image of the mouse in the bucket of water is one I could have done without. I wonder what the vet did with the mouse, probably just a little ether.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 

      7 years ago

      All I remember is the most fun job I had ever - working in the periodicals department in the University library where I worked. Perhaps I had less of a work ethic than I do now, I remember being told : "Rose has a real social life at work." I love to have a social life where I work now, but unfortunately it is more serious. I love libraries and librarians.

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      7 years ago from Central Florida

      @RhondaAlbom: If you think of that story later, stop back and share it. I'd love to hear it.

    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 

      7 years ago from New Zealand

      I would imagine I have a funny library story, but I can't think of it now. I did love yours. My favorite being: âWill it start beeping when my books are overdue?â Thanks for the giggles. Blessed

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I like the "I can't remember the title but it had a red cover" Lol it's great when you work with the general public, they do say some funny things lol! Great lens thanx :)

    • Paul Ward profile image


      8 years ago from Liverpool, England

      @hntrssthmpsn: "I think it was set in the US. Or Europe."

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      8 years ago from Canada

      I cannot believe that someone took the time to film the book shelf video - what a job that must have been. Gosh it has been years since I was at the library.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      @Mickie Gee: During my first year after getting my MLS, I worked in a little town near a hospital. I got a call: "I'm a nurse with the 'Transitional Care Unit' of _____ Hospital. Someone just donated an organ to us. We don't really know what kind of organ it is, but there's a key missing, and we think it needs tuning."

      Once I heard the word "organ," my mind went immediately to: How could they not know what kind of organ it was? They're medical professionals! Someone donated it - did they at least put it in one of those little Igloo coolers on ice? Wait... wait... she said it needed tuning... Oh... THAT kind of organ.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      What a fun lens to read, very entertaining. I'm inspired to make one about Funny Things That 4 Year Olds Say, based on my 10 years teaching Pre-K. Coming soon to a squidoo near you!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      @anonymous: Old people crack me up! Sure wish I could have been there to field that question...

    • TeacherSerenia profile image


      8 years ago

      @anonymous: OMG I cant stop giggling over that one. It's Hilarious!!!!

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      8 years ago from Central Florida

      @grahamcox lm: Not to worry, librarians need a goofy question now and then to brighten their day.

    • profile image

      grahamcox lm 

      8 years ago

      Fantastic lens! I feel bad about asking stupid questions in my library as a kid now

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Oh, I could go all day! A little girl was at the desk with her father, and she was singing something to herself -- turned out it was the word "pachycephalosaurus" over and over again, set to a tune. Never did get an explanation of that one, though I commend her on her choice of dinosaur.

      Another time I heard a mom at the self-checks admonishing, "No, we don't *ever* stand on books!" Some sound advice there. :D

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      8 years ago from Central Florida

      @Frischy: The little library that I go to in New Hampshire has a taxidermy coyote one section. I admit that I don't like getting books in that one corner just because of that dead animal.

    • Frischy profile image


      8 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      My daughter was a young 3rd grader when she started at the school for the blind. One evening she was playing in our basement family room where I have several bookcases full of books. She said to me, "Mom, you should start a library down here with print books for sighted people and braille books for blind people, but no dead animals." I couldn't figure out what she meant, and when I asked her to explain the part about the dead animals, she just said she didn't know. Some time later I visited the school library, which had print books for sighted people and braille books for blind people, and a large collection of dead, taxidermied animals sitting on the tops of all the shelves. The animals are used so the blind children can see what different animals look like. My little girl wanted to be sure I didn't start filling up our basement with them, along with all the books. Please, no dead animals!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      A patron recently asked me to help her find the book that was advertised on TV the night before. She didn't know the title, the author, or even the channel she had been watching! (I found it!) The funniest, though, was the old man who spent a long time looking through our audiobook collection, then came and asked me if the "little rectangular ones" would play in the player meant for the "round flat ones".

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I work in a library myself and we have had mice in the past. We actually purchased humane traps and I freed the mice in a wooded area at the end of the day. That would've been the most soft-hearted thing to do, rather than allow the mouse to suffer with an injured leg.

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      8 years ago from Central Florida

      @robertzimmerman2: Too funny, Robert, but you're right about the cell phones.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      These days the big problem is the cell phone. "ring ring, Hello, I'M AT THE LIBRARY, WHAT, THE LIBRARY, WHAT . . . ."

      Welcome to my world.

    • Adele Jeunette profile image

      Adele Jeunette 

      8 years ago

      I like the story about the person who asked for a "life-sized" globe.

      The librarian thought for a moment about a diplomatic thing to say, then replied "It's in use."

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 

      8 years ago from Land of Aloha

      What an entertaining read. I haven't spent real time at a library in too long. When I was a kid, I was in awe of all the books. Loved the library stories you've shared. :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I was in my local library a few weeks ago and there was a woman looking around for a book that she had check out and then promptly lost. The librarians were helping her look for it. They checked the return bins, the bathroom, etc. The book was called HOW TO ORGANIZE YOUR MIND.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I heard one member of the public tell a library assistant: "My taxes pay your wages." The assistant replied: "Well in that case, I'd like a raise."

    • hntrssthmpsn profile image


      8 years ago

      "I can't remember the title, but it had a red cover" Hah! My mom owned a bookstore while I was in my teens, and we heard similar things ("I'm looking for that book about a kid who had a dog"...) We love our library, and our wonderful librarians!

    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 

      8 years ago from So Cal

      I would imagine we have plenty of stories but none come to mind. As the child of a librarian I was oblivious to the other patrons, the library was my playground. This is funny and delightful to read. Angel blessed for putting up with some of those people.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I love the Library. As far as Funny--I'm usually the one who is cruising through, without a clue as to where the Author I like is placed and bug the Librarians to death! However, they are always so cheerful and nice, no matter how much I pester them!

