Funny Things People Say in Libraries
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?
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.
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.
More Library Humor and Jokes
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?
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.
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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