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      8 years ago from Central Florida

      @sybelle: I disagree with the internet killing library services. It will be a long time before every home has access to the internet (despite smart phones). Libraries play a key role in providing information to low income citizens. A trained librarian can provide resources that the average person might never find online. Also more and more online info is charging for use. Libraries can subscribe to many of these for their patrons to use for free.

      My niece is having a hard time getting full-time library work with her MLS degree. That's the bad economy and local governments cutting services. Very sad, but librarians do retire or go off for internet information jobs, so openings happen. It's harder if you are wanting to stay in one place. She might look at a wider area for jobs, not just locally.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I have two daughters who have Masters Degrees in Library Science. One has been working with the country library system since she began as a "page" while still in high school. Although she is 29, she IS the youngest of all staff in the county.

      Library positions in this county seem to be "lifetime" careers, which means in order for her to get a full time position, someone has to retire AND the county will have the money to keep the position open. Unfortunately every staff member feels like the librarian career will disappear with the advent of the internet, and my daughter feels frustrated that she chose a career path leading nowhere. She loves her job, but she has not been able to move out of home because she cannot afford a life with her salary.

      What do you think? Will libraries be a thing of the past?

    • agoofyidea profile image


      8 years ago

      This lens is so true. I worked at the library and then at a bookstore. The number of people who thought I could find the "red" book for them was huge! It always amazed me that people who could obviously read could not remember to bring a list of the books they needed with them into the store. For some reason they thought I would know what they wanted. And most of the time I did. Great lens. Blessed!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Countless students have said, " You mean you have to get a college degree to be a librarian?"

    • gottaloveit2 profile image


      8 years ago

      I too love this Squidoo lens. You've presented these stories in such a personal fashion. This is a great read, Virginia! I've bestowed a blessing too.

    • Gayle Mclaughlin profile image


      8 years ago from McLaughlin

      Because I was a librarian, I absolutely love this article! Squid Angel Blessed!

    • traveller27 profile image


      8 years ago

      As someone who worked in libraries for many years, this was quite entertaining.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      What a great idea fo a lens, Virginia. People do say the darnest things ( to quote Art Linkletter - oops, I'm showing my age!). Blessed.

    • profile image

      Zut Moon 

      8 years ago

      Not me ... I use to go in once in awhile but they don't allow me in anymore. I can't read anything without drinking beer and they won't allow me to bring it in with me.

      I need to take a look at the rest of your lensography but first, I gotta buy me a case of beer. You have written some interesting lenses and I need to find the time to read some more and I will.


    • Susan300 profile image


      8 years ago

      "amazing shushing action!"... ROFL :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Beeping books! He he!

    • JK Sterling profile image

      Jim Sterling 

      8 years ago from Franklin, Tennessee

      I wish I had spent as much time at the library as I claimed. I loved your stories.

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 

      8 years ago from Southampton, UK

      I don't have any personal library stories to tell, but I can just imagine the odd things some of the eccentric visitors say. Blessed and linked from The Daily Joke Collection.

    • debnet profile image


      8 years ago from England

      Hee hee hee... loved the line about where do Librarians sleep :) Blessed by a Squid Angel,

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Very nice lens and a reminder to treat librarians with respect. Never have seen a librarian reading a book while at work (:>))

    • Mickie Gee profile image

      Mickie Gee 

      9 years ago

      One day a young patron called the fiction desk to see if there was a copy of a book available. My friend, who answered the phone, thought the young person was looking for a book with the title "My D*mn Ovary". Bet you can guess what the classic book was! My friend just laughed at herself for misunderstanding what she was hearing. I am not sure the student patorn did.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I recently had a patron using one of the computers come over and ask me where on the computer he should enter his credit card, as he wanted to buy something on the internet. After I realized he was not joking but was dead serious, I explained it wasn't something we offered. Wish I could have thought to say, "Oh, we don't have the app for that yet."

    • smithlights profile image


      9 years ago

      Great stories! Thanks for sharing!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I had a display in my junior high school library that featured an old rotary telephone. The students loved playing with the phone (unplugged, of course!), but many had a hard time figuring out how it was used as they had never seen one before. I really laughed when they asked, âWhereâs the pound (#) key?â, and âHow do you get call display on this?â

    • Redneck Lady Luck profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      9 years ago from Canada

      "will it start beeping when my book is overdue" lol now that is too funny. We are a strange lot us humans.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      9 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      Great lens, Virginia!

    • pkmcruk profile image


      9 years ago from Cheshire UK

      Shhhh don't tell anyone but this is a great lens!

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image


      9 years ago

      Well, I don't have a funny story, but I liked the lens

    • cdevries profile image


      9 years ago

      How about a book store quote? On asking the clerk to order me "The Autobiography of Elisabeth Vigee Lebrun" he asked, "Who wrote that?"

    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 

      9 years ago from New Zealand

      This is great, clever and original. Blessed. Please add a link to which ever category you think fits best on my humor angel lens.

    • ChrissLJ profile image


      9 years ago

      A grandmother was recently upset I didn't know the exact book she saw last week but didn't check out. It was about disciple and MIGHT have had the word "challenging" or "challenge" in the title of one of the chapters. She didn't know the author, any word in the title of the book, the color of the cover, if it was new/old, geared towards parents or teachers, etc. I tried explaining we have nearly 500,000 books at the library and so needed a little more information. She was convinced I wasn't trying hard enough.

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 

      9 years ago

      "I can't remember the title, but it had a red cover" -too funny! I just about lost my coffee out my nose -:)


